There is a growing portion of analysts who think the Indianapolis Colts must select a running back in the first round. However, they do not need to do this. They can find a future starting running back on Day 2 or Day 3 of the draft.
Over the past month, the most common name linked to the Colts in mock draft is running back Dalvin Cook. According to SB Nation’s Adam Stites, 34.3 of all mock draft so far (March 1st) list Cook as Indianapolis’ first pick.
There is also 7.3% of mock draft that predict the Colts will take LSU’s Leonard Fournette. In total, 41.6% of all NFL mock draft believe the team will focus on running back in the first round.
Look, both Cook and Fournette are very intriguing prospects and could be very good NFL pros. Unfortunately, running back should not be the team’s primary focus entering the first round of the draft. There are plenty reasons for that.
First, the Colts have more pressing needs. Their defense is littered with holes and weaknesses on all levels. Finding a defensive star and leader should take precedent on finding replacement for Frank Gore.
Speaking of Gore, it is not like he had a disappointing season. The veteran finished the 2016 season with 1,025 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He also had 277 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns.
Although Gore will be 34 by the start of the 2017 season, he can still be productive. Obviously, the Colts need a young guy who can back him up and take some of the heavy workload off of him. However, they can wait until later in the draft to find that young guy because of Gore.
Lastly, the running back talent this year is deep. Obviously, the two top guys are Cook and Fournette, but there are plenty of guys who could also be productive pros right behind them.
Christian McCaffrey and D’onta Foreman could to mind as very good second round selections. Meanwhile, statsheet stuffers like Jeremy McNichols, Kareem Hunt and Samaje Perine will all be available in the mid-rounds.
"“This is a historic running back class,” said a league area scout. “Not just with the first-rounders, but with the overall depth. I think we’ll have around 30 draftable running backs in this class—which probably translates to like Round 5 or higher on your board. That’s an unreal number. And the variety is nice, too. Power runners. Speed backs. It’s a great class. Best I’ve seen.”"
If that is truly the case, why should the Colts force themselves into drafting a running back in the first round? Not every rookie running back is going to turn out like Ezekiel Elliott.
With this knowledge, the Colts would be better off focusing on position groups that are top-heavy, like edge pass rushers, in the first round.
No one is denying Cook and Fournette are talent running back prospects, but it is not a smart play for the Colts to select either in the first round.
They have too many other problems to address, and they are still getting enough production from starting running back Frank Gore. Meanwhile, the running back class has great depth, which means the Colts can afford to wait until the later rounds, and still find a future starting back.