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Rushing to a Decision

Arkansas's Darren McFadden (5) runs upfield as Mississippi's Greg Hardy chases him last season. McFadden was picked fourth by the Raiders.
Arkansas's Darren McFadden (5) runs upfield as Mississippi's Greg Hardy chases him last season. McFadden was picked fourth by the Raiders. (By Bruce Newman -- Associate Press)
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Sunday, April 27, 2008

This year's draft featured five running backs selected in the first round, including three in a row from picks 22-24. Arkansas tailback Darren McFadden was the first to go, with the Raiders picking the two-time SEC offensive player of the year at No. 4 overall.

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Following McFadden were Oregon's Jonathan Stewart (13th to the Panthers), Arkansas's Felix Jones (22nd to Dallas), Illinois's Rashard Mendenhall (23rd to Pittsburgh) and East Carolina's Chris Johnson (24th to Tennessee).

Running backs have not been this popular since the 1995 draft, and that's not necessarily a good thing.

Remember Ki-Jana Carter? He was the No. 1 overall selection in the 1995 draft by Cincinnati but never came close to living up to the hype. Carter battled injuries throughout his career and finished with 1,144 yards rushing in seven mostly forgettable seasons. He never ran for more than 464 yards in season, and he played 16 games just once.

The second running back taken was Michigan's Tyrone Wheatley, at No. 17 by the the Giants. He played 10 years but had just one 1,000-yard season.

Wheatley was the first of three straight running backs picked, with Washington's Napoleon Kaufman and Tennessee's James Stewart selected at 18 and 19, respectively. Neither Kaufman or Stewart justified his first-round selection.

But perhaps the biggest flop of the 1995 first-round running backs class was Rashaan Salaam, whom the Bears selected 21st. Salaam ran for 1,074 yards as a rookie, then fell to 496 yards the following season. He played five games over his next two seasons and was out of the NFL after 1999.

-- Gene Wang


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