INDIANAPOLIS -- Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon was a 2015 Heisman Trophy finalist.
Alabama's T.J. Yeldon, Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah and Auburn's Cameron Artis-Payne were all workhouses for their respective schools.
Before his season-ending knee injury, Georgia's Todd Gurley was considered one of the best players in all of college football. Those are just a handful of the running backs available in a loaded class of rushers that also features Miami's Duke Johnson, Indiana's Tevin Coleman and Boise State's Jay Ajayi.
While a lot of them carry college offenses, the value of the position they play has been greatly diminished at the NFL level especially when it comes to the draft.
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"Most teams are throwing the ball a lot and they're picking up wide receivers first and trying to pick a running back up later," Yeldon said at the combine. "We'll see how it goes this upcoming draft.
"Of course (running backs are still important). You can't be one-dimensional. You need a running back to run the ball and get the running game going."
Since the 2012, no running back has gone in the first round of the draft. Three were taken in the first round of that draft -- Trent Richardson, Doug Martin and David Wilson.
The highest running back selected in the 2013 draft was Giovani Bernard who went 37th overall to the Cincinnati Bengals. In 2014, a running back didn't come off the board until the 54th pick when the Tennessee Titans snagged Bishop Sankey out of Washington.
But this class hopes to be different.
"I think there is a resurgence of running backs," Ajayi said at the combine. "Just looking at this class of running backs that we have in this draft class, I think this is a very strong class and I think for the years to come that the NFL is going to see a rise, and a new running back class will just help the position grow and become more of a prime position."
As of now, the numbers don't back it up. During that two-year run, four quarterbacks, eight wide receivers, 14 offensive linemen, 13 defensive linemen, seven linebackers and 16 defensive backs have been taken in the opening round of the draft.
Even two tight ends have been picked in the first round showing teams are placing a premium on every position except running back.
"If it is being devalued, it shouldn't be," Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "We had Matt Forte in Chicago. We had running back by committee this past year (in Tampa Bay), and in order for us to start winning football games, we need to get that position right for us. Look at the Cowboys. DeMarco Murray had a great year, and so did they.
"You still need a good running back (to win). You look at the teams in the playoffs. They all had big, good running backs who could move the ball. That will always be an important part of our game."
The draft isn't the only area running backs are being devalued. The position also doesn't consistently receive top dollar.
According to Business Insider, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings was the lone running back who ranked among the top-25 highest paid NFL players in 2014 at $11.8 million.
Peterson received the last mega-deal for a running back when he signed a six-year, $86 million deal in 2011.
Despite finishing third in the league with 1,319 rushing yards, LeSean McCoy was recently traded from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso, who is coming off ACL surgery. McCoy led the league in rushing in 2013.
The Eagles in turn signed 32-year-old Frank Gore. McCoy is just one of many cases of teams moving on in order to avoid paying a high price for running backs.
That's largely because teams have been able to plug in backs not taken in the first round or free agents who have been productive.
The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl with LeGarrette Blount, who they signed in November, as their feature running back.
Still, many feel there's a chance the two-year drought of running backs not going in the opening round will be broken in this draft.
"I think there is that possibility this year," Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said at the combine. "You might see two."
The most likely two are Gurley and Gordon as they're ranked No. 1 and 2 in the majority of draft projections. ESPN analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. both have Gordon going in the first round in their latest mock drafts.
"It's hard to say if we're a devalued position," Gordon said. "We just have to change that this year and show people that we're capable of going in the first round."
McShay also has Gurley going in the first round as do NFL.com draft analysts Bucky Brooks and Lance Zierlein. Before the knee injury, Gurley was considered a lock to go in the first round. Both Gurley and Gordon project to be franchise rushers.
"I feel like this class is definitely deep for the running back position and we have a lot of talented guys," Gurley said at the combine. "I want to be a No. 1 pick. We'll see how everything goes. I'm just trying to get my knee back right and just show the teams that I can come back healthy."
When taking a running back that high, Arians said it's all about how they fit in a system.
"There are still guys that are featured backs and there are still quality ones in this draft," Arians said. "If you have a guy who is your horse and there have been some good ones the last couple of years, you ride them. You've got to be careful with the number of touches as you get to December and January, but then you have teams who have multiple players who can be successful in roles. It's finding their roles and putting them in the right slots."
Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter:@Marq_Burnett.