The long wait for the first running back to be drafted is over.

The Carolina Panthers traded up six spots to take Texas running back Jonathan Brooks with the 46th pick in the NFL draft Friday night, the second-latest selection for the first running back to go off the board.

The only draft that had a longer wait for a running back came in 2014. Bishop Sankey was the first taken when he went 54th to Tennessee that year.

The only other time in the common draft era starting in 1967 when no running backs were taken in the first round came two years ago, when Breece Hall was the first taken at No. 36 by the New York Jets.

The Brooks pick could start a run at the position with several other top backs projected to go in the second and third rounds of the draft. Brooks might have gone earlier but he tore his ACL late in the season after rushing for 1,139 yards in 11 games.

Teams have been shying away from using premium picks at running back in recent years as offenses have focused more on the passing game and teams have shifted away from using bell-cow backs.

There was a brief respite last season when Atlanta drafted Bijan Robinson eighth overall and Detroit took Jahmyr Gibbs with the 12th pick — both going off the board before any wide receivers.

This year there were a record-tying seven wide receivers drafted in the first round, marking the 13th time in the past 14 drafts that more receivers went in round one than running backs, with the lone exception being 2018. That happened just once in the first 17 years of the common draft era.

But since the start of the rookie wage scale in 2011, there have been 59 receivers taken in the first round compared to 19 running backs.

The league is coming off the first season since 1990 when no running back carried the ball at least 300 times with Derrick Henry leading the league with 280. That followed a 2023 offseason when several star running backs failed to generate lucrative long-term contracts as NFL teams dedicate their resources more to the passing game.

___

AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL