What Would the End of Jahvid Best's Career Mean for the Detroit Lions?
I've been saying he was done (and should be) since this summer, and so I almost feel as if this whole subject is a bit retread.
That said, things look much different for the Detroit Lions now versus what they looked like even three months ago, so the subject is worth revisiting one more time.
Back in July, there were much bigger question marks about who would pick up the torch with Best down. At first, it looked like Kevin Smith was the guy, but Smith quickly faded.
Mikel Leshoure returned to action post-suspension and had a decent season, totaling 798 yards and nine touchdowns in 14 games. He lacks the high-level speed Best possesses, but Leshoure was never going to be a direct replacement for Best anyway, but rather a complement.
A guy who is a little closer to Best in skill set, if not at the same level, is Joique Bell. Bell had a decent season, adding 485 receiving yards to a 5.0 ypc average and 414 ground yards.
The receiving game is where Bell most resembles Best. Yes, Best was not a monster on the ground either, though he had greater speed. The passing game is where Best really made a bigger difference, as you could get the ball to him in space and allow him to kill the defense.
Bell showed an ability to do that to some extent, but he ultimately doesn't quite have Best's speed.
He's also prone to some mental errors, which caused him to be called out by head coach Jim Schwartz this past season.
That said, the Lions have the foundation for a solid run game. Perhaps not as good as if Best was able to return and stay healthy, but more than good enough to take pressure off Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson with some more healthy receivers and a few tweaks to the offensive line.
There's also a good chance that the Lions look to pick up a running back in the 2013 NFL draft.
Now, I'm not talking about a first-round pick, and perhaps not even a second-rounder. The Lions can pick up a solid running back anywhere from the third round onward. The last few years have seen some very talented backs slide due to the focus on the pass game, the run on offensive tackles and top-shelf defensive players.
I saw a ton of guys who could fit the bill for the Lions as a developmental back, or a scat back in the realm of what Best could do. A guy like Oregon's Kenjon Barner or Stanford's Stepfan Taylor could be there, or perhaps even Johnathan Franklin out of UCLA.
It's a little early to confidently project where these guys will really go, but there is plenty of talent. Just because the draft looks light on top-end talent doesn't mean it lacks depth.
It's unfortunate that Best is still hurt, and I hope he gets better and has no big long-term effects. However, the Lions will move on, and there is no need to panic.
In some ways, they've been moving on since July.
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