Detroit Lions Rookie Roles: Fifth-round pick Jason Huntley

Jason Huntley, New Mexico State Aggies (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Jason Huntley, New Mexico State Aggies (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) /

We try to figure out the role for fifth-round pick, Jason Huntley, in 2020.

When attempting to pinpoint a particular role for the Detroit Lions 2020 draft class, one player is much harder to pin than the rest. And that’s who we’re talking about today … fifth-round pick out of New Mexico State, running back, Jason Huntley.

Huntley was a highlight reel from out of the backfield, lined up as a wide receiver, and as a kick returner last season for the Aggies. He carried a 5.9 YPA rushing and an 8.4 YPR receiving in his college career.

But that was then, and the NFL has a way of exposing your flaws and limiting your role more so than a bunch of Mountain West and Sun Belt opponents.

The biggest flaw for Huntley in the big league will be his size. According to his pro-day measurements, he stands at 5-foot-9, 190 pounds. Last season there was only one running back in the NFL both shorter and lighter than Huntley and only four that were lighter. This will limit his effectiveness running between the tackles, which will make him even more predictable than Theo Riddick.

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That’s why I project Huntley’s primary role on offense to be receiver. Both out of the backfield and lined up in the slot. After all, he did have the most college career receiving yard of any running back in the 2020 class.

This projection is more about what he won’t be able to do in the NFL though. Because of his weight (190), he will never be respected as an inside threat by opposing defenses. But also because of his height (5-9), he’s a smaller target. I just believe the height won’t be as much of a hindrance.

These pros and cons should force Lions offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to use him into a role where there are fewer disadvantages and where he’s at his best, in open space, as a slot receiver. Like when Bevell had Percy Harvin with Minnesota in 2009 and 2010.

  • Jason Huntley: 5-9,  193lbs,  4.4 (40-time)
  • Percy Harvin:   5-11, 200lbs, 4.4

Who would be in competition with Huntley for a roster in such a role?

Former Lions running back J.D. McKissic would have been the closest to this sort of role last season. But since the Lions already got rid of McKissic, I really think Huntley is in competition with himself for a roster spot.

Yes, I read what general manager Bob Quinn said at his post-draft presser per

"“The good thing about the running backs right now. We have them of all shapes and sizes. We have some bigger guys, we have some middle-sized guys. Huntley will be our smallest guy, but he’s extremely fast. So (I’m) very confident that we’ll find a role for him, and he is going to be in competition with Ty Johnson.”"

But for me, any and all coach-speak to the media is taken with the biggest grain of salt. I wouldn’t doubt the two are in competition, but every player is in competition with each other when trying to dwindle down to the final 53. It’s not like the Lions draw a hard line for how many tickets are up for grabs for each position in the Spring and hope it works out by the end of summer.

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With all that said, since Jason Huntley will officially be listed as a running back, I think the Detroit Lions keep either four or five backs. With Ty Johnson, Huntley, and Wes Hills fighting for the fourth and/or fifth spots. My early prediction is that the Lions keep five half-backs, with both Johnson and Huntley on the 53.