The Detroit Lions draft class was marked by a mix of on-field success and injury. Mikel Leshoure was lost for the year early in training camp, Nick Fairley didn’t make his debut until a month into the regular season and battled linger foot issues from then on, Titus Young also missed time in training camp and got off to a slow start before breaking out later in the season. Even Johnny Culbreath, a player that wasn’t going to be counted on anyway, ended up on the practice squad injured reserve.
Add in second-year player Jahvid Best having his season cut short by a concussion and it seemed like the Lions had as many promising young players in street clothes as they had dressed on game day.
Jim Schwartz addressed the Lions’ injury situation at his NFL Combine press conference today:
All our injured guys are progressing well. The only caveat is Jahvid. With the concussion, that’s not like having a ankle or a foot. We’re still on a wait-and-see timetable with him but we are very optimistic he’ll be back for us and be the player he was before he got injured.
It’s hard to put this quote into context of reports that the Lions will be paying close attention to running backs at the combine this week. It may just be due diligence, which is definitely smart, but with Jahvid Best’s injury not the type that be assigned a time table it is hard to know how the situation will be any different on draft day than it is now. At the very least it would seem the Lions are open to drafting a running back if one happens to be on the board at a spot they believe represents too much value to pass up.
Nick Fairley did not require offseason surgery and is expected to be at 100% by mid-April. That puts him in good shape for full participation in any post-draft OTAs. It is important to remember that last year’s rookie draft didn’t have the luxury of a typical offseason thanks to the lingering lockout. Players like Fairley and Leshoure that missed most or all of training camp last year were at a significant disadvantage last season and figure to take a big leap forward through a normal offseason.
The Lions may not have the financial flexibility necessary to make a splash in free agency but the return of players like Best, Leshoure and Fairley adds a boost to the team that was often missing last season.