Kerryon Johnson was one of my favorite running backs in this draft class. If the Detroit Lions were going to draft one running back in this year’s draft, I was hoping it would be Johnson. His phenomenal vision, impressive patience and the way he finishes his runs makes him a pretty solid fit with the Lions.
But my desire to grab Johnson came with the condition that it would only cost the Lions a third or fourth-round pick. It’s obvious now that was never going to happen. There’s a pretty good chance had the Lions not moved up to pick 43 to grab Johnson, Washington would have taken him with the very next pick. After the Lions made the pick, Washington immediately traded down and selected LSU running back Derrius Guice 15 picks later.
So, overall, I’m not a fan of this move. Let me tell you why.
Running back wasn’t a big enough need to justify a trade up
The Lions have already made some massive moves to shore up the running game in 2018. They brought in an offensive line coach with a solid track record, they signed LeGarrette Blount in free agency, and they used their first-round pick on the final building block of their offensive line: Frank Ragnow.
While the rest of the running back depth is below average, at best, the Lions certainly could get by with the set of players they currently have. Ameer Abdullah is still young and his offensive line has barely given him a fair shot to prove himself. Theo Riddick has been a valuable, if not a little underused, in the passing game. And Zach Zenner/Dwayne Washington/Tion Green would make for an adequate RB4.
Running back was a need, but it wasn’t one that required Detroit to spend a second and fourth-round pick.
Draft resources were already scarce
The Lions entered the draft with just six draft picks, the fewest of any team in the league. Detroit is currently going through a complete identity change on defense with a new head coach and defensive coordinator. In other words, they’re going to need every resource to make a proper scheme change in 2018.
They’ve got massive needs along the front seven and could use similar upgrades both in the secondary and tight end. Detroit’s move to trade up has severely hamstrung their own efforts to fill most of these needs. With only a third, fifth and seventh round pick on the draft, the Lions would be lucky to get two more contributors in the draft.
Solid defensive players were still on the clock
Several players that could have helped Detroit’s serious need on the defensive front seven were still on the clock. Defensive tackle Breeland Speaks, EDGE rushers Uchenna Nwosu, Kemoko Turay, and Sam Hubbard were still on the board, among many others.
Would one of those players be a better pick than Johnson? Probably not. Would one of those players combined with another significant contributor in Round 4 be better than Johnson? It’s hard to know, but I believe so.
It’s hard to be too angry about the pick considering they chose a player I like and ultimately wanted on the team. I just think the Lions should have taken a different strategy to the draft. Even though it would have meant passing on Johnson, the Lions needed all the resources they could get to fill out their very incomplete roster.