Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has continued to impress with another roster overhaul. He’s added some key players this offseason and still has his work cut out for him in the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft.
A defensive lineman or offensive lineman will most likely be added with the No. 2 overall selection, leaving defensive back, running back, and safety as the other glaring weaknesses.
The Lions have lacked a No. 1 cornerback for as long as one can remember, but it does seem to be on the agenda this offseason.
Detroit has brought in two potential second-round targets in CBs Patrick Robinson and Perrish Cox, meaning running back would need to be addressed later on.
Recently, ESPN’s Mel Kiper has said the Lions may draft Dexter McCluster, a versatile change-of-pace back and target a bigger back in the later rounds.
He went on to mentioned Anthony Dixon and LeGarrette Blount, two bruisers who could fit the team’s vision for the running game.
During the summer of 2009, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was asked if the Lions would be known as a power rushing team. He responded with, “I would say that’s a good way of describing what we are all about in the run game.”
Detroit attempted to transform their rushing attack into a more powerful ground game by drafting Beanie Wells in the second round, but missed out by a few picks.
After missing out on Wells, Detroit had no one on last season’s roster who seemed to fit the description as a power back. Backup Maurice Morris topped the scales at 215 pounds and an injury to starter Kevin Smith leaves a vacancy atop the depth chart for the upcoming season.
Smith struggled in his sophomore season, but still shows ability if he can return from offseason surgery. Aaron Brown showed flashes of potential to go with his blazing speed, though the coaching staff doesn’t seem to have complete faith in him.
A power back is still lacking and there are plenty of options in the draft from round three onwards. Jonathon Dwyer, Charles Scott, Toby Gerhart, Anthony Dixon, and LeGarrette Blount.
The definition of a bigger back is an effective inside runner who moves the pile, plays with aggression, and consistently breaks tackles. They usually have their flaws such as lack of elusiveness and their receiving abilities are questionable, but that’s where Aaron Brown can combine to give the Lions a solid running back by committee.
While it’s difficult to actually predict where players will fall, Dwyer is the most likely to be unavailable when the third round begins.
Here’s a quick breakdown of backs that could bring some “thunder” to Brown’s “lightning”:
Jonathon Dwyer of Georgia Tech, 5’11” 229 lbs. Ran a 4.52 40-yard dash at his pro day.
Dwyer rushed for 1,395 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2009; he played in a triple-option offense, so he will have to make adjustments in the NFL. Dwyer has battled weight issues throughout his career.
Charles Scott of LSU, 5’11” 238lbs. Ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at his pro day
Scott ran for 18 touchdowns in 2008, which ranked seventh nationally, and finished the season with 1,174 rushing yards (fifth in LSU history). His 2009 season was cut short by a broken collarbone and he didn’t participate in the Senior Bowl due to a failed physical.
Toby Gerhart of Stanford, 6’0” 235lbs. ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at the Combine.
Gerhart was a Heisman finalist after rushing for 1,871 yards and 27 touchdowns. There are questions about whether Gerhart has the ability to be a productive running back; he has been compared to former Buccaneers fullback Mike Alstott.
Anthony Dixon of Mississippi State, 6’1” 233lbs. ran a 4.61 40-yard dash at his pro day.
Dixon ran for 1,391 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2009; leaving MSU with the most career touchdowns in school history. He was arrested in July 2009 for a DUI, two weeks before preseason practices started.
LeGarrette Blount of Oregon, 6’0” 240lbs. ran a 4.53 at his pro day.
Blount was projected as a top running back with over 1,000 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns (school record) in 2008. He was suspended for most of the season, after sucker punching a Boise State player in the opening game of 2009.
Any of these backs would fill a crucial need and allow Detroit to focus on other needs with their first few selections.
It would make third-and-short situations a little easier and give Detroit a valid threat between the tackles, alleviating some pressure off quarterback Matthew Stafford.
If Kevin Smith or Aaron Brown aren’t compatible with a bruiser, there are plenty of options in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Mark Ingram of Alabama, Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon St., DeMarco Murray of Oklahoma, and Evan Royster of Penn St. are all possible first round selections and elusive, game-changing backs.