Want to hear an incredibly ridiculous stat? The Detroit Lions haven’t had a 100-yard rusher in a game since Reggie Bush in 2013. That was also the last time the Lions had a 1,000-yard rusher in a season when Bush barely accomplished the feat with 1,006 yards. It’s clear that Detroit has to add a playmaker at the running back spot.
Ameer Abdullah has struggled to stay healthy, playing in just 32 games during his first three NFL seasons. He has yet to eclipse 600 rushing yards in a single season and only averages 3.8 yards per carry for his career.
Theo Riddick is not your standard running back or a guy you will see pound the rock between the tackles. He is a weapon catching the ball out of the backfield, but it is clear that he is never going to be the bell cow back, and he has also dealt with injuries.
Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington and undrafted rookie Tion Green were used sparingly. Zenner appeared in only eight games and had just 14 carries all season. Washington was also minimally used this past season, and spent a lot of time as a healthy scratch toward the end of the season. Green showed some promise late, but likely isn’t the long-term solution.
The Lions finished dead last in rushing as a team in 2017, both in terms of yardage per game (86.6) and yards per carry (3.4, tied with the Arizona Cardinals). Something has to change, and perhaps that is scheme, but the Lions should use either the draft, free agency or both to bring in a productive halfback.
I’ll stop rambling now and get to the point of the article. Here are three draft prospects at the running back position the Lions should keep an eye on. Unless the Lions make a major move and trade up, Saquan Barkley will be long gone, so we won’t focus on him.
Weight: 212 lbs
Career Stats: 471 rushes, 3,074 yards, 6.5 YPC, 29 TDs, 32 catches for 250 yards and 3 TDs
Thoughts: Guice is a well-built back with exceptional power and good speed. He is an intriguing fit in Detroit, and has been mocked to Motown often, but in a deep draft class at the position, would the Lions want to use a first-round pick on a running back? Yes, it is a clear need, but so is both defensive end and defensive tackle. There is a low chance he would still be hanging around the next time the Lions are on the clock in Round 2.
NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compares Guice to Marshawn Lynch, which is high praise. I liken him to his predecessor, Leonard Fournette. Both players have good size and are violent runners who aren’t afraid to truck stick you, yet can also breakaway in the open field. While Guice isn’t really known for being a burner, he showed a great balance between power and speed in his collegiate career.
What needs improvement? Guice has had injury issues, so he needs to work on his strength and teams need to make sure he won’t have recurring issues. He also doesn’t have a great burst or elite acceleration.
Ronald Jones II
Weight: 200 lbs
Career Stats: 591 rushes, 3,619 yards, 6.1 YPC, 39 TDs, 32 catches for 302 yards and 3 TDs
Thoughts: Jones is currently projected to go somewhere between late in the first round and the second round. If the Lions pass on the tailback position at pick No. 20, which may be a little bit early for the USC star, and Jones is still on the board at pick No. 51, then the Lions should run to the podium for him. However, he is likely to be gone by the early second round.
Jones is an electric player, who has smooth cuts, elite acceleration and is very shifty with the ball in his hands. While Jones likes to make you miss, he doesn’t shy away from contact. He also flashed some ability in the passing game, and is a willing blocker in pass protection.
What needs improvement? He may need to bulk up a bit, as his frame is somewhat thin. His vision and patience also may need some work.
Weight: 220 lbs
Career Stats: 590 rushes, 3,613 yards, 6.1 YPC, 33 TDs, 64 catches for 621 yards and 6 TDs
Thoughts: Michel has been a hot name in draft circles ever since his explosive performance against Oklahoma where he racked up 181 rushing yards and four total touchdowns. He then followed that up with 98 rushing yards in the National Championship. His raw rushing statistics are almost identical to Ronald Jones’, but with double the receiving production.
Michel is currently projected to go in Round 2, but he has gained a ton of momentum so far in 2018. Could he eventually move into first-round territory? Michel split time with Nick Chubb in college, so I am not sure how he would handle a lead back role. With that said, he has a well-built frame and is a decisive runner, which are qualities you look for in a No. 1 back.
What needs improvement? His agility and hip fluidity could use some work. He also had struggled with inconsistent play from time to time, but that happens.
What do you think? Who do you want the Lions to draft at running back, if anybody at all? Comment below.