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4 things to know about new Lions running back Kerryon Johnson

Just about everyone is high on Kerryon. Especially the War Eagles.

NCAA Football: Peach Bowl-Auburn vs Central Florida Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to 4 questions. Yeah, I’m on vacation with the wife right now for our seven-year anniversary, but I just couldn’t stay away from you guys after the draft the Lions had.

Man, Bob Quinn was not kidding around in February when he said he wanted to fix the run game. I feel like this was the thing that kept Bob up and pacing around his house at night last year, and this draft really shows it.

After grabbing Frank Ragnow, who we found out last week is the best center in college football history according to PFF, and is the best player in Arkansas history according to Bob Holt, the Lions went out and grabbed a running back in Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson.

That running back room is pretty full all of a sudden. This summer’s camp is going to be pretty interesting when it comes to seeing who’s the odd man out. It should also be interesting to see if Johnson can be the feature back that some like Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller thinks he can be:

I like the pick, but don’t take it from me. Take it from Josh Vitale of the Opelika-Auburn News. I know I’m out of town, but I managed to slip away from my wife at dinner and I found a pay phone to get this info. Here’s what we learned.

POD: What are you overall thoughts on Johnson’s time at Auburn?

OBN: “Before the start of the 2016 season (my first covering the team) he was a rising sophomore scat back who had just shot to the top of the depth chart only because Auburn’s three leading rushers from the year before had either left early for the draft, transferred or got dismissed. To go from that to a second-round pick in two years seems like a massive jump, but it’s not if you watch him play or talk to him.

He’s got plenty of ability, which he showed when he rushed for 895 yards as a sophomore and an SEC-best 1,391 as a junior this past season. Johnson was arguably one of the most impressive running backs in the country from Weeks 4 through the end of the regular season, as he averaged 26 carries, nearly 127 yards and more than two touchdowns per game. He was also probably one of the smartest, most consistently engaging interviews on Auburn’s team. Detroit media (and fans) will love him.”

POD: What are his strengths?

OBN: “For someone who stands just 6-feet and weighs 213 pounds, he was a very physical runner in college capable of running between the tackles and shedding defenders on a consistent basis. He doesn’t have breakaway speed, but he’s very patient in the backfield — he’ll often take the handoff and almost come to a complete stop before finding a hole and hitting it, a la Le’Veon Bell.

Johnson scored 21 touchdowns as a junior and is versatile enough to be used in a number of different ways: Many of his 18 rushing scores came out of the Wildcat, and he also had two receiving touchdowns and a passing score in the Iron Bowl against Alabama.”

POD: What are his weaknesses?

OBN: “Outside of him not having top-end speed, the biggest knock against Johnson has been his durability. He missed only three games in three seasons at Auburn, but he dealt with a number of ailments over the past two years. A sprained ankle in 2016 cost him one game and slowed him throughout the latter half of the season; a hamstring injury cost him two games early in 2017; and a shoulder injury slowed him considerably during last year’s SEC Championship game.

Having his carries managed a bit more might help: Johnson averaged more than 23 carries per game as a junior and hit the 30-mark three times in 12 games.”

POD: Is Johnson a guy that can come in take a job from someone like Ameer Abdullah? Or is Johnson going to play a role in the committee?

OBN: “He’s capable of coming in and starting. He might need to add a little more bulk to get ready for the rigors of the NFL, but if he’s healthy, he seems to be a much better fit for a feature back role than Abdullah is. Knowing that Detroit was the worst rushing team in the NFL last season, and having watched Johnson play the last two years, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him lead the Lions in rushing as a rookie if he can stay healthy for 16 games.”

Some great stuff by Josh. He definitely adds to the thought that Johnson can be a big pick up for the Lions. But I still maintain that Lions fans should approach with the usual tempered expectations.

If you’re looking to learn more about Johnson or you’re a War Eagle kind of person, check out Josh’s work for the Opelika-Auburn News.

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