Which draftee will have the biggest impact on the Detroit Lions in the upcoming 2012 season? This is a trick question because the winner of the “Most important rookie for the Lions” is…Mikel Leshoure. Sure, it would have been nice if the Leos had some semblance of a running game last year. You had to close your eyes whenever the Lions attempted to run the ball, because it was just too painful to watch. They finished 29th in the league last year with 1523 yards for the entire team. Wasn’t that about the same number Barry Sanders used to average every year by himself?
Guess who finished last in the league in Rushing? The Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Even though the running game has been greatly devalued recently, it still is a very valuable asset to have. I love the fact that Matthew Stafford erased all doubt last year about him being a franchise quarterback, by throwing for over 5000 yeards, but the dude shouldn’t be throwing for first down to Brandon Pettigrew on a 3rd and one every single time. We need to have a back that can get that first down and then some.
In my mind, Leshoure is like an extra 2nd round draft pick that the Lions have at their disposal. Riley Reiff and Ryan Broyles will see some playing time as rookies and the other draft picks will immediately make an impact on special teams, but Leshoure is the one who can change the complexion on the game.
Imagine that offense last year with a big, fast back that the defense is going to have to worry about on every down. The Lions have already proven that they can get the short yards on quick slants over the middle all day long. You put a big guy like Leshoure back there and that defense is going to start freaking out. I can see Stafford at the line of scrimmage smiling at the defense thinking, “I have more weapons at my disposal than most of the Avengers.”
Make no mistake about it, Mikel Leshoure IS their running game. I will be extremely surprised and happy if Jahvid Best makes it through the next season without an injury. Unfortunately, I feel like he’s one hard hit away from retirement. Kevin Smith is a nice back when healthy. Bless his heart, he tries so hard but he is limited in what he can do and gets injured frequently.
I’m looking forward to seeing what Leshoure can do more than any other new face on that team. I love seeing the new draft picks when they first get on the field. I’m like a little boy with a shiny new toy when it comes to draft picks, and I was denied that last year when Leshoure got hurt. With his recent problems behind him, he should be extra motivated to show his stuff. I’m of the firm belief that he’ll be worth the wait.