The Detroit Lions have a chance to sign a 1,000-yard rusher. But should they?
Last season, the Detroit Lions finished 21st in the NFL in rushing yardage. And that was due in large part to the team losing it’s starting running back, Kerryon Johnson, for eight games due to a knee injury.
Unfortunately for both the Lions and Johnson, Kerryon also missed six games the previous season due to injury he sustained as a rookie. His durability issues are one of the reasons Detroit used their high second-round selection in this year’s draft on Georgia running back D’Andre Swift.
And while Swift was arguably the top running back in the entire draft class, his immediate availability has been put into question as well. The 21-year old is dealing with a leg injury he apparently suffered in training camp. He also has a history of some nagging college injuries that should draw some concern.
Both Johnson and Swift figured to be the tip of the spear for the Lions’ running game in 2020. And their combined production should give Detroit its best shot of fielding a truly balanced offense in years.
But with the injury bug rearing its ugly head already at the position, perhaps the Lions would consider signing themselves a bit of insurance. Could that possibly be in the form of recently released running back Leonard Fournette?
Detroit doesn’t appear to be a potential landing spot for Fournette due to the presence of both Johnson and Swift. But maybe it should be. Consider this.
Leonard Fournette is more than capable of being the Detroit Lions’ first 1,000-yard rusher since 2013
In his first three seasons in the NFL, Fournette has posted over 1,000 rushing yards twice. He was the fourth overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft after posting one of the greatest seasons in college football history.
At LSU in 2015, Fournette racked up an incredible 1,953 yards and 22 touchdowns in only 12 games. He did so off of an incredible 300 carries while averaging 6.5 yards per rushing attempt.
Released by the Jacksonville Jaguars on Monday, and clearing the waiver wire on Tuesday, Fournette is now officially a free agent and looking for a new home. He’s only 25-years old and is coming off a season where he posted career highs in rushing yardage (1,152), yards per carry (4.3), and receptions (76).
Fournette is a high-volume rusher who is more than capable of posting the Lions’ first 1,000-yard season on the ground since Reggie Bush in 2013. So why would Detroit pass on signing him?
I’m not sure they should. Obviously, the presence of Swift and Johnson complicates matters. But if the Lions are afraid that Kerryon is simply too fragile after missing 14 games over his first two seasons, I think signing Fournette should be a consideration. Detroit will start the regular season with injury concerns surrounding both of their “starting” backs.
Another reason the Lions might pass on signing Fournette is in a continued effort to maintain their culture. The duo of general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia have gone to great lengths to cultivate their desired culture in Detroit. Adding someone like Fournette to the roster could upset the apple cart.
Finally, money could be an obstacle. While the market for Fournette may appear to be somewhat cold, he was just released. If there is a bidding war for his services, it makes no sense for the Lions to pursue him.
Introducing a third wheel to the Lions’ current rushing attack only makes sense if it’s on a team-friendly deal. That’s unless Detroit is ready to move on from Kerryon Johnson, which it doesn’t appear they are.
So, should the Detroit Lions kick the tires on Leonard Fournette? The answer is yes if the team is truly concerned about the health of either D’Andre Swift or Kerryon Johnson. The latter being the bigger focus as he’s been unable to play a full season as a professional.
At the very least, it should be something the team has discussions about as second-year offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has had success with high-volume running backs like Adrian Peterson and Marshawn Lynch in the past. Someone like Leonard Fournette might be a good candidate to join that list.