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Where do teams find thousand yard running backs?

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Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

There was a comment in the thread of this article, ESPN's Mel Kiper mocks his picks for the Bears, that got me to thinking...

The comment was in favor of the Chicago Bears drafting a running back in the first round, because "1000 yds rushers don't usually come in the second round." My first thought was; Matt Forte was a 2nd round pick of the Bears and he hit the 1,000 yard mark five of eight seasons in Chicago. My second thought was; Where are thousand yard backs found?

So I decided to compile some data on thousand yard backs to see exactly when teams acquired them.

I checked the stats from 2015 through 2010, and during that time the total number of thousand yard backs decreased. Last season there were only seven thousand yard rushers, 2014 and 2013 had 13 apiece, 2012 had 16, 2011 had 15 and 2010 had 17 runners hit quadruple digits.

In the six year span I looked at, running backs hit 1,000 yards 81 times. Those 81 times were hit by 39 different players. First round picks accounted for the most 1,000 yards seasons at 31. Second rounders were next with 17 and 3rd round draft picks hit the thousand yard mark 13 times.

Undrafted free agent runners were next at 8, with 6th and 7th rounders at 4 each, followed by 4th and 5th round picks at just two times each.

Here are the percentages of where the backs hitting thousand yard seasons were acquired, broke out in a fancy pie chart!

I know it's a popular opinion to claim that you can find a good running back on the street, but the data suggests that 75% of the time when back hits a thousand yards, he was picked in the first three rounds of the draft.

Teams that employ a running back by committee approach obviously skews the data. Some teams just like keeping their backs fresh, thus limiting the chance for a talented runner to hit a thousand yards. The Denver Broncos and Cincinnati Bengals come to mind as teams that could have had a 1,000 yard back if they didn't split carries.

Injuries can also affect the data. Guys like Le'Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy and Matt Forte likely would have hit quadruple digits had they stayed healthy all year.

Here's the full list of the 39 running backs that hit 1,000 yards in a season from 2010-2015.

Adrian Peterson
Ahmad Bradshaw
Alfred Morris
Arian Foster
Beanie Wells
BenJarvus Green-Ellis
C.J. Spiller
Cedric Benson
Chris Ivory
Chris Johnson
Darren McFadden
DeMarco Murray
Devonta Freeman
Doug Martin
Eddie Lacy
Frank Gore
Jamaal Charles
Jeremy Hill
Justin Forsett
Knowshon Moreno
Lamar Miller
Latavius Murray
Le'Veon Bell
LeGarrette Blount
LeSean McCoy
Marshawn Lynch
Matt Forte
Maurice Jones-Drew
Michael Turner
Peyton Hillis
Rashard Mendenhall
Ray Rice
Reggie Bush
Ryan Mathews
Shonn Greene
Stevan Ridley
Steven Jackson
Todd Gurley
Willis McGahee

Yesterday the Chicago Bears met with Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott, who will be a 1st rounder. They have also talked to UCLA's Paul Perkins and Marshaun Coprich of Illinois State. Perkins could go as high as the 3rd round and Coprich may sneak into the 7th round.

Chicago head coach John Fox has historically been known for his defenses and running game, so don't be surprised to see the Bears try and improve on their 11th ranked rushing attack from a year ago. Fox's teams have gone with a main lead back, but he's also had teams that split carries and rolled with the hot hand. Last year Jeremy Langford accounted for 35% of Chicago's RB rushing attempts, and that was with starter Matt Forte missing 3 games to injury. Langford will get more playing time, but will he be 1a, 1b, or the bell-cow?

Do you guys think the Bears will grab a running back in the 2016 NFL Draft or do you think they are comfortable with a Langford / Ka'Deem Carey duo?