Lions pass on drafting RB, happy with current group

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions started the draft with eight picks, picked up a ninth in a trade, and used those selections to address a multitude of roster needs, but there was a glaring omission from the team’s draft class — a running back.

Identified by most outside observers as one of the team’s biggest roster needs, the Lions passed pick after pick on a group of prospects many, including general manager Bob Quinn, called a deep class of backfield talent.

After the final picks of the draft were announced, Quinn met with local media and explained that he remains confident in team’s current stable of backs.

“I feel pretty good about the position,” Quinn said. “There were a couple running backs we looked at the middle part of the draft, but no one we felt was going to come in and really unseat any of the guys we have on the roster.”

In the first round, Detroit passed on Florida State’s Dalvin Cook and in the second, Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara. The team traded down at pick 85 with Toledo’s Kareem Hunt and Texas’ D’Onta Foreman on the board and both were gone by the time the Lions were back on the clock.

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Quinn confirmed Ameer Abdullah, a second-round pick in 2015, remains the team’s projected starter and that he’s “100 percent” after missing most of last season with a broken foot.

With Abdullah and Theo Riddick (wrist) both coming back from surgery, it’s reasonable to assume Quinn might have wanted to add some additional insurance at the position, but that didn’t turn out to be the case.

“It’s a tough balance, but I think Ameer’s injury last year was sort of a fluke thing,” Quinn said. ”Theo is dealing with a few things, but we think he’ll be ready to go, too. You can’t carry 10 running backs. That’s the nature of what the NFL’s league rules are. You’ve got 90 guys on the roster and you have to split them up as best you see fit. We feel good about Zach (Zenner), we feel good about Dwayne (Washington), we feel good about Mike James. That’s just the way we want.”

The Lions ranked 30th in rushing yards last season and have been a bottom-five team in each of the three years Jim Caldwell has been coach. The team’s 3.7 yards per carry wasn’t much better, checking in at 27th.

But when Abdullah and Riddick were both in the lineup, for a grand total of six quarters to start the season, things looked far more promising. The pair combined for 156 yards on 31 carries, an average of 5.0 yards.

Quinn is hoping for more sustained success from the tandem this year, particularly given the resources the general manager invested into the blocking, signing offensive tackle Rick Wagner, guard T.J. Lang and 280-pound tight end Darren Fells.

While the team won’t officially confirm the move until early next week, Cincinnati running back Tion Green tweeted that he will be signing with the Lions as an undrafted free agent.

Green is a big back, standing six-foot and weighing 230 pounds. He carried the ball 159 times for the Bearcats last season, gaining 743 yards and scoring two touchdowns. It was almost a duplication of his 2015 numbers, except he had more luck finding the end zone, scoring eight times.