Detroit Lions: 4 Free-Agent Running Back Targets

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Detroit Lions: 4 Free-Agent Running Back Targets
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The position of running back has evolved over the years.

As recently as five years ago, the idea was to have one work horse back that essentially carried the load for the entire season.

Sure, there have been other evolutions in the position. Roger Craig of San Fransisco ushered in an era of running backs that could be used as receivers out of the backfield. Barry Sanders showed us that you didn't have to be as tall as Eric Dickerson or O.J. Simpson in order to dominate. And Christian Okoye made the bruising back cool again.

But through all of those different types of backs, each was his team's primary back. It was routine for running backs to carry the ball over 300 times in a season.

But there were a few huge drawbacks to this plan.

One, teams were easier to plan for. In the 1990s, teams could beat Detroit if they could slow down Sanders. Sure, that is easier said than done, but that was the main reason that the Lions only won one playoff game during Sanders' career.

Two, if your back gets hurt, your entire season went up in smoke.

Three, backs had an incredibly short career. Remember Okoye, Curt Warner or Joe Morris? These guys were backs with epic talent that ran out of gas way before their time.

So with the new running back by committee idea, teams are protecting themselves in a myriad of ways. Furthermore, it makes drafting a running back in the high rounds much less important.

This brings me to my point.

The Detroit Lions had one of the worst running attacks in football last year. They were a completely one-dimensional team. Obviously, they won in spite of this, and plenty of teams have in recent years.

But we saw the drawbacks to this as well. In short-yardage situations, the Lions put quarterback Matthew Stafford in danger because defenses could pin their ears back and blitz without fear of a running attack.

The Lions also struggled in third-down situations throughout the year. Part of this was because of the one-dimensional aspect of the offense. But part of that was due to the fact that on first and second downs, the team wasn't getting the short gains that a running attack can bring.

The Lions also could have been much more effective in keeping time of possession on their side, which helps everyone on the team including the defense.

So why aren't the draft gurus talking about running back as a position of need for Detroit?

The hope is that between last year's rookie Mikel Leshoure and oft-injured Jahvid Best, the Lions will have a serviceable enough back.

Also, there is really only one highly touted back in this draft, and he will be a high pick. But this is a huge hole for Detroit right now, and one that must be addressed in free agency.

Here are four free agent backs that Detroit should target.

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