The way that NFL running backs are viewed today has changed drastically as the decades have passed, especially with offenses becoming more pass-oriented.
Yet former NFL running back Herschel Walker is confident that running backs like Ezekiel Elliott and 2016 Doak Walker Award winner D’Onta Foreman from Texas are going to make the position a hot commodity again.
Walker had great things to say about Elliott in particular.
"I love Zeke. I love his fire and the way he plays," Walker told the Dallas Morning News. "Elliott loves to play football. It's amazing that he's carrying the ball 30-some times a day. People don't know, that's tough.”
Elliott had one heck of a season. Not only did he lead the league in rushing as a rookie with 1,631 yards, he led the league in carries, and was third in touchdowns with 15. The Cowboys offensive line gets a lot of credit, as it should, but there’s no denying that Elliott is an incredible young talent.
In stressing the importance of the position, Walker indicated that to win Super Bowls, teams have to be able to run the ball.
"Even though they talk about the West Coast offense and all this stuff, to be honest, whenever you want to win the Super Bowl, who do you go to? The running back,” Walker said. “Because you can pass the ball all you want to do, but when you want to win the game you better be able to run the ball and you better have that running back."
That’s some advice the Falcons could have used a couple of weeks ago. Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman helped run the Falcons to the Super Bowl, but then they blew a 25-point lead to the Patriots after sticking with their guns and throwing the ball as opposed to running it. Neither the Patriots nor the Falcons put up huge numbers on the ground, but even down by what seemed an insurmountable lead, the Patriots still relied on James White, who ran in the game-tying and game-winning touchdowns.
As Walker said, while the games have become more centered around passing, ultimately teams need running backs to finish the deal. Typically teams that can run the ball well and play defense have success in the postseason.
There are other young backs who are helping the resurgence of the position. And they do pretty well in passing situations, too.
In the playoffs, Freeman shook the soul out of this Seahawks defender:
Le’Veon Bell has created his own style as one of the most patient backs we’ve ever seen, appearing to almost come to a complete stop and somehow not losing speed:
Todd Gurley had one heck of a rookie year before things went off the rails in Los Angeles this past season, and Melvin Gordon had a breakout sophomore season before falling to injury.
The life span on the careers for running backs might not be the longest, but when you play like some of these guys do, that value is too great to pass up. And of course, if anybody would know a great running back, it’s Walker.