HOWIE ROSEMAN has mentioned positional valuations a couple of times recently, including the conference he held in the wake of the Chase Daniel signing, when he explained that his research had showed backup-quarterback salaries had risen slower than the inflation of other positions. It was sound logic: X million dollars gets you more quarterback than X million dollars' worth of tackle, guard, linebacker, etc. Given the importance of the position, a top-level backup QB helps your roster more than a replacement-level guard. More simple: It's much easier to find a lineman in the draft who can make the same marginal impact on your roster as a $4 million free agent than it is to find a quarterback who can do the same. Value 101.
That Roseman is keenly aware of these things suggests that you should probably cross off Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott off your wish lists. Going Best Player Available is nearly always the right move, but there are exceptions: character concerns, health risks, and, in the case of Elliott, positional scarcity. Since 2009, the only running back to be drafted in the top eight is Trent Richardson, who went No. 3 to the Browns in 2012 and quickly became one of the biggest non-QB busts in draft history. No doubt, Todd Gurley looked as a rookie to be every bit the value at No. 10 as Adrian Peterson was at No. 7 in 2007. But those two players have once-a-decade combinations of acceleration, strength and finishing ability that truly separate them from the pack. And to illustrate what I mean by the word "pack," look at the names of backs drafted in the first round between those two. Stop me when you arrive at a career you'd be happy with out of No. 8. In reverse order: Richardson, Doug Martin, David Wilson, Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, Ryan Mathews, Jahvid Best, Knowshon Moreno, Donald Brown, Beanie Wells, Darren McFadden, Jonathan Stewart, Felix Jones, Rashard Mendenhall, Chris Johnson.
That's a remarkably consistent list of mediocrity, isn't it? The conclusion isn't that Elliott will be mediocre because those guys were mediocre. Rather, it's that the vast majority of Super Bowl-caliber teams have running backs that were drafted somewhere other than the first round, and nearly all of them have running backs who were drafted later than No. 8.
Keep in mind, too, where the three running backs Doug Pederson has coached have been drafted: Brian Westbrook (third round), LeSean McCoy (second round), Jamaal Charles (third round).
Most rushing yards by running backs drafted since 2012, with draft position:
1. Alfred Morris 4,713 (173rd in 2012)
2. Doug Martin 3,806 (31st in '12)
3. Eddie Lacy 3,075 (61st in '13)
4. Lamar Miller 2,930 (97th in '12)
5. Le'Veon Bell 2,777 (48th in '13)
6. Giovani Bernard 2,105 (37th in '13)
7. Trent Richardson 2,032 (3rd in '12)
8. Jeremy Hill 1,918 (55th in '14)
9. Ronnie Hillman 1,842 (67th in '12)
10. Andre Ellington 1,601 (187th in '13)
If you can get a playoff-caliber running back later on, logic says you should be using No. 8 on a player who plays a position that, odds say, is hard to find outside of the top 8-10. Quarterback is the extreme example, obviously. Sure, there are exceptions, but good luck building your five-year plan around finding the next Russell Wilson on Day 2.
Teams are well aware of the scarcity at the QB position, which is why you should ignore the chatter about Carson Wentz or Jared Goff falling down the board. In fact, my guess is that somebody ends up trading for the Titans' No. 1 overall pick, so they can ensure themselves of Wentz, perhaps our old friend Chip Kelly, whose offense is perfectly suited for the North Dakota State star. Wentz ran a zone-read offense in college and is more mobile than you might think at first glance.
The Browns are a bit of a wild card this year, given their hiring of one of the "Moneyball" architects, Paul DePodesta, to oversee their football operations department. Goff's 9-inch hands are a real concern for teams, but, again, teams are so desperate for quarterbacks that somebody will make a play for him, whether it is Cleveland at No. 2, Dallas at No. 4, or the Rams trading up from No. 15. If Wentz, Goff, tackle Laremy Tunsil, linebacker Myles Jack and defensive back Jalen Ramsey go in the top five, then the Titans could still be in position to draft tackle Ronnie Stanley at No. 7 if they trade back with the Niners.
At No. 8, then, the Eagles would have options at cornerback (Florida's Vernon Hargreaves), the defensive line (Joey Bosa from Ohio State, A'Shawn Robinson from Alabama, and DeForest Buckner from, ironically enough, Oregon) and offensive line (tackle Jack Conklin from Michigan State). From a positional-value standpoint, all of those areas are smarter plays (and, as a bonus, more pressing needs) than running back.
Mississippi wide receiver Laquon Treadwell is also projected to go in that range, but neither Pederson nor Roseman has a history of prioritizing wide receiver early on. However, it's worth noting that, compared with the running-back leaderboard, five of the 10 receiving-yardage leaders among players drafted since 2012 were picked higher than Martin at No. 31, including three in the top 13 (Michael Floyd, Odell Beckham, Mike Evans). Again, though, consider Beckham: He's put together the best first and second seasons of any receiver since Randy Moss, but has missed the playoffs in both seasons.
While none of us knows what, exactly, Roseman's research has showed him, it would not be a surprise if it jibes with what our limited anecdotal evidence suggests: The Eagles won't be drafting a "skill" position at No. 8. And under virtually no circumstances should they even consider a running back.