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Lions need ‘big banger’ at running back, analyst says

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
Samaje Perine

Allen Park – The Detroit Lions could use another running back, but it shouldn’t be Christian McCaffrey, at least according to NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock.

Mayock likes McCaffrey. He’s one of five backs the analyst has given a first-round grade leading up to the draft -- and one of three he believes will actually be selected on the first day -- but the Stanford standout’s skill set would be too redundant in Detroit’s offense.

“I think you have to be smart about how you’re utilizing talent,” Mayock said during a Monday conference call.  “From my perspective, McCaffrey is a matchup guy. He’s a chess piece.

“You’ve got to have a plan if you draft him with a first-round pick how you want to utilize him, especially based on what you have on the roster already,” Mayock said. If you’re Detroit, and you’re looking for a running back, are you looking for a big, physical guy who can handle the load in the fourth quarter, in your four-minute offense, downhill and bang, or are you looking for a guy that can go out in the slot, play wideout and all that, when you already have (Theo) Riddick?”

Later in the call, Mayock elaborated more on the type of player he feels the Lions need to add to their backfield.

Size, speed at RB available for Lions in free agency

“What they really don’t have, I think, is that big banger that is the first-and-10 back, your fourth-quarter back,” Mayock said. “You’ve got pass catchers, you’ve got quick guys, you’ve got fast guys, but I think you need that back and they don’t have that bigger back. From my perspective, carrying a big back, with what they have in house, would really help them.”

On top of being one of the least effective rushing teams in the NFL, the Lions were among the worst at converting third-and-short situations, seeming to validate Mayock’s argument the team needs a power runner to complement Ameer Abdullah and Riddick.

In the draft, LSU’s Leonard Fournette is the cream of the crop, but will likely be long gone by the time the Lions are on the clock at No. 21. Some mid-round options include Texas’ D’Onta Foreman, Pittsburgh’s James Conner and Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine.

Free agency also offers a few options, such as Latavius Murray, Eddie Lacy and LeGarrette Blount. Lions general manager Bob Quinn knows Blount well from his time in New England.