Many were surprised when the Detroit Lions failed to address their need at running back in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Lions had chances at intriguing prospects like Toledo’s Kareem Hunt or power runner James Conner in the third round, but Detroit decided to stand pat with their running back depth chart.
However, according to Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson, the Lions may not be done adding competition to the position. According to Robinson, the Lions are one of two teams in play for former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. Says Robinson:
League sources said at least two teams are squarely in play for Blount now that the draft has ended: The Detroit Lions and New York Giants, two franchises that are still mulling the addition of a bell-cow running back to eat up some early-down and short-yardage carries next season.
Even though Blount is now 30 years old, it’s a bit surprising to see him still unsigned at this point in the offseason. He is arguably coming off of his best season as a bruiser back, finishing the 2016 season with a league-leading 18 rushing touchdowns. However, his 3.9 yards per carry last season was his lowest average in four years.
The connection to Detroit makes a ton of sense. Blount’s running style would perfectly complement Ameer Abdullah’s skillset and would give Detroit the red zone option they’ve been sorely missing for years. Over the past two seasons, the Lions have had the fifth-fewest rushing touchdowns in the league (16). Then, of course, there is the Bob Quinn connection. When the Patriots traded for Blount in 2013, Quinn was the acting Director of Pro Scouting for the team.
After this year’s draft, Quinn expressed confidence in the set of running backs he currently has on the roster.
“I feel pretty good about the position,” Quinn said. “There were a couple running backs that we looked at in the middle part of the draft, but just no one felt that was going to come in and really unseat any of the guys that we have on our roster.”
In Blount, Quinn may see a player who could disrupt the current depth chart (though he would not confirm this report during an interview with 97.1 The Ticket Tuesday morning). Zach Zenner is currently the Lions’ answer at a change-of-pace back. Toward the end of the season, Zenner was forced into a starting role and held his own, but the undrafted back out of South Dakota State may be better suited as a depth player than a true rotational runner. Despite promising performances against the Packers and Cowboys, he still managed just 3.8 yards per carry in 2016.
In his worst year, Blount averaged 3.7 per carry, but has since averaged 4.3 yards per carry and, more importantly, nine touchdowns per season. The Lions could certainly use that kind of production.