Mikel Leshoure: Updated Fantasy Outlook & Analysis for Detroit Lions RB

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystOctober 13, 2012

DETROIT, MI - SEPTEMBER 30: Mikel Leshoure #25 of the Detroit Lions runs for a first down during the game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field on September 30, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. The Vikings defeated the Lions 20-13.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions have been something of a disappointment this season, struggling to a 1-3 record, after winning 10 games last season and making the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

Part of that slow start can be attributed to a struggling offense that has been hampered by the lack of any sort of dependable rushing attack, but the team is hopeful that coming out of their bye week, that will turn around, due in large part to improved running from second-year back Mikel LeShoure.

As Josh Katzennstein of The Detroit News reports, the Lions are one of four teams in the National Football League yet to break off a run of more than 20 yards this season, and that lack of balance on offense has put quite a bit of strain on quarterback Matthew Stafford and the Detroit passing attack.

However, Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan told Katzenstein that he feels the Detroit ground game will be much improved when the team travels to face the Philadelphia Eagles this week, and that LeShoure will be a big part of that turnaround:

"He's really missed football for two years, had a really good first outing," Linehan said. "I think (he) came out after that first game knowing he has to still work on getting in his football shape. He's had an opportunity to make that next second-level cut that is there, and we know it's there," Linehan said. "It just takes time on the field and in the games to get there. It's only going to get better."

It's important to keep in mind that LeShoure's entire 2011 season was wiped out by an Achilles' injury, and the 22-year-old was suspended for the first two games of the 2012 campaign, so the former Illinois standout is still getting his "sea legs" under him. The week off was probably of great benefit, in that regard.

However, LeShoure gave a preview of what he might be capable with a 26-carry, 100-yard performance against the Tennessee Titans in his first action of the season, and it's both that workload and productivity that has fantasy owners salivating over his potential at RB2.

There's a lot to like where LeShoure's concerned. He appears to be more-or-less recovered from the injury that stole his 2011 season, he's not the sort of ballcarrier that wastes a lot of time dancing around the backfield before he hits the hole, and apparently the Detroit coaching staff has significant confidence in him; they wasted no time relegating Kevin Smith to cheerleading duties once LeShoure was back in the fold.

In fact, the biggest potential stumbling block to LeShoure's fantasy ascension may lie in a running back who hasn't seen the field himself in over a year.

Jahvid Best is eligible to rejoin the team next week after starting the season physically unable to perform, due to a concussion suffered last October. Although, head coach Jim Schwartz told Anwar Richardson of The Detroit Free Press that the team hasn't received the results of Best's neurological tests yet.

"I don't have any updates," Schwartz said. "He's been through a lot of testing this week. As far as I know, they are still going over the results. I don't know if we'd even hear anything today. That's still an ongoing process, but his testing, as far as I know, has been completed."

With that said, Best's concussion problems aren't going away, and given that it's already been a year, even if he were to be cleared for a return to action (which is a huge "if" at this point), he'd likely split carries with LeShoure moving forward.

The Lions may not get the ground game on track this week against an Eagles squad that's been stingy against the run this season, but if they're going to salvage their season it's something they're going to have to do very soon.

Success in that regard will likely require a healthy dose of Mikel LeShoure, so fantasy owners should keep the youngster safely stashed away on their benches, in the hopes that he emerges in the season's second half as one of the backfield stories that gives birth to deep fantasy playoff runs.