You might be thinking to yourself, of course he can do it. Kerryon rushed for over 1300 yards in the SEC in 2017. The Detroit Lions even traded up too get him (with the 2.11 in the 2018 draft), so he is going to get the workload right? If you are a Lions fan like me, you know that this is a serious question. The last back to run for 100 yards for the Lions in a single game is Reggie Bush back in 2013…Yup, that will be 5 years if they don’t get one before the end of November. I’m here to shed some light on the issue for those Lions fans (Kerryon fans too) out there. I have 3 reasons why I think Detroit will produce on the ground this season; 2018 draft/improved O-Line, offseason emphasis to improve the run game and what are the odds this streak keeps going, especially against this years schedule.
With the 20th pick in the first round, the Detroit Lions selected Frank Ragnow C/G from Arkansas. Solid pick from the 2nd year GM Bob Quinn and new Head Coach Matt Patricia. Ragnow will add to that O-Line, along with 2016 1st round pick Taylor Decker, Graham Glasgow, T.J. Lang, and Rick Wagner. Last year they truly missed Decker, who suffered an injury early in the year. They even went out and traded for Greg Robinson, who proved he was a bust and is considered the worst tackle in the game (still a FA). The Lions will be a much better team with him healthy. Pro Football Focus had Glasgow graded out as their 20th rated guard (but he moved to center and looked good during the 2017 season). T.J. Lang graded out as their 13th rated guard, but there is even more upside for him. Lang was one of their top guards the prior 3 seasons, so lets hope he gets comfortable and returns to 2014-2017 T.J. Rick Wagner also graded well and had him ranked as the 11th tackle. With those 3 solid lineman, Footballoutsider still rated them as their worst yard producing line in the league. They also rated them near the bottom in almost all of their o-line categories. This just proves my point about how much the missed Decker and how big it was to draft one of this years best interior lineman.
Kerryon Johnson, the 44th overall pick selected in the 2nd round, looks to be a good fit for the Lions and that improved o-line. Johnson has the skillset and physical abilities to be a 3-down back in this league. He only put up 225 11 times, which puts him in the 1st percentile (meaning 99% of tested running backs did better). Playerprofiler has is 40 time, agility score and speed score all right about that 50th percentile. What makes him special is his burst score. He scored in the 93rd percentile and that makes sense. Johnson is a patient runner that will burst through a hole when it finally presents itself. I always put a * next to players where their combine measurements make sense in relation to the tape. If I never scouted Bell from college, I would say Johnson must have been what Bell looked like in college. Well, Johnson reminds me of Bells current running style, but MSU Bell was a big dude who grinded out defenses. One last point I want to make that gets me excited inside is how he was drafted. I love when teams trade up to get the guy they want. Everyone thought Guice was that guy when the Lions traded up to be on the clock, but Kerryon Johnson was the name on the card and we all should take notice.
The Lions offseason was mostly about improving the run game. Eric Ebron and his inability to block an 8th grader was let go and I couldn't have been happier. Instead we bring in Luke Wilson, life long blocking TE who showed some signs of catching abilities last season. From what I hear, the organization is excited about Michael Roberts, 19th pick in the 4th round last year, who has huge hands and could be a deep sleeper this year. There are 86 available targets with the departure of Ebron. Those targets won’t be aimed at the TE position this season I’d have to assume. Ebron was better as a receiver than he was a blocking and he deserved the target share he received. These TE's won't command that type of attention, leaving more targets to go around. They also went out and spent $1.25 million on Legarrette Blount to get the goal-line work. Not 100% sure what to take from that beside the fact that the Lions went out and signed one of the top available FA Rbs.
To wrap this up, I wanted to end with the competition the Lions will be facing; Giants, Browns, Jets, Bucs, 49ers, Packers, Dolphins, and the Bears. Some of those teams more than once. All of those teams had rough seasons and drafted high this year. Can it truly happen again? Another year without someone (KERRYON JOHNSON) reaching 100 yards in a single game? Against this competition? 5 years is long enough. I like what they did to improve from last years run game. The draft, the offseason and the slim odds of this happening again all are good reasons why Kerryon Johnson should be drafted in the 1st round of your upcoming rookie drafts, if you haven't already had yours. I currently have him ranked as my 7th rated rookie, although I may be a little higher than most, it has nothing to do with my Lions bias.
Kerryon Johnson season prediction: 200 touches (receptions + carries) 800 rushing yards 200 receiving yards 6 total TDs