Open thread: Should the Lions draft a running back?

Pride of Detroit

Given the wear and tear running backs can accumulate in the NFL, it makes sense to have a committee of capable backups. While devastating to fantasy football owners, a committee means keeping legs fresh and healthy. Even if a team has a bell cow running back, the value of depth is not to be understated.

Should the Detroit Lions be in the market as the NFL Draft approaches?

The Lions seem set atop their depth chart. D’Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams were the thunder and lightning of the Lions offense, tallying a near-identical 617 and 601 rushing yards, respectively. Swift did additional damage through the air, becoming one of Jared Goff’s favorite targets to the tune of 62 catches for 452 yards.

Entering the draft, the third-string spot is still up for grabs, but the Lions have some enticing options. Craig Reynolds stole the spotlight late in the season. He went from training camp body to a 100-yard rusher, one of the many bright spots the Lions experienced to close out the 2021 season.

Godwin Igwebuike, a former safety, surprised many by making the team, but he proved to be a significant contributor on special teams. He even toted the ball well at times, recording 118 yards on 18 carries. Though his two fumbles were problematic, it was an encouraging debut for the new running back.

Jermar Jefferson played the least of the three backs, but he too looked impressive during his limited action. The highlight of his season was a beautiful run up the gut versus the Pittsburgh Steelers that he took to the house. Unfortunately, he was also injured on the play and never quite reclaimed his role on offense. He got upstaged by Reynolds, but given that his 22nd birthday is just around the corner, Jefferson could easily rebound in 2022.

That seems like a decent group of running backs, so why even consider drafting one?

While the Lions may not need a running back in 2022, the future leaves plenty unanswered. The Lions will have a few pending free agents come 2023. Williams will be an unrestricted free agent, so his long-term future with the team is still up in the air. Igwebuike will be a restricted free agent, and given his age (almost 28), the Lions may opt for younger contributors. Reynolds will be an exclusive rights free agent, and given his short resume, there’s no guarantee earns another contract.

Swift is under contract until 2024, but multiple injuries throughout his first two seasons have prevented him from becoming the elite running back they desired. Teams typically give their drafted running backs three seasons to pan out, and if Swift is still struggling to stay healthy, the Lions may move in another direction sooner than later—a similar fate as Ameer Abdullah and Kerryon Johnson.

Drafting a running back is a question of present versus future. Will the Lions take a running back to add to their stable?

Today’s Question of the Day is:

Should the Lions draft a running back in the 2022 NFL Draft?

My answer: I don’t think they should.

I think taking a running back within the first 100 picks would be a misuse of the Lions’ assets. The term “running backs grow on trees” is thrown around often, and it has its merits. Great running backs can be found on Day 3 of the draft or even as undrafted free agents. Just last season, sixth rounder Elijah Mitchell had a season on par with Najee Harris, a player chosen in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Given the Lions’ current roster, I don’t agree with spending an early pick on a running back.

Normally, I would be fine taking a running back on Day 3, but not this year. The Lions have greater needs at other positions. The Lions could easily double-dip at positions like receiver, linebacker, safety, and defensive end. Even with nine draft picks, a running back is extremely low on my list of needs. The Lions could possibly use a power back, but how valuable is that role? If anything, I would rather draft a player for his return abilities than rushing abilities.

I think drafting a running back is a low downside, low upside type of move. There’s nothing wrong with getting another back under contract, but he would likely ride the bench for most of 2022. Given the shorter careers of running backs, I think it makes more sense to draft a back when you need one, not before. This would also capitalize on their rookie contract on the off chance they claim a starting role. Great running backs can be found in every draft, and I just don’t see the value of the Lions drafting one this year.

Your turn.

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Should the Lions draft a running back in the 2022 NFL Draft?

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