Lions ready for first look at deep RB class

John Niyo
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — The Lions got their first look at this year’s deep draft class of running backs at Wednesday's official weigh-in at the NFL Combine ahead of Thursday’s on-field workouts.

“It’s a good-looking crew” Lions GM Bob Quinn said.

But Quinn was busy defending the presumptive No. 1 back on his current roster as well, bristling at a question about whether he still viewed Ameer Abdullah as a “feature back” after he rushed for 552 yards and just 3.3 yards per carry last season.

“What is a feature back? You tell me what a feature back is,” Quinn said, before the question was rephrased. “I think he has three-down value. Listen, we’re gonna have four or five running backs on the roster every year. And there’s about four-five lead — or elite — backs in the league right now. You can probably name ’em on one hand. So, does Ameer fit in that? He didn’t last year, OK?

“But, listen, he’s a guy that we like. He’s a smart guy, he’s a versatile guy, he’s a guy that can catch it out of the backfield, he can run the ball. So he has to have a good offseason, come back and prove himself to a new coaching staff.”

More:Lions thrilled to have Ezekiel Ansah back in the fold


Cornerbacks Nevin Lawson and DJ Hayden are both pending free agents in the Lions’ secondary. But Quinn, in assessing the performance of last year’s draft class, hinted at bigger roles for both second-round pick Teez Tabor, who saw limited snaps until the final month of the season, and Jamal Agnew, who played almost exclusively on special teams and earned Pro Bowl honors as a return man.

“We drafted those guys for a reason last year,” Quinn said. “Jamal didn’t really get out there defensively too much because we had a lot of depth at nickel. I think Jamal can probably handle some of those roles, but he has to have a really good offseason. He has to come in and learn a new defense, so that’s going to be a transition for him.

“Teez had a solid rookie year. We started him off slow on purpose to kind of get his feet wet a little bit before we threw him out there. The more he played down the stretch, I think the better he played.”

More:10 players for Lions to watch at NFL Combine


Patricia politely brushed aside questions Wednesday about the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss and, more specifically, the bizarre coaching decision to effectively bench starting cornerback Malcolm Butler. Butler, the last-play hero of New England’s Super Bowl win three years ago, is expected to hit the free-agent market next month and could be on the Lions’ radar.

Asked to characterize his relationship with Butler, Patricia described it as “extremely strong,” adding “I love Malcolm a lot. Like all of my players, he’s like one of my sons. And I want to make sure he does everything to the best and I hope the best for him. And that’s really all I’m gonna say about Malcolm.”