It feels like decades since the Redskins have had a complete running back. One must go back to the days of Clinton Portis, who came over from the Denver Broncos via trade for All-Pro corner Champ Bailey, to find the last Redskins back who was considered a complete NFL back.
History has not been very kind at the position. The longest tenured running back in team history was John Riggins. He played 9 seasons in Burgundy and Gold between 1976-1985, and is still the teams career leader in rushing yards and touchdowns with 7,472 and 79 respectively. For as great as Riggins was in his heyday running behind the Hogs, he has a career average of just 3.76 yards per carry and just four seasons over 1,000 yards rushing (his best was in 1983 where he ran for 1,347 yards and 24 touchdowns).
Clinton Portis ranks second on the all-time list in both yards and rouchdowns with 6,824 and 46 respectively. His 4.09 yards per carry is significantly better than Riggins, although he too only had four 1,000 plus yard seasons on the ground. The difference with Portis is that he was also effective as a receiver out of the backfield, hauling in 176 receptions during his time in D.C. Riggins, in two more seasons, was able to post just 149 career receptions.
As you scan further down the Redskins career rushing list, you see names like Larry Brown, Stephen Davis, Alfred Morris, Terry Allen, Earnest Byner and George Rodgers to name a few. One thing that stands out amongst the team leaders in rushing yards, besides their rather pedestrian career numbers, is that many of these players came to the Redskins from other teams. Riggins, Portis, Terry Allen (6th on the all-time list), and Earnest Byner (7th) all fall into this category.
So, do the Redskins have a problem drafting and developing running backs?
In 2012, the Redskins selected Alfred Morris in the 6th round of the draft. Morris burst onto the scene as a rookie, rushing for 1,613 yards and 13 touchdowns, as the beneficiary of Robert Griffin’s threat to run the read option. As Griffin’s play declined, so did Morris’. The Redskins didn’t offer Morris a contract extension when he became a free agent, and his career has floundered as a member of the Dallas Cowboys.
Matt Jones, a 3rd round pick of the team in 2015, was released this summer after he wound up in the doghouse for ball security issues the previous two seasons. Since Jones departure, the Redskins have the Dynamic Duo of Rob Kelley and Samaje Perine behind center - a pair that may stike fear into the hearts of a few high school defensive coordinators in Idaho.
So what can the Redskins do to fix the woes that have plagued them at running back for some time now?
The 2018 NFL Draft has some very solid choices among the early rounds. An elite prospect like Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is certainly out of reach barring an epic losing streak down the stretch, or a blockbuster trade, but there are some nice backs who could be targets with a pick in the first two rounds.
Derrius Guice - 5’11” 212 LSU
Bryce Love - 5’10” 196 Stanford
Nick Chubb - 5’10” 220 Georgia
Ronald Jones - 6’0” 200 USC
Mike Webber - 5’10” 212 Ohio St.
Royce Freeman - 5’11” 230 Oregon
Bo Scarbrough - 6’2” 232 Alabama
Akrum Wadley - 5’11” 198 Iowa
Damien Harris - 5’11” 216 Alabama
Sony Michel - 5’11” 212 Georgia
The days of the bell cow back are about to return to the NFL. We are beginning to see signs of this already with backs like Ezekiel Elliott, Leonard Fournette, Todd Gurley, David Johnson, Le’Veon Bell, Kareem Hunt, and Melvin Gordon to name a few. Running backs are no longer going to be seen as undervalued, and the Redskins may want to jump on the train to get themselves a game-changer sooner rather than later.