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Drafting Mendenhall wasn’t bad, but it won’t happen again


Rashard Mendenhall was drafted with the 23rd overall pick in 2008.

Rashard Mendenhall was drafted with the 23rd overall pick in 2008.

Mark Kaboly | Tribune-Review

Hindsight is always 20/20, or that’s what we are told, right?

Looking back on it five years later, and especially in the light of the Steelers suspending Rashard Mendenhall for a game for “conduct detrimental to the team,” it is easy to criticize Kevin Colbert and the organization for “wasting” a first-round pick on a running back.

Sure, you can criticize the Steelers for settling on Mendenhall with guys like Chris Johnson and Ray Rice still on the board, but you can’t make an argument for using the pick on a running back.

Using a high pick on a running back is what NFL teams do, and that’s because it is hard to find a featured back beyond the first couple rounds of the draft.

The numbers support that.

Sure, there are exceptions, but there are many more Adrian Petersons in the league than Arian Fosters. Many more Trent Richardsons than Ahmad Bradshaws. Many more Jerome Bettis’ than Willie Parkers.

According to the current official depth charts of all 32 teams, there are 13 starting running backs that were selected in the first round of the draft with 18 of 32 within the first two rounds and 24 of 32 within the first three rounds – that’s 75 percent of your starting running backs in the NFL being a top three pick.

Mendenhall will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and most certainly won’t be back next year. But calling it a colossal failure?

Looking back on Mendenhall’s career, it isn’t all that bad. He has 3,480 yards and 29 touchdowns in 48 starts. He had years of gaining 1,108 and 7 touchdowns; 1,273 and 13 touchdowns; and 928 yards and 9 touchdowns. His career average yards per carry is 4.1.

Knowing that, the Steelers will probably be reluctant to use a first-round pick on a running back anytime soon just because they feel that other positions are more valuable than running back at the top of the draft. Remember, Mendenhall surprisingly fell to the Steelers in 2008 and basically left them no choice but to take him.

But just look at their current group of running backs – Jonathan Dwyer (6th round), Isaac Redman (undrafted), Baron Batch (7th round), Chris Rainey (5th round) and Will Johnson (undrafted) and you can assume that the Steelers will be the one team that politely passes on a running back in the first round.

If so, they would be one of the few.

Here is a list of current starting running backs
And what round they were drafted
1st round
Marshawn Lynch – Seattle
Steven Jackson – St. Louis
Beanie Wells – Arizona
Doug Martin – Tampa Bay
C.J. Spiller – Buffalo
Reggie Bush – Miami
Trent Richardson – Cleveland
Chris Johnson – Tennessee
Knowshown Moreno – Denver
Darren McFadden – Oakland
Ryan Mathews – San Diego
Adrian Peterson – Minnesota
Jonathan Stewart – Carolina
2nd round
Ray Rice – Baltimore
Maurice Jones-Drew – Jacksonville
LeSean McCoy – Philadelphia
Matt Forte – Chicago
Mikell LeShore – Detroit
3rd round
Stevan Ridley – New England
Shonn Greene – N.Y. Jets
Jamaal Charles – Kansas City
DeMarco Murray – Dallas
Frank Gore – San Francisco
Alex Green – Green Bay
4th round
5th round
Vick Ballard – Indianapolis
Michael Turner – Atlanta
6th round
Jonathan Dwyer – Steelers
Alfred Morris – Washington
7th round
Ahmad Bradshaw – N.Y. Giants
Arian Foster – Houston
Benjarvus Green-Ellis – Cincinnati
Pierre Thomas – New Orleans




Author: Mark Kaboly

Mark Kaboly is the Pittburgh Steelers beat writer for the Tribune-Review. Mark has covered more than 300 NFL football games in all 32 NFL cities as well as four Super Bowls -- XL in Detroit, XLIII in Tampa, XLV in Dallas and 50 in San Francisco. A Belle Vernon Area graduate, Mark earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a specialization in journalism from California University of Pennsylvania. Mark lives in Port Vue with his wife, Jennifer; daughter Briella; and boys Rocco and Bugsley Pug

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