Best Bet for Rookie of the Year? RB Jahvid Best for 2010 Detroit Lions

John Farrier@GriffWings UnitedCorrespondent ISeptember 10, 2010

Detroit Lions rookie RB Jahvid Best responds to HäMMëR's voice on Wednesday morning, August 4, 2010 at training camp in Allen Park, Michigan.
Detroit Lions rookie RB Jahvid Best responds to HäMMëR's voice on Wednesday morning, August 4, 2010 at training camp in Allen Park, Michigan.

There are times in life when we allow our personal bias to far override the good senses of something that could be promising and beneficial. The struggle in life is to be able to identify the behavior as such, and to conduct research that is meaningful in such a way that we are able to peel the scales from our eyes and begin to see again with unfettered vision, beholding that which is right and true.

That point comes for some when introspection gives way to recognition, that “the boss” got it right all along. Time spent questioning the theories that cause such events to be are merely an exercise in futility, making it high time to exit the emotional rollercoaster.

My studies and research since the conclusion of the 2010 NFL Draft have led me to surmise that the Detroit Lions have the best chance to deliver the Rookie of the Year to the National Football League. I have a strong hunch that of the Lions two first-round draft picks, it will be “the last who shall be first” when the ballots are counted for the 2010-11 season rookie honor.

Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz purposed in their hearts and minds that they would land a coveted ball carrier who could breathe life into a moribund Lions ground attack. When it came down to it, they got the very Best they could get in a young, hungry California Golden Bear. They got the fastest Bear of all to become a Lion.

When it was announced that Saint Martin the Kaizen Magician had indeed traded up to select once more in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft, I knew exactly what was about to happen.

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Once the Commissioner made the announcement, all I could see was red and the rampage was on. How could the Lions not wait for the board to fall to them and maybe select a cornerback to help the ailing secondary?

Not to worry, lads. Not to worry.

My fears and misgivings about selecting a young man with such a high pick when he had never truly been the “featured back” in the California offense were baseless, save pointing to the concussion Jahvid Best sustained in one of the craziest plays in college football during the 2009 NCAA season.

Once again, it is more than fair to say that the evaluators seem to know exactly what they’re doing, and the preseason performance of Detroit Lions running back Jahvid Best makes it plausible to suggest that the folks in Allen Park worked one of the most beneficial trades of the entire draft.

I had done plenty of research prior to draft day regarding Jahvid’s stats and his style of play as a member of the Golden Bears football team. The reason why it was done was to spike the punch when opportunity came.

I could find something to complain about and use that to deflect Best’s potential as a full-time running threat out of the Detroit backfield. Maybe I could find a way to leverage my bitterness about the selection to cast a negative cloud over those who would tout his potential.

Fortunately, I am calling for a complete reversal in the forecast: nothing but sunny skies ahead.

My reasoning for not initially liking the selection of Jahvid Best had absolutely nothing to do with Best as a person or as a player. Rather, it was my extremely defensive oriented paradigm that brought the HäMMëR to wrath in the wake of the front office spending yet more of the team’s top resources on the offensive side of the ball.

The important thing, however, is that the men making the decisions on draft day are able to get the most outstanding talent available when the Lions pick. They made sure that was the case with the 30th-overall selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, when Martin Mayhew brokered a deal with Rick Spielman of the Minnesota Vikings and ensured the former Bear would be a future Lion.

The first time I saw Jahvid live, I was hooked.

As good fortune would have it for me, the 2010 Detroit Lions training camp opened to the public on the morning of August 4, 2010. What a wonderful birthday morning I got to spend in Allen Park with friends Petey, Mike, and Ali.

The Detroit Lions second selection in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft has one of those electric qualities you cannot teach: speed.

If there is one thing the Detroit Lions' head coach observed during his tenure with the Tennessee Titans, it was that the speed and home-run threat from a back like Chris Johnson was a key ingredient in the recipe of success. As in, two thousand yards plus of straight up canned lightning. Pop the top, and he’s gone.

And that is exactly what coach is trying to bring to the people of Detroit.

Watching Jahvid Best run during the preseason has been nothing less than serendipitous for me. When it comes to offense, I’m a guy who played in a Pro-I isolation offense that ran the option, so I like a strong ground attack.

In fact, my theory on football is that if you didn’t have to pass the football, you wouldn’t. You’d just pound the ball down the other team’s throat until they could prove they could stop the run. 

If you stack four-yard run after four-yard run after four-yard run, you will always move the chains, and you will completely demoralize your opponent four yards at a time. Slowly drain the hope from the opponent’s will to win, sapping him dry by the fourth quarter, when all mayhem breaks loose. Brutal, pounding, bludgeoning football coming right at you.

That theory doesn’t hold much water at the NFL level, as all one need do is watch Drew Brees execute the defending Super Bowl champions’ offense to know that the league has evolved into a passing league, and a “skewed balance” must be achieved.

Not long after the conclusion of the 2009 Detroit Lions' season, coach Schwartz told Lions fans that if they wanted the passing game to improve, they should cheer for the running game to get better. The selection of Jahvid Best at the bottom of the first round in the 2010 NFL Draft has made that possible, folks.

One of the things I like to see most out of a running back is his ability to hit the hole at high speed with intensity, passion, and purpose. That is exactly what I see when Best is toting the rock.

The difference I see with Jahvid Best is that his speed allows him to hit the hole when there actually is one.  Once he hits and gets through the hole created by the offensive line, defenders have their hands full (of his facemask, right Brian Dawkins, you cheater?!).

The problem that Jahvid Best creates with defenders is the pure mismatch of speed, where a player cannot tackle that which he cannot catch. Blazing speed with legitimate deep-ball threat to the end zone every time is what the Detroit Lions have found in the Cal rookie.

One of the statistical factors that were brought to my attention by my dear friend, Duane Freese, known as editstet on mlive, was the “big hit ratio.” Certain players in the NFL are predisposed to breaking long runs more so than others, and it is those players with the highest chance per carry that help swing the tide in their team’s favor.

Now, let me be the first to say that Jahvid Best does not, nor ever will, play in an independent vacuum. That doesn’t happen in the NFL—not to any degree of success anyway. The addition of Jahvid Best alone is not enough. 

It is the addition of all of the offensive pieces during this offseason that will help young Jahvid reach his potential. Without the signings of wide receiver Nate Burleson, tight end Tony Scheffler, and left guard Rob Sims, the Lions offense could still lack the multidimensional talent that would foster success in the running game.

Because the Detroit Lions offense is now loaded with offensive weapons, defenses will have to respect both the run and the pass, and won’t be able to tee off on the Lions in similar fashion to the previous two campaigns. Defenses will have to show respect.

Say that with me, Lions fans, “Defenses will have to show respect.”

Doesn’t that feel good?

I like that. I like that a lot.

Jahvid Best posted an obscene 7.3 average yards per carry while at the University of California. During the exhibition season, Best totaled 129 yards on 15 carries, giving him an 8.6 yards per carry average going into the game against the Bears. I’m not sure which is more obscene.

While it is difficult at best to extrapolate a logarithm that accounts for the myriad of variables that could contribute to Best’s success on the gridiron this year, perhaps a look at the body of work of “numbers 20” will set the bar for the Detroit Lions rookie running back.

Billy Sims, my favorite Detroit Lions running back, compiled 1,303 yards on 313 carries, averaging 4.2 yards per carry, and scoring 13 touchdowns during his rookie campaign in 1980.

The Detroit Lions went from 2-14 during the 1979 season to 9-7 in 1980, setting the stage for history to repeat itself thirty years later.

Barry Sanders, the greatest Detroit Lions running back of all time, and the most electric runner in the history of the National Football League, helped establish the “band of excellence” for rookie running backs in Detroit, with his 1,470 yard performance in 1989. 

Barry carried the ball 280 times his rookie season, with a long run of only 34 yards and 5.3 average yards per carry.

The 1989 Detroit Lions posted only a three-game improvement over the 1988 squad’s record of 4-12, finishing with seven wins and nine losses.

I don’t know whether the addition of Jahvid Best will translate into a three-game improvement or a seven-game increase in the win column over last year’s win total, but I’m cheering for the Lions to win at least nine games. Should history again repeat itself, there’s a modest chance this author may repeat himself.

It has been a decade since the Detroit Lions have won nine games in one season. It has been a decade-and-a-half since my beloved Lions won 10 games in a season. Time to get off the schneid.

The band of excellence has been set by Sims and Sanders, and Jahvid Best has a great shot at equaling the accomplishments of the great running backs in Detroit Lions' football lore, as each great runner sparked his team to distance themselves from the previous year’s campaign.

It is time for young Jahvid Best to go the distance, Lions fans. Number 44 is special in the Pride land, and will be known as the number of the 2010 NFL Rookie of the Year.

First Dick LeBeau, now Jahvid Best.

Number 44 never looked so good.



As an administrative note, I will be conducting an interview with Detroit Lions starting quarterback Matthew Stafford on Tuesday, September 14, 2010, courtesy of AXE Hair, and will make the article available to the Bleacher Report Detroit Lions community straightway thereafter.