Monday, January 30, 2012

Shouldn't be a question whether the Lions take a running back in the draft, but how early

It's not like the Lions haven't tried to fill their need at running back. Four times within the last eight years, and in each of the last two drafts, they have traded up in the early rounds to select a running back. It was into the first round for Kevin Jones in 2004, up two selections to take Kevin Smith with the first pick of the third round in 2008, into the first round for Jahvid Best in 2010 and into the second round in 2011 for Mikel Lashoure.
Yet, because of injuries, and even with three of those four players still with the organization, running back is a huge question mark entering this draft.
Best, a spectacular talent, has a history of concussions. He didn't play after mid-October last season. There were multiple reports this weekend there are concerns by the Lions he won't play again. Yet, he was still the Lions' leading rusher in 2011. Lashoure tore an Achilles tendon early in training camp last year. Studies have shown it's not an injury NFL players generally comeback strong from (see link)
Smith was released by the Lions after getting knocked around badly, returned in the middle of last season refreshed and played reasonably well, although he eventually was playing hurt again. He is a good, tough player, but it's difficult to envision him as even the short-term solution for a team without virtually no running attack, except surprise plays, late last season.
The Lions are drafting in the bottom third of each round now. They aren't going to get a premier back like Alabama's Trent Richardson. Their best option if they were going to go running back in the first round would Lamar Miller from Miami. He has the best speed of the backs that might be there. Virginia Tech's David Wilson is solid. Vick Ballard from Mississippi State might have value a little later in the draft. I've talked to fans already clamoring for LaMichael James from Oregon, but he may overvalued because he is a big name. He is a Jahvid Best clone, but without that type of extraordinary speed. He is expected to be a third-round pick. Doug Martin from Boise State is solid.
The Lions have had it backwards on running backs by trading up in the draft to acquire them. In the pass-happy NFL, the position is undervalued. The better backs tend to fall.
And can the Lions win in the postseason with a poor running attack? It would be difficult, but it would probably more difficult to advance in the postseason without a better secondary. Also, their depth on the offensive line is a concern. The Lions were fortunate last season they didn't sustain any injuries on their offensive front. That needs to be a priority in this draft.

Replay of my livechat Monday at Got heavily into Tigers talk in aftermath of Prince Fielder signing.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's where the Lions draft center really get low marks - both Best and Smith had major question marks surrounding them during the draft - Best with questions about his concussions and Smith with questions about how much rubber he had left on the tires ... Lions tried to overreach both times - and the team is now paying for those risky draft picks.

1:52 PM 
Anonymous Nolan said...

The Lions should concentrate on drafting O line. Putting another high pick RB behind the current line is a waste. Would be in favor of taking Edwin Baker if he is around in the 5th or 6th round.

10:27 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

Running back has not been a position the Lions have done well in the draft, agreed.

4:49 PM 
Blogger Pat Caputo said...

I'd go secondary and offensive line before running back in the draft.

4:49 PM 

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