Detroit Lions: Should caution be used with Kerryon Johnson?

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Kerryon Johnson
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Kerryon Johnson /

It’s a difficult transition from the college level to the pros. The Detroit Lions need to proceed carefully with their rookie running back.

Day 2 of the NFL Draft for the Detroit Lions kicked off with a trade. They moved up and took running back Kerryon Johnson from Auburn.

Johnson was a steady machine, churning out 1,391 yards and 18 touchdowns rushing and another 194 yards and two touchdowns receiving. His only throw of the season came off a jump pass that resulted in a three yard touchdown.

Versatile doesn’t even begin to describe the former Tiger. Johnson periodically lined up in the Wildcat formation, taking the direct snap from the shotgun. This is where his superior vision and instincts were put on full display.

What separates Johnson from the rest of the backs in the 2018 draft class is his ability to utilize his blocks and make the defense overcommit. Although there’s some explosiveness, power and speed to his game, the rookie will need well executed blocking from his offensive line to stick to his identity.

Every running back needs production from his offensive line. Only a select few ball carriers are phenomenal at creating something out of nothing. Johnson made some nice plays on his own during his college career, as any good back will do from time to time, but he’s on his game and at his best when his blockers are fulfilling their assignments.

Auburn had a superb offensive line. Detroit is a work in progress. Expectations for Johnson should be tampered until the Lions get things situated up front.

Most importantly, he’s coming off a 309 touch (285 carries, 24 catches) season. That’s a lot of Kerryon baggage rolling over into 2018.

Easing the rookie into his role is the best route to take. This will increase his longevity, confidence and growth in the long-run. Throwing him in the mix too soon could spell doom for the young and promising back of the future.

Johnson is special in his own way. Very few backs can manipulate and punish defenders the way he does. Le’Veon Bell, a common NFL player comparison, runs with the same demeanor.

Adding the Wildcat formation as a wrinkle to Detroit’s offense is a good start for him. Returning kick was something he did well too. From there, keep adding more to his plate.

Next: Did the Detroit Lions do enough to fix their offense?

There’s no sense rushing anything, especially with LeGarrette Blount ready to pound the rock and Ameer Abdullah eager to prove he’s his old self again. The running back by committee approach leaves a lot up in the air. There’s no telling who’s toting the ball week by week.

I’m excited to see how Johnson does in the early goings. Like his running style, just be patient and good things will happen.