Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Reader 1

Eric Hughson

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Running Backs over the past two decades have seen a contract value devaluation relative to other positions and the league's salary cap spending limit. The growth of running back salaries has stagnated in the past decade, and they currently fail to keep pace with the contracts for other positions. Through our empirical research, we were able to either reject or better explain existing reasoning for recent running back devaluation, such as the increase in passing volume, durability concerns, and running backs by committee. We found that the most significant change in the past 30 years of the NFL, since the 1994 implementation of the salary cap, was the 2011 change in the league's collective bargaining agreement. This rule took all negotiating leverage out of the hands of rookies entering the league and instead placed all drafted rookies on mandatory 4-year, cost-controlled contracts. In doing so, the league's outlook completely shifted from a statistical and roster construction standpoint. Most notably, by altering the rookie contract structures, running backs have been harmed the most. The lion-share of an already shorter career, relative to other positions, now resides on non-negotiable, underpaying contracts when compared to historical norms for the position, how other positions' salaries have grown, and inflation.