From now until the draft, we’re going to look at each Detroit Lions position group and assess where things stand as offseason workouts begin this month.
Today continues the series at running back.
Status of the position group: This is group is more or less stable right now. Joique Bell is coming off the best rushing season of his career (860 yards, seven touchdowns) behind a below-average run-blocking offensive line. Theo Riddick is not much of a runner, with a career-long rush of nine yards. But he is a good pass catcher out of the backfield -- 34 receptions for 316 yards and four touchdowns -- and by the end of the season was the primary two-minute drill back. George Winn is essentially a special teams player, but he could be useful in short-yardage situations with a decisive, aggressive running style.
The Lions are hoping Riddick can fill in after the team released Reggie Bush and, for now, it appears Igwenagu is the likely replacement for fullback Jed Collins, although the team could bring in a rookie here.
There are definitely carries to be had and this is a spot where a draft pick could be used (more on that below). What level of draft pick? That could entirely depend on who is available when.
What needs to happen: This starts with a position other than running back -- the offensive line. The Lions need upgrades on the line and there may have been some addition by subtraction by not re-signing veteran Dominic Raiola. Left guard is still an unknown as well since the Lions likely would be starting Rodney Austin there based on their roster today. But that’s the first part of trying to have a run game in 2015.
Bell ran the ball better as the season went on, but had no 100-yard rushing games. For the Lions to have success here in 2015, that has to change. Detroit also needs to find a running complement for Bell, since Riddick appears unlikely to be able to do much of that. This is where a draft pick could come in. This is a good running back draft and while there may be only two elite college backs -- Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon -- there is also strong mid-round and even late-round value here. Expect Detroit to use a pick on a running back unless an unexpected veteran signing comes through in the next two weeks.
Draft priority: High. Other than the lines, this is one of the bigger positions of need for the Lions.