Where would Todd Gurley fit in the Detroit Lions backfield?

Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports)
Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley (Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Detroit Lions have several areas on their roster that could use an upgrade. The running back position was not believed to be one of them. But it appears the Lions themselves believe they do.

On Thursday, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reported that former Atlanta Falcons running back Todd Gurley is visiting Detroit as the 26-year old is currently a free agent. The connections between Gurley and the Lions are clear.

Originally the 10th overall selection in the 2015 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams, Gurley was scouted by current Lions general manager Brad Holmes, who was the Rams’ director of college scouting at the time. The talented running back would go on to win NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, be nominated as a Pro Bowler and All-Pro three times plus lead the league in rushing touchdowns twice.

In 2016, Holmes and the Rams traded up in the draft to select quarterback Jared Goff with the number one overall pick. Goff and Gurley played together for four seasons in Los Angeles before the latter was released by the Rams in March of 2020. This offseason, Goff joined the Lions in a trade for longtime passer Matthew Stafford.

So Gurley rejoining Goff and Holmes in the Motor City seems like a good fit. But what would his role be if he signs with the team?

The Lions already have an exciting starting running back in D’Andre Swift coming into his second season in the NFL. Detroit also inked veteran back Jamaal Williams to a two-year deal this offseason to give Motown a nice one-two punch at the position.

Potentially adding Gurley to the mix might confuse some as to what role he would play in the rotation. And whether his presence might stunt the growth of a young back like Swift.

Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus pointed out a statistic that might give us a hint of what Gurley’s role in Detroit could be. From 2018-2020, no other NFL running back has recorded more rushing touchdowns within five yards of the goal-line than Gurley with 25 total scores.

With a history of knee injuries and coming off a season where he posted a career-low 678 rushing yards as a 15-game starter for the Falcons, a reserve role could be ideal for Gurley despite his relatively young age. And he could thrive in a primary role as the team’s goal-line and short-yardage specialist.

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The fact that the Detroit Lions are entertaining the idea of bringing someone on like Todd Gurley shows this group feels they are somewhat unsettled at the position of running back. So even if Gurley isn’t signed, expect the Lions to be on the hunt for another player to add to their backfield.