It’s 2018, not 2008 or 1998 or 1988. The NFL is a passing league; vast receivers are up, operating backs are down and Adrian Peterson ain’t walkin’ via that door.
However, in the 2018 NFL Draft, extra operating backs (three) had been picked in the primary spherical Thursday night time than vast receivers (two). The solely vast receivers had been taken inside three picks of one another close to the underside of the spherical with the Panthers drafting DJ Moore at No. 24 and the Falcons drafting Calvin Ridley at No. 26. And one of many three operating backs was taken by … the Patriots.
NFL DRAFT: Complete picks, analysis from Round 1
The draft, in fact, is just starting, with Rounds 2-Three coming Friday night. The standard knowledge for years now has been that wideouts must be in the Julio Jones-A.J. Green dialog to go in the highest half of the primary spherical, and that choosing them after that’s silly after they’ll be out there and fewer dangerous in later rounds.
But even that knowledge appeared excessive this yr.
Quarterbacks, in fact, had been their typical marquee selves: 5 drafted in the primary spherical, 4 acquired by groups that traded up. Plenty of groups wanted a possible game-breaking receiver, too. Yet so many let the 2 greatest prospects, Alabama’s Ridley and Maryland’s Moore, go previous them. A case could possibly be made that the boldest transfer for a large receiver was made by the Raiders, who took an additional third-round decide it had simply acquired from the Cardinals to get Martavis Bryant from the Steelers.
A yr in the past, the place was at such a premium that three WRs went in the primary 10 picks — to be truthful, with not a lot instant success from them (Corey Davis, Mike Williams and John Ross).
Combine that with the unconventional curiosity in operating backs — comprehensible in Saquon Barkley’s case, much less so with the aforementioned Patriots taking Georgia’s Sony Michel at No. 31 — and all of it made for a primary spherical that challenged what’s typically accepted about what the NFL prioritizes and what it doesn’t.
The Panthers didn’t actually know if both Moore or Ridley would nonetheless be out there at No. 24; they had been each out there. Carolina took Moore, largely as a result of it completely wanted him.
However, so did groups drafting as excessive as 16, the place the Ravens’ unique decide was. The Ravens traded down twice as a substitute and got here away with a good finish (Hayden Hurst) and a quarterback (Lamar Jackson) in the primary spherical. The Bills ended up with that No. 16 decide, and handed on WR. The Cowboys at 19 did, too. The Titans traded as much as 22 … and in addition handed.
The outcome was that the primary vast receiver went off the board later than in any draft since 2008, when none went in any respect in the primary spherical. (For what it is value, the second-rounders that yr included Jordy Nelson and DeSean Jackson; Pierre Garcon went in the sixth.)
Ridley was presumed by many to be the primary wideout to go. He wasn’t — and the Falcons, who’re virtually the alternative of the Panthers in phrases of weapons for his or her franchise quarterback, took him 26th.
And that was it for a place that has altered the best way defenses line up and compelled the evolution of the slot nook.
MORE DRAFT: Winners & losers from Round 1
As that was unfolding, groups continued the renaissance at operating again, reversing what appeared like an irreversible pattern from simply 4 years in the past when none had been taken in the primary spherical from 2013-14. A again went in the highest 10 for the fourth straight yr; in the highest 4 for the third straight yr; and No. 2 for the primary time since Reggie Bush in 2006.
Barkley is seen as a generational again, to make certain. The against-the-grain strikes by the Seahawks and Patriots late in the primary spherical had been what raised eyebrows. The franchise that deserves to be arrested on neglect expenses for giving Russell Wilson no assist up entrance or in the backfield, focused San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny and maneuvered to get him at 27.
The Seahawks hadn’t invested a first-round decide in a operating again since Shaun Alexander in 2000, pre-dating, in fact, the John Schneider-Pete Carroll regime.
The Patriots, in the meantime, determined that after unearthing (and valuing) bargain-bin backfield gems all through the Bill Belichick period, broke with precedent and drafted Michel at 31. Their final operating again picked in the primary spherical: Laurence Maroney in 2006.
With all of that, few would have been stunned if further operating backs had gone in the primary spherical, like Derrius Guice or Michel’s backfield mate Nick Chubb.
Receivers, although, simply have to attend. In a passing league that retains treating operating backs like interchangeable elements, wideouts acquired nearly no run on Day 1.