The position has clearly been devalued in the NFL, but Lions general manager Brad Holmes doesn’t buy the notion of depressed running back value in the draft no matter what.
No running backs were taken in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. The last running back taken in the top-20 overall was Saquon Barkley in 2018. NFL teams are using multiple backs, making drafting one in the first round a bad move if you ask almost anyone.
The Detroit Lions should be open to about anything in the upcoming draft. Speaking to the media on Thursday, general manager Brad Holmes was asked about taking a running back in the first round if there was a player who warranted it.
Holmes harkened back to his history as the Rams’ director of college scouting, when they took a running back 10th overall in the 2015 draft.
Via Pride of Detroit:
"I understand the narrative around that,” Holmes said. “But if you think a player is that good, and he’s out there producing for you, then I don’t think anyone is going to look back and say — and I don’t think anyone said in 2016 or ‘17 or ‘18, ‘Man, they picked Todd Gurley at 10.’ No. He was just a really good running back. He was one of the top prospects in the draft, so yeah, we didn’t really bat an eye.”"
As much as Gurley worked out great for the Rams early in his career, his career ended abruptly. The Rams gave him a big contract before the 2018 season. He played that season and the 2019 campaign before being cut, as knee issues surfaced. He played the 2020 season with the Atlanta Falcons, and his career was over after six seasons at age-26.
Brad Holmes doesn’t seem to rule out taking Bijan Robinson in the first round
These days, it takes a unique, truly generationally-talented running back to be considered a sure-fire first-round pick. This year’s class has one in University of Texas running back Bijan Robinson, and his mock draft projections range from top-10 to down in the 20s overall.
Running back is not an urgent draft need for the Lions, with David Montgomery signing a three-year deal in free agency and being young enough to possibly stick around longer. D’Andre Swift is entering the final year of his contract, and the position is a long-term need. So on a certain angle, Robinson makes sense to be an option–likely with the 18th overall pick.
Robinson being drafted by the Lions seems unlikely, and anything Holmes says right now has to be taken with a grain of salt. But the general manager is apparently not fully buying into the prevalent way of thinking, which says to never draft a running back in the first round.