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How Lions and Seahawks Defy an NFL Trend

nfl trendDuring the 2018 NFL draft, Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider got a call to find out if the team is interested in trading RB Rashaad Penny. It turned out the other party was the Detroit Lions. Also, it was rare for that period for NFL teams to engage in an NBA-style trade during draft day.

And as out of the ordinary as it was, it made sense when you considered how each team had maintained its emphasis on running backs despite the dramatic shift in the NFL's attitude toward the position. In the three drafts since 2018, the Seahawks and the Lions have each used three selections in the first or second round on running backs. According to data compiled by an online bookie software, no other club has used more than one choice during this period.

The Seahawks also used second-round picks on Kenneth Walker III in 2022, Zach Charbonnet in 2023, and Penny. The Lions' streak at running back now spans two different eras. Former general manager Bob Quinn passed on Rashaad Penny but made up for it by selecting Kerryon Johnson in the second round of the 2018 draft and D'Andre Swift in the second round of the 2020 draft. The new front office of GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell, unconcerned with analytics or the value of running backs, drafted Jahmyr Gibbs at No. 12 overall this past spring.

Defying an NFL Trend

The NFL is shifting its perspective on the running back position.

The devaluation of running backs is not limited to the bargaining table. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the selection of running backs in the first two rounds has decreased by 19 over the previous ten drafts, from 37 to 23. From 1994-2003, there were 59, and from 2003-present, there have been 72. (1984-1993).

There were no first-round picks at running back in 2022. So, Gibbs was taken by the Lions at No. 12 in the 2023 NFL Draft, surprising him. He was the second running back selected in the first round after the Atlanta Falcons selected Bijan Robinson at No. 8.

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