Every Bucs fan knows that Tampa Bay needs another running back, whether LeGarrette Blount is a bell cow or not. The team had the third worst rushing attack, totaling less than 1,500 yards on the ground. In comparison, Jacksonville's Maurice Jones-Drew alone picked up 1,606 rushing yards.
In defense of the running backs, the Buccaneers were a middle-of-the-road team in terms of yards per carry. The backs got less carries than on any other team in the NFL. The nine rushing touchdowns speak well to the efficiency. As for the number of times the Bucs rushed, the number of touchdowns is quite high.
But then again, Tampa Bay tied for the eighth most fumbles resulting from rushes with five other teams. That is an awful statistic for a team who ran rushing plays so rarely. New head coach Greg Schiano made it a priority to mention that if you fumble, you'll sit on the bench (via ESPN).
LeGarrette Blount came into the league as an undrafted rookie, and managed to put up 1,000-plus total yards his rookie season. Yet, in 2011, Blount totaled only 781 yards on the ground. His YPC went down by nearly a yard, showing clear statistical regression.
There are myriad factors that may be responsible for mess. Blount may have declined as a player, the coaching staff may have used a bad system, the rest of the team might stink. All of these are fixable, and they do not take away the evidence of Blount's potential as a running back.
Still, the Bucs need another running back. One man cannot carry a team.
Many experts and fans alike believe that Tampa should take Trent Richardson of Alabama with the fifth pick in the draft, as opposed to superstar corner Morris Claiborne. Richardson is indisputably the best running back in the draft, and perhaps a better prospect than Adrian Peterson was in 2007.
After some research of every draft since 2007, teams that have taken a running back in the Top 12 have not fared so well in the long run. The list includes the Minnesota Vikings, Buffalo Bills, Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos, the Buffalo Bills again and the San Diego Chargers.
Out of all these franchises, not a single one finished with a winning record in 2011.
Tampa Bay should wait before selecting a running back. In the early second round, Boise State's Doug Martin should still be on the board, and his stylistic similarities to Ray Rice would make him an instant playmaker. However, the Bucs still have bigger holes to fill than in the backfield, and Martin is not the elite back Richardson is.
They would be better off drafting one of the many linebackers who may fall from the first round.
By the third round, the best running backs left should be LaMichael James, Chris Polk and possibly Lamar Miller or David Wilson. Chris Polk is an old-school power back in the same mold as LeGarrette Blount; more of the same will not better this troubled team. Lamer Miller and David Wilson are classic one-cut backs, but will probably be taken by this point.
That leaves LaMichael James, a productive college player who has not commanded a lot of attention coming into the pros. His ability lies in his combination of elite speed and stupendous agility.
No matter who it is, the Bucs need another running back. The question is, who it will be?
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