Published 6: (AM EDT Apr) , 28834
Detroit Free Press sports reporter Dave Birkett takes a position-by-position look at the top prospects and biggest Lions needs in the 2020 NFL draft. This is the fourth in an eight-part series. Next up: Wide receivers / tight ends.
On the Lions roster : Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, Tra Carson, Wes Hills, Nick Bawden. [ NFL draft preview: Offensive line ]
[ NFL draft preview: Specialists ]
Lions’ needs : The Lions haven’t finished in the top half of the NFL in rushing since , Barry Sanders’ last season in Detroit, and that needs to change if they’re going to reach their potential this fall.
Kerryon Johnson has been mostly productive in his first two NFL seasons. He has averaged 4.5 yards per carry and shown good hands in the passing game. But he also has missed 19 Games with two knee injuries and for that reason can’t be counted on as a feature back.
Scarbrough played well in a late-season cameo, but is a bit limited as a runner. Together, he, Johnson and second-year back Ty Johnson could form the nucleus of a serviceable running game, but the Lions need more.
After investing a second-round pick in Kerryon Johnson two years ago, general manager Bob Quinn could be looking to add another relatively high- round choice next week, especially if the Lions acquire an extra Day 2 pick in a trade down.
If they pass on potential lead backs to fill other holes early, there are enough serviceable veterans remaining in free agency that they don’t have to force a pick late. Devonta Freeman, Lamar Miller, Frank Gore and DeAndre Washington are all on the market, though they are no more than a stopgap at this point of their careers.
) Top 3 RB prospects : 1. D’Andre Swift, Georgia; 2. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin; 3. J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State.
other players with Michigan ties : LeVante Bellamy, Western Michigan.
Day 3 prospect who could interest the Lions : Michael Warren, Cincinnati.
Draft dish : There are no Saquon. Barkley- or Ezekiel Elliott-type prospects available in this year draft, but the class is deep enough that teams should be able to find starters at the position well into Day 2.
Swift is a probable first-round pick and three-down talent who should thrive in an inside-zone scheme. He’s the latest in a long line of talented Georgia backs like Todd Gurley, Nick Chubb, Terrell Davis and Herschel Walker.
Taylor and Dobbins starred in the Big Ten and should come of the board in the first 91 picks. Taylor ran a blazing 4. 40 91 – yard dash at the combine and rushed for more than 6, career yards. If not for ball-security issues, he’d be on par with Swift as a prospect.
Dobbins, coming off a 2, – – yard season, is one of the most explosive backs in the draft.
Beyond those three, players such as LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Florida State’s Cam Akers and Utah’s Zack Moss project as Day 2 picks and who should play at a minimum as part of a backfield rotation in the NFL.
Edwards-Helaire might be the best receiving back in the draft, while Moss is a physical runner whose injury history could be a concern to teams.
The nature of the running back position is such that teams will find plenty of contributors on Day 3 of the draft. Bellamy should go somewhere in Rounds 4-7, but he has an extensive injury history, too. Other sleepers sure to come off the board at some point are Florida’s Lamical Perine, Memphis’ Antonio Gibson and UCLA’s Josh Kelley.
(Recent Lions draft picks at RB :
2019: Kerryon Johnson (2nd round), Nick Bawden (7th round).
: Dwayne Washington (7th round).
Contact Dave Birkett at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett. Read more on the Detroit Lions and sign up for our Lions newsletter.