In what might become a down season for the Detroit Lions, the fact the upcoming draft is full of talented running backs could quickly change their fortunes.
Prior to Week 14, the Detroit Lions ranked 31 out of a possible 32 NFL teams when it comes to rushing with 939 total yards on the ground in 12 games. Despite a severe lack of a running game in the Motor City for quite some time, the Lions have still found a way to make the playoffs twice in the past three seasons.
But this season has truly proven just how badly Detroit needs a more balanced offense. Without the threat of a consistent or effective rushing attack, the onus of the Lions’ offense is squarely placed on the $135 million arm of quarterback Matthew Stafford.
And with that knowledge, opposing defenses are pinning their ears back and going after Stafford without much resistance from what has been a turnstile of an offensive line. In fact, the 29-year old passer has been sacked a whopping 39 times so far this season. That’s the second highest in the league!
This offseason, the Lions chose not to address their running back position, wanting to believe former second round selection Ameer Abdullah could fulfill the potential he showed through less than two games last year prior to suffering a season-ending foot injury.
Instead, the Detroit brass elected to sink major funds into 30-year old guard T.J. Lang and 28-year old offensive tackle Ricky Wagner via free agency in order to beef up their offensive line. That plan has all but backfired as injures and inconsistency have plagued this O-line in 2017.
With another offseason training program under their belt, perhaps this offensive line can fulfill the promise missed this year. But certainly Detroit must find themselves a true running back to balance out this one-sided offense next season.
And lucky for the Lions, next year’s draft class is apparently chock-full of talented runners.
"“It’s a very deep draft at the [running back] position,” ESPN’s Todd McShay recently reported. “Barkley is No. 1, but LSU’s Derrius Guice, Stanford’s Bryce Love and the Alabama duo of Bo Scarbrough and Damien Harris are really good, too. I have nine backs with grades that would put them in the first three rounds.”"
Obviously, the crown jewel of the 2018 NFL Draft class is going to be Penn State running back Saquon Barkley. By most assessments Barkley is a transcendent player, graded higher by some than Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott was two years ago before joining the Dallas Cowboys. But Barkley is a possible Top Five selection and would likely require the Lions to make a trade up to acquire him.
A more likely acquisition for the Lions in the mid-to-later portion of the first round is LSU running back Derrius Guice. By all appearances, Guice seems to be one of the most complete backs in college football right now. With a great combination of size and strength, that reminds some of Frank Gore, this rookie could be the bell cow Motor City fans have been pleading for.
The great thing about the upcoming draft is the fact the Detroit Lions will have plenty of options to choose from when it comes to the running back position. In fact, I’m not sure fans would even be upset if the Lions drafted more than one running back next year. That’s how badly a truly talented runner is needed in Detroit.