NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Prevailing wisdom says investing big dollars or a high pick in a running back is folly.
Shonn Greene hardly impressed in his first year, but I’ve been one of many who has said that if you paired him with a mid-round draft pick, the team should be just fine at the position.
But Johnson hasn’t missed a game and has rarely missed a practice in his six seasons in Tennessee. That durability is a very valuable trait. And Johnson's team has a poor record drafting running backs.
Just two of those guys other than Johnson produced in a significant way: LenDale White (who always had fitness issues) and Chris Brown (who always had health issues).
The others were all guys who didn’t pan out into a viable option for a role on offense. The Titans will need to do far, far better than Chris Henry or Jamie Harper if they are drafting a guy who’s expected to work in tandem with Greene in a post-CJ backfield. (Though Henry, an absolute bust, averaged 3.8 yards per carry on 32 handoffs that went his way. Johnson averaged 3.9 this season.)
Another significant point to consider in this conversation: The teams in the playoff field are not centered on low-round backs or undrafted free agents in their backfield.
Of the 12 post-season entries, half have at least one first round running back.
Ten of the dozen teams have a first- or second-round back.
And all the playoff teams have at least a third rounder in the backfield.
Indianapolis and Carolina really emphasize the position, with two first-round running backs. Kansas City and San Francisco have spent the least draft capital on backs. The Chiefs have two third-round backs, and the 49ers have a third-rounder and a fourth-rounder.
Yes, there are a lot of good backs in the NFL without tremendous pedigrees. For this year, teams with those guys are finished playing.