As spring approaches, Lions fans everywhere turn their thoughts to what has become pretty much a yearly problem; What to do about Running Back?
With Jahvid Best's chances to play for the Leos in 2013 hovering somewhere between naught and zero, our Running Back corps is left with Kevin Smith [UFA], Joique Bell [RFA], and Mikel Leshoure. An infusion of new talent is necessary and I'll give my take below on what the Lions need and how they can fill it.
As per Martin Mayhew [Jan. 27]:
"We need that shifty back that can be a change-of-pace guy and can catch passes out of the backfield, a guy that can run routes one-on-one and beat a linebacker. That was what Jahvid gave us, a guy with some juice and some elusiveness. We'll be looking for that guy."
First, this offence needs an RB with breakaway speed and who is an excellent receiver. Sort of exactly what we had in Jahvid Best. Bell and Leshoure are bangers who don't have the speed to threaten defences like Jahvid could. Bell is an excellent pass catcher, and an underrated runner. Leshoure, I'll be charitable here, still seemed to be recovering from his knee injury in 2011. I hope he picks up his game this year.
High Range Option - by this I mean use some considerable resources to fill this spot.
Free Agent - Reggie Bush -28 yrs old with great speed and hands. Rejuvanated his career in Miami. Could cost about $5M per year or more. He has been injury free his last two years.
Draft - Second Round [36th pick] - Giovani Bernard North Carolina - 5'8" 202 lbs. 4.53 40 Good hands and an explosive runner if not a breakaway threat.
Mid Range Option - not as expensive or as high a draft choice used to fill this spot.
Free Agent - Ahmad Bradshaw - 27 years old with nagging injury issues, but still a dangerous runner and pass receiver, and as a bonus, a ferocious pass blocker. Currently making about $3M per year, may be able to be signed for between $3 and $4M per year?
Draft - Third Round [65th pick] - J. Franklin UCLA or M. Gillislee Florida - this might be a little early for these guys, but since the Lions don't have a fourth round pick I slotted them here. Neither of these guys are breakaway threats [if they were they would be in the second round] but are solid runners with 4.5 speed, good hands, good pass blockers, and all around talent.
EXTRA!! Video of J. Franklin. The guy is freaking awesome!
And here is Mike Gillislee. Not too shabby either. In the LSU game he flattens Minter and Mingo on pass blocks.
Low Range Option - the bargain basement bin for football talent. Diamonds in the rough?
Free Agent - Justin Forsett - will turn 28 during the season with not much wear and tear [only 341 carries] . A small but strong runner with good hands. He has done pretty well when he has had the chance, just not starting material. Could be signed for around $750K per year [currently making $555K].
Draft - Fifth or Sixth Round Pick - Kenjon Barner Oregon, Andre Ellington Clemson, or Kerwynn Williams Utah State fill the bill as smaller, pass catching but shifty [if not really fast] running backs.
EXTRA! Andre Ellington looking good against LSU. And NC State. Yeah, I stand corrected. This dude can pass block.
I am really torn on how the Lions should go here. I mean torn between the Mid and Low range options. I really don't think the Lions should be spending valuable resources on a high priced FA or another high draft pick.
As a stop gap I would go with Justin Forsett, and a late round pick of one of the other backs that I mentioned.
However, Ahmad Bradshaw intrigues me. I always loved his game, and having a Super Bowl champion in the backfield could only be good. If he could be had for under $4M per year I would jump at it. Just make sure you have a back up plan ready, because he is susceptible to nagging injuries.
Well, that is my take on this issue and as usual all questions and comments will be cheerfully and optimistically responded to. GO LIONS!