In the NFL there are only a handful of elite rushers. Could Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson reach such a status in his second season?
We all know the names. The NFL possesses very few running backs that are considered the elite of the elite. Just last season, only five rushers posted more than 1,100 yards on the ground. The top three being the Dallas Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott, the New York Giants’ Saquon Barkley and the Los Angeles Rams Todd Gurley.
But could a member of the Detroit Lions be next to join that elite list? The Motor City traded up eight spots in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft to select Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson. And despite being the sixth rusher taken off the board, Johnson emerged as the best behind only Barkley, the second overall pick.
Johnson finished last season rushing for 641 yards and three touchdowns, starting in only seven of his 10 game appearances. Unfortunately, a knee injury ended his rookie year six games too early. But Johnson did have enough time on the field to prove he is the future of the position in the Motor City.
The second round rusher averaged a whopping 5.4 yards per career in 2018, which was tied for the second highest average in the NFL last season. Using his 64.1 yards per game average, Johnson was on pace to post the first 1,000 rushing yard season by a Lions’ running back since Reggie Bush back in 2013.
It’s not hard to project Johnson reaching elite status in 2019 if he is able to stay healthy. And that will be his biggest obstacle to tackle in his professional career. At only 21-years old, Johnson has a long, troubling injury history that goes all the way back to high school. We’re talking several shoulder injuries, a sprained MCL, injuries to his ribs, his hamstring, a broken thumb, and a severe ankle sprain.
But if Kerryon Johnson can somehow find a way to stay on the field for all 16 games next season, the Detroit Lions might have themselves an elite rusher once again. And with a new offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell, who guided legendary rushers like Marshawn Lynch and Adrian Peterson, the sky is the limit for Johnson in Year Two.