Position: Running Back
Drafted/School: 2nd Round (43rd overall) / Auburn
Height/Weight: 5-11, 206
2018 Stats: 10 games played, 641 rushing yards, 5.4 yards per attempt, 4 total touchdowns
2018 in review:
The Lions’ seemingly endless search for a productive, starting-caliber running back appeared to reach a revelation with Johnson’s selection. While he was eased in to the rotation early in the season, it was clear from the start that he was the most talented and transformative player in the Lions’ backfield.
It took him just three games to break the Lions’ jaw-dropping 70 game streak without a 100 yard rusher when he racked up 101 yards on the ground in a Week Three win against the New England Patriots. He would accomplish the feat again three weeks later in a Week Six victory over the Miami Dolphins.
Johnson offered the Lions the kind of explosive, big play capability likely not seen in Detroit since…you know who. Had he not suffered a season ending knee injury in a Week Eleven victory over the Carolina Panthers, he likely would have approached 1,000 rushing yards for the season, a mark not reached by a Lion since 2013, when Reggie Bush ran for 1,006 yards.
Next steps for 2019:
There’s no question that Johnson will be the starter going forward and will be a big part of Bevell’s new offensive scheme. Bevell has coached two of the best running backs of their generation during his stints with the Minnesota Vikings and Seattle Seahawks (Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch, respectively). Also, his teams have finished in the top ten in rushing yards per game in seven of his twelve seasons running an NFL offense.
Johnson’s injury concerns in his college years were well documented, and they popped up again with the aforementioned knee injury. Therefore, the Lions would be wise to find some quality depth behind their young star. Johnson, not unlike most players in between their first and second seasons, is likely to add some pounds to his frame, which may help him be able to play in all 16 games, a stated goal for his sophomore campaign. Assuming he stays healthy, Johnson should have no problem eclipsing 900 rushing yards and 300 yards through the air next year.