Adventures in drafting NFL running backs

Every NFC West team has needs greater than running back heading into the 2011 NFL draft.

There are still issues at the position.

The St. Louis Rams could stand to upgrade and diversify their depth behind Steven Jackson.

The San Francisco 49ers could use a young fullback and, possibly, additional insurance as Frank Gore returns from a season-ending hip injury.

The Arizona Cardinals will be watching Beanie Wells closely this coming season while mindful that Tim Hightower does not have a long-term contract.

And the Seattle Seahawks, though happy with Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett, do not have a dynamic breakaway threat in the backfield.

With that in mind, I'll build upon recent items on quarterbacks and cornerbacks. This one looks at every running back NFC West teams have selected since 2000, the year Shaun Alexander and Thomas Jones entered the league. Sixteen of the 26 backs in question remain active.

I would also encourage you to check out Don Banks' recent piece on running backs and the 2011 draft. It dovetails with the 2010 draft recap file I offered last year. That file showed NFL teams selecting no running backs at all in the third round, only two across the third, fourth and fifth rounds and none in the seventh.

Now, on to the charts, with italicized comments projecting what teams might have been thinking ...

Sure, it's a passing league, but a marquee back still carries plenty of value ...

2000-2010 NFC West Drafts: Franchise Runners

We think these guys can play specific roles within our systems, but it's an upset if they become every-down backs ...

2000-2010 NFC West Drafts: Second-tier Backs

Time to focus on other positions ...

2000-2010 NFC West Drafts: Backfield Depth

Time to grab a fullback, most likely ...

2000-2010 NFC West Drafts: More Apt to Grab a Fullback

Hey, wait a minute, we had these guys rated quite a bit higher ...

2000-2010 NFC West Drafts: Last Call