Are running backs on the rise again?

The year the Steelers grabbed Le'Veon Bell out of Michigan State on the second round there wasn't a running back drafted by anyone from anywhere in the first round. There wasn't a running back taken in the first round last year, either. Even the teams with two first-round picks, the Browns, Vikings and Rams, didn't feel the need to invest one of them in a ball-carrying prodigy.

But Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians wouldn't be surprised if that trend heads in a different direction this time around.

"I think there is that possibility this year," Arians said. "You might see two."

Steelers RB Le'Veon Bell, WR Antonio Brown and WR Martavis Bryant began their careers at the combine.

That would shoot a hole in the running backs-have-been-devalued-in-today's-NFL theory that's being discussed at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Other thoughts expressed publicly on the subject of why running backs are seemingly no longer first-round worthy include:

Dallas Cowboys Head Coach Jason Garrett: "I think you'll probably find if you really look at it that running the football is an important part of all championship-type teams. The runner isn't the only one who is part of running the football. Controlling the line of scrimmage is big. We've made a lot of organizational emphasis over the last few years to use our resources to shore up that offensive line.

"I think that's paid dividends for us but the runner does matter. I think we've all seen that running backs don't seem to be drafted quite as high as they used to. I think that has a lot to do with the longevity of the player. But I do think the value of the running back is really critical to having a great running football team."

Seattle Seahawks General Manager John Schneider: "I don't have an answer for that. I just know that every year you scout and evaluate like every position the runners that are out there, whether it's free agency or the draft. I personally think this is a pretty good running back group this year."

Green Bay Packers General Manager Ron Wolf: "I think it's just the way it goes. I think whether it's this year or two years from now or something there'll be a year where there's five of them going in the first round. It's just cyclical and interesting but it probably doesn't mean anything philosophically. I don't think teams are less inclined to take running backs now than they were five years ago."

Minnesota Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman:"I know there are some pretty unique running backs coming out in this draft class. I'd be surprised if a couple of these guys may not go in the first round but we'll see how this whole process goes through. I know our philosophy is, and you've seen it through the playoffs, you have to have a quarterback but you also have to be able to run the ball, especially if you're going to be playing in an outdoor climate. We value running backs pretty significantly."

Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht: "You know there's a myriad of reasons, probably. The shelf-life has to be a concern, I think. You draft a player in the first round; you ideally probably want to get to a second contract. There just haven't been a whole lot of those types of players teams felt were worthy of that."

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