Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
I have begun to run out of adjectives to describe the Lions running back position. Once I ended up in “putrid” and “detrimental”, I needed to take a step back and re-evaluate. With the line blocking as poorly as they have been, a lot has been asked of starters Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, but neither have delivered. Of all running backs with at least 40 carries, Bush and Bell rank 50th and 53rd respectively in yards per carry out of only 58 qualifying players. The offense as a whole has been struggling, from play calling to blocking, but let’s be honest…running back is a problem.
For two years running, no running back has been taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Some may point to an undervaluing of the position, but players like DeMarco Murray are showing that a dominant run game can push a middling team into contention. The best rusher in the 2015 draft will likely be Georgia’s Todd Gurley. The nearly consensus top running back in 2015, Todd Gurley is just fantastic to watch play. A combination of speed and power that is rare to find in the same person, Gurley may be gone before the Detroit Lions draft clock even starts.
In the likely event that Gurley is gone, the Lions might choose to go the route of Miami product Duke Johnson. My own personal favorite, Duke Johnson is the closest thing to watching college-Adrian-Peterson. Like Gurley, Johnson has it all in the speed and power department. His field vision is fantastic, and whether the blocking is there or not he is a threat to take it to the house. Johnson has had some ball control and injury issues, but is otherwise an easy first round pick for me.
It’s very possible, given the Lions needs on both offense and defense, that the team chooses to forgo an early pick on a running back. Perhaps Bush and Bell find their mojo and manage to finish the season higher than 4 YPC (Long way to go for both, Bush is 3.5 and Bell is 3.2 at mid-season). Jeremy Langford of MSU is an intriguing prospect if they decide to wait and pick up a back that might need more work. Sure to become a quick fan favorite due to his home grown roots, Langford would likely need a year or two before he takes the reins full time.