Detroit Lions’ early 53-man roster projections: Running back

SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 13: (L-R) Running back Ameer Abdullah
SAN DIEGO, CA - SEPTEMBER 13: (L-R) Running back Ameer Abdullah /

The Detroit Lions’ backfield in 2017 will be identical to last season’s Week 1 unit, minus a fullback. They put themselves in a pretty precarious position.

Competition is a good thing, especially for a position that didn’t end up doing so hot last year. Ironically, to fix the issues in the running game, the Detroit Lions didn’t make many changes. Health will be the biggest factor in order to see success in the ground attack.


Injuries didn’t do the Lions any justice in 2016. There are some fresh bodies vying to make the final roster, but the four familiar faces from the year previous have the upper hand. Other than some competition for the fourth running back spot, the Lions look all set and ready to roll.

Ameer Abdullah

A lot will be expected of this running back to turn this running game around. The coaching staff as well as the ownership showed a lot of faith in him, so he is a lock. Toting the rock 20 times a game isn’t in the itinerary, but the Lions want nothing more than for him to be the lead back.

Zach Zenner

The most underrated back on the roster and possibly the entire NFL. There will be other backs trying to steal his job, just like every season he has been on the Lions, but he will again defy the odds. Based off last season’s performance and the kudos he received from his teammates, coaches and other NFL peers this offseason, don’t be shocked if he earns his way into a starting role.

Theo Riddick

Opposing teams need to account for this pass catching back every time he takes the field. Known across the league for his nasty make-you-miss cutting ability, he won’t scare opponents running between the tackles. Although he is still recovering from double wrist surgery, you can lock this slippery third-down specialist into a roster spot.

Dwayne Washington

Most certainly the most controversial of all my selections to make the roster. Plenty of work needs to be done, but his natural ability is scary good. No one will knows how talented he can be, but I doubt the Lions are going to give up on the back with the highest upside on the roster after one season.


This offense is going to function without a pure fullback on the roster. In the Cooter-Shooter offense, the need for five backs is highly unlikely. Four is ideal considering how heavy the Lions rely on passing the football.

Matt Asiata

Reliability and versatility will certainly get him close, but not close enough. Nothing about his game is too special. Solid and deserving of a roster spot, he just isn’t worth keeping over some players with higher upside and more familiarity with the system.

Tion Green

Undrafted out of the University of Cincinnati, don’t expect anything spectacular to happen for him to get on the roster. The practice squad is likely his ceiling for this season.

Next: NFC North Position Rankings - Running Backs

Mike James

An outcast from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he probably gets the boot after spending the majority of last season on the Lions practice squad. He should make things interesting and turn some heads, but this roster is pretty well off without him.