Looking back at it three and a half years later, the 2008 NFL draft produced a strong crop of running backs. Darren McFadden, Matt Forte, Rashard Mendenhall and Jamaal Charles are all starters now. Jonathan Stewart, Tim Hightower, Felix Jones, Tashard Choice and Steve Slaton have each had their moments.
And then there are Ray Rice and Chris Johnson, two of the very best runners in the NFL, whose skills will be on display Sunday afternoon when the Ravens travel to Nashville to take on theTennesseeTitans.
Johnson was the 24th overall pick that year and the fifth running back selected behind McFadden, Stewart, Jones and Mendenhall. Forte was the first back off the board in the second round. Then at pick No. 55, after the Ravens had drafted quarterback Joe Flacco in the first round, they selected Rice out of Rutgers.
In my humble opinion, Johnson and Rice are the cream of the 2008 running back crop and were two of the biggest steals in that draft. And in many areas, their statistics stack up well against each other.
In 48 games, Johnson has rushed for 4,622 yards -- including a legendary 2,006 in 2009 -- and scored 38 total touchdowns. In 46 games, Rice has rushed for 3,120 and flexed in the end zone 16 times. It's worth noting that Rice has gotten 247 fewer carries in his career and had two guys hogging carries near the goal line.
But if you add receptions and receiving yards into the mix, the numbers are nearly an even match. Rice has piled up 4,693 yards per scrimmage for an average of 102 total yards per game. Johnson has 5,655 for an average of 117.8. But Rice has averaged more yards per touch (5.42) than Johnson (5.25). That's because Rice has piled up 35 more catches and 540 more receiving yards since 2008.
Their styles are different. Johnson is perhaps the fastest running back in the NFL and has bucked the notion that he can't run between the tackles. Rice isn't quite as quick, but he packs a lot of power into his smaller frame. Both are among the league's best at catching passes out of the backfield. They are two of the most exciting players in football. So if you had to pick one, which would you take?