With free agency just around the corner and big names already finding new homes, the NFL seems primed for one of the most eventful offseasons in recent memory. The Detroit Lions have gotten a headstart on the action, but much work remains ahead, including in the offensive backfield.
At running back, the Lions have a promising young player leading the unit in D’Andre Swift and a competent veteran in Kerryon Johnson both under contract for 2021. As we’ve seen in recent seasons, the teams left standing at the end boast a balanced rushing attack, with several complementary backs filling a number of roles.
Swift is an explosive, versatile player who had some exciting moments as a rookie in 2020. He’s a threat in the passing game and should be the lead back for the Lions when next season starts. He did have some glaring mistakes in year one and missed three games with a concussion, but he appears ready to take a big step in 2021.
Johnson’s role was greatly reduced last season, as he registered career-lows in offensive touches and total yards, despite playing in all 16 games for the first time. He remains an excellent pass-protector and could have extra motivation entering a contract year.
In each of the previous three seasons, the Lions signed a notable veteran back to supplement the unit. LeGarrette Blount in 2018 and C.J. Anderson in 2019 struggled mightily in that role before future Hall-of-Famer Adrian Peterson provided some stability last year, leading the team in rushing yards and attempts. Who could fill that role this year?
New Lions general manager Brad Holmes was part of a St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams organization that drafted eight running backs between 2012-2020, with five of them going in the second round or earlier. If that trend is any indication, even with just six picks at present, the Lions still can’t be ruled out from selecting a running back in this year’s draft.
Regardless of the Lions’ plans for addressing the unit, here are four tailbacks that could interest them when free agency kicks off in less than two weeks…