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Are NFL teams phasing out running backs like full backs?

Over the past several years, the running back position is becoming less vital in a pass happy league that focuses on scoring quickly.  The NFL has focused on trying to make the game a speed game in which showcases high powered offenses with higher scoring capabilities.  Up until 2008 only one quarterback had thrown for 5000 yards in one season, and that was Dan Marino in 1984. Since 2008, 5000 yards has been surpassed 7 times, by 4 different quarterbacks, with Drew Brees surpassing the mark 4 times.

The running back numbers have been decreasing steadily over the past 12 years. Since 2003 the numbers have been decreasing horrible.  From 2002-2006 running backs rushed for more than 1,500 yards 26 times in five years. Over the past seven seasons running backs have only hit 1,500 yards 11 times.

2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013
4 6 6 5 5 0 3 1 1 1 4 1

Only ten running backs have hit 1,500 yards in the past seven seasons with Adrian Peterson being the only running back to hit the mark twice.  Not only have the running backs statistics went down, the running backs pay checks have also taken a big hit.  This is the first year I can remember where running backs have not received a huge pay day compared to other years. Here is a list of the contracts dished out to running backs in 2014.

Player

Team

Contract

Annual Average

Ben Tate

Browns

Two years, $7 million

$3.5M

Donald Brown

Chargers

Three years, $10.5 million

$3.5M

Toby Gerhart

Jaguars

Three years, $10.5 million

$3.5M

Knowshon Moreno

Dolphins

One year, $3 million

$3M

Rashad Jennings

Giants

Four years, $10 million

$2.5M

Maurice Jones-Drew

Raiders

Three years, $7.5 million

$2.5M

LeGarrette Blount

Steelers

Two years, $3.85 million

$1.92M

Darren McFadden

Raiders

One year, $1.75 million

$1.75M

James Starks

Packers

Two years, $3.17 million

$1.59M

Peyton Hillis

Giants

Two years, $1.8 million

$0.9M

Former 1,500 yard rusher Maurice Jones-Drew who was the rushing title winner just three years ago could not bank more than 3 million a season.  Fullbacks have been cut out of NFL systems and off of NFL teams in the past several years, but how much longer will it take before the running back is obsolete?

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