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Updated June 22, 2010
I'd like to apologize to my four readers who view the NFL Draftology pages. I thought I had seven positions in Tier 4, but it is really six. Since I broke down four positions in Tier 4 Part 1, there will only be two positions in Tier 4, Part 2.
The fifth position in the fourth tier is the running back.
Running back positional analysis
: Running backs get a lot of media hype because they are big statistical producers like quarterbacks and receivers. They are also constantly analyzed in fantasy football, but don't mistake running back as only being a position of stats - it's far more than that and it's the reason this is a Tier 4 position.
Great running backs find ways to make plays unless they have a horrendous offensive line. They break tackles, find running lanes that nobody else can see, make plays in the receiving game and play a critical role on third down as a blocker for the quarterback.
If you don't have a running back who can improvise, then the offense is simply limited in what it can do. Coaches get all the blame because fans don't want to face reality and deal with the idea that maybe their team isn't capable of being one of the 10 best of all-time, but coaching can only take a team so far. Players have to make plays because when you break it down, football is all about making plays
Running backs can provide a very elusive and threatening presence, and they can also be a very physical and tough presence. An elite back must be able to play all three downs, which means he needs to be able to run inside, run outside, block in pass protection, be a good short yardage runner and be able to catch the football.
Great backs need athleticism for obvious reasons, but they also need to have great instincts for running lanes and how a play develops.
If a running back can't break tackles, then he simply isn't that good. Period.
The most complete back in the game today is Maurice Jones-Drew for the Jacksonville Jaguars. He isn't the most talented, but he simply brings everything the Jags need to the table for a running back and he has this attitude about him.
The running back by committee is highly popular now in the NFL, but we are just analyzing what an elite back can bring to a team as compared to other elite players at their respective positions.
: Running backs are a dime a dozen in the NFL Draft. It's very practical to expect to find a starter in the second or third round.
Effectiveness - 2
: Running backs can make a difference in a football game, but even the Titans really struggled to win games early on despite Chris Johnson having a career year. If you have a three-down back, it's a big edge for the offense because the playcalling isn't as predictable for a defensive coordinator.
Money - 3
: Running backs don't make a ton of money. Jones-Drew received a $31 million contract last year at about $6 million per season. An elite player only earning $6 million per season at solid effectiveness doesn't get much better than that. Also, by the time a player is over 30, no team will be stupid enough to give him a big contract.
Durability - 1
: This is a very, very "low 1" on the grading scale as the position has the worst durability of all the positions. If a running back gets a lot of carries in his first several seasons, then his career is likely over at 30 (see Tomlinson, LaDanian). This position also takes a beating considering it gets tackles on just about every carry.
Our sixth and last position in Tier 4 is the right offensive tackle.
Right tackle position analysis
: The offensive line is extremely important in football, and the second-most important position on the line after left tackle is right tackle.
Preferably, you want your right tackle to be highly stout in run blocking. He needs to be an absolute mauler and open up wide lines against the bulkier left defensive ends. He needs to understand angles and do a solid job of getting to the second level if he has to.
Being proficient in pass protection is also highly important. You don't want your quarterback to get pressured, and he needs to have a similar skill set as the left tackle, but he is rarely as talented or coordinated.
Scarcity - 2
: It's not too difficult to find right tackles in the NFL Draft or free agency. You can usually secure a mauling run blocker who is talented enough in pass protection to man the right side in the second round of the draft. Finding right tackles in free agency also isn't extremely hard.
Effectiveness - 2
: Right tackles should offer a lot of run blocking, and if they are great pass protectors then that's just a bonus. Jeff Otah from Carolina is one of the up-and-coming great right tackles in the NFL. I think this is a "low 2" on the grading scale.
Money - 2
: Right tackles get average pay. Offensive linemen are becoming more of a premium than ever before and right tackles seem to be more highly coveted than they used to be.
Durability - 2
: Solid durability, but we don't find this position to have extraordinarily long careers.
Introduction to the Positional Value Pyramid
NFL Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 1 - Quarterbacks
NFL Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 2 - Left Tackles, Right Defensive Ends, Cornerbacks, Rush Linebackers
NFL Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 3 - Defensive Tackles, No. 1 Wide Receivers
NFL Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 4 Part 1 - Safeties, Nose Tackles, Left Ends, 4-3 Inside Linebackers
NFL Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 4 Part 2 - Running Backs, Right Tackles
NFL Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 5 Part 1 - No. 2 Wide Receivers, 3-4 Ends, Weakside Linebackers
Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 5 Part 2 - 3-4 Inside Linebacker, Interior Offensive Linemen, Tight End, No. 3 Wide Receivers
Positional Value Pyramid: Tier 6 - Strongside Linebackers, Kickers, Punters
Positional Value Pyramid Spreadsheets
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