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Williamson: “This year, I think there are only three backs in this draft who are franchise back"

There is an unspoken rule it seems with many football analysts that you should never take a running back in the first round of the NFL draft. Why? It seems many analysts feel the running back position doesn't hold its value long enough to be valued as a first-round pick. That may seem true, but it looks like this year the Steelers have backed themselves into a corner to pick a running back early on in the 2021 NFL draft. Especially after allowing James Conner to sign with the Arizona Cardinals.

Art Rooney II sounds like he has seen enough in regards to the Steeler's current running game. The Steelers have finished in the bottom 20 in regards to their rushing attack over the past 3 seasons. Ever since Le'Veon Bell left town it seems the Steelers have gone downhill. It should be noted the Steeler's offensive line has gone downhill as well since the departure of Mike Munchak too. With that being said should the Steelers draft a first-round running back in the 2021 NFL draft over an offensive lineman?

Matt Williamson is not opposed to the idea of going against the grain and drafting a first-round running back this season. The reason is that he thinks there are only 3 running backs in this draft who are franchise running backs. This is along the lines of what we have been saying all offseason. Najee Harris, Travis Etienne, and Javonte Williams are all capable of coming into Pittsburgh and becoming a feature running back, but anything outside of those 3 will be questionable.

Williamson on drafting running back or offensive line in the first round: “As a rule of thumb, if it’s an offensive line or running back, nine out of 10 years, I’m going to go offensive line,” Williamson said. “This year, I think there are only three backs in this draft who are franchise backs. Obvious upgrades that answer the problem at that position. And that position (with the Steelers) has been very bad two years in a row now.”

Not only does Matt Williamson make a point that only 3 running backs could be franchise backs going into the 2021 season, but it also backs up the point why the Steelers must draft one in the first round. If the Steelers end up passing up on Etienne and Harris in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft I do not expect both of them to be there by the time the Steelers draft again in the second round. Javonte Willams could be there, but it seems like he is starting to become an early second-round prospect.

So if the Steelers pass up on getting one in the first round they could get a running back like Michael Carter who is a capable running back, but it will take him time to become the 'franchise back' the Steelers need right away in 2021. Williamson also compared Najee Harris's receiving ability to Le'Veon Bell. That is also the last time the Steelers have had a receiving running back too.

Williamson on Najee Harris: “He’s a very good receiver and an excellent receiving prospect. I hate to use the Le’Veon Bell receiver comparison. But I think it’s similar. At 230 pounds, he can line up wide against a linebacker and run slants and wide receiver routes, and has a huge catching radius. If I’m going to use an early pick on a running back, he really has to contribute in the passing game.”

It seems Najee Harris is the favorite to land in Pittsburgh, but I wouldn't count out the Dolphins drafting Harris with their 18th pick. I do believe either Harris or Etienne will be there at No. 24 and I think the Steelers should take either one if available. Both running backs are too good to pass up. If Harris is taken by the Dolphins it will not be the end of the world because I think Etienne is just as capable as Harris. Either running back could walk into the 2021 season as the Steelers premier running back and give the Steelers exactly what they're looking for in regards to a running back.


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