After defeating the Baltimore Ravens in preseason action on Friday, you could say—to steal a quote from Denny Green—the Detroit Lions are exactly who we thought they were. They're a team that's dominant passing the football and woefully subpar running it.
One could point at the success Keiland Williams and Joique Bell are having and claim that the Lions' rushing attack is improved. Keep in mind, they are running against second-, third- and fourth-string players.
It's pretty clear, with Jahvid Best on the shelf, the Lions are looking at another season of one-dimensional offense.
It didn't have to be that way, though.
In the second round of the 2012 NFL draft, Lions GM Martin Mayhew made a splash by drafting Ryan Broyles. It was a surprise move, but he got first-round talent in Round 2. Because of Broyle's knee injury, teams were weary to target him that low.
He's a great player and will be a very good—potentially great—player for the Lions. Mayhew took a risk, and eventually, that risk will pay off. Once Broyles is back to 100 percent, he'll add another dimension to the Lions' high-flying offense.
Mayhew could have made a far less risky pick, though. He could have selected one who would have made infinitely more sense, given Jahvid Best's concussion issues.
Unfortunately for the Lions, Mayhew believed that Best would be ready to go by training camp. That's been proven false by ESPN's Adam Schefter who reported that Best will likely miss the first six weeks of the regular season.
Given the length of time he had already missed, Mayhew should have considered that Best would be out much longer than anticipated.
That should have led him to address the running back position early on in the draft. In Round 2, there was a player still available who would have been a perfect insurance policy for Best: LaMichael James out of Oregon.
James would have been the perfect fit for Detroit, and he was selected seven spots after Broyles by the San Francisco 49ers. They'll use him as a change-of-pace back and an insurance policy to their oft-injured starting running back, Frank Gore.
According to ESPN, James posseses the same attributes as Best. He's got the burner speed—sub-4.5 40-yard dash—and quick feet to go along with it. He's at his most dangerous in the open field and will excel as a receiver out of the backfield and in the screen game.
He's going to make an already dangerous 49ers team lethal.
He could have done the same for Detroit.
With James waiting in the wings, Detroit could have carried on with their original offensive game plan without Best. They would've had a change-of-pace back to complement Mikel Leshoure.
As it is, they don't have anyone that can do what Best does. They're stuck trying to make the offense work with solid, but far less dynamic, players like Kevin Smith and Keiland Williams.
That's like asking Jimmy Johnson to win Daytona while driving a Chevy Aveo.
Some might say that Mayhew's draft philosophy—always take the best player available—makes the possibility of targeting a specific position impossible. He won't do it.
Mayhew believes that position is irrelevant. It's the player—and where that player is on his draft board—that is most important.
While that strategy has worked wonders for Mayhew, exceptions have to be made. If Matthew Stafford's career ended today, you can bet that the Lions' first pick next year would be the best quarterback available. The same could be said about Calvin Johnson.
Now, the Lions are left to make do, the same way they did last year. That's not to say they can't be successful. We've seen what Stafford can do with no running game.
Imagine if he had a player like James though.
Broyles will be a nice player, but James could've pushed the Lions to the next level—this year.