Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn talks about next week's NFL draft, including the offensive line. Daniel Mears, Detroit News
Allen Park – Given the Detroit Lions’ struggles moving the ball on the ground the past few years, and the quality of depth at running back in this year’s draft class, there’s a working assumption the team will take one, potentially as early as the first round.
Not so fast, according to general manager Bob Quinn.
Following the signing of LeGarrette Blount in free agency, which alleviated Detroit’s immediate need at the position, Quinn said he doesn’t feel pressure to further bolster the position through the draft.
“If we had to go play a football game today, I think we have enough running backs to be competitive,” Quinn said during a Thursday press conference.
The comments are reminiscent of Quinn’s reaction immediately following last year’s draft, when he professed confidence in the group he had after failing to select a back with one of the team’s nine choices. The Lions went on to finish last in the NFL in rushing last season, churning out a paltry 76.3 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry.
But even though he didn’t declare drafting a back as an objective next week, Quinn also isn’t ruling it out. He’s simply stating the team is able to stick to its board without reaching to fill a perceived need.
“I don’t know, tell me who’s going to be on the board in the second, third, fourth round,” Quinn said. “I mean, I don’t know.”
Adding Blount this offseason made all kinds of sense for the Lions. The 250-pounder gives the Lions much needed size in the backfield. Plus, he’s an accomplished short-yardage option.
The Lions converted just 27 percent of third- and fourth-down running plays where they needed two or fewer yards last season, the worst rate in the NFL. Blount, on the other hand, has successfully converted those situations at a 54-percent clip the past two years.
But Blount will turn 32 this season, and despite averaging 4.4 yards per carry for the Eagles last season, carried the ball fewer than 11 times per game. Plus, he’s operating on a one-year contract, which Quinn acknowledged is a factor when evaluating draft decisions.
“That definitely kind of factors in to what we think our internal needs are,” Quinn said. “So, it’s something we talk about when we sign guys. Hey, we’re signing this guy to a one-year deal, like, we might have to address this at some point.”
Blount’s contract isn’t the only running back’s that’s expiring at season’s end. Ameer Abdullah is entering the final year of his rookie contract and Zach Zenner, like Blount, is operating on a one-year deal.
As far as the draft goes, a running back could make sense as early as round one for Detroit, assuming LSU’s Derrius Guice is still on the board at No. 20. On the event’s second day, there are a slew of options, including Georgia’s Sony Michel and Nick Chubb, San Diego State Rashaad Penny and USC’s Ronald Jones.
Quinn also acknowledged the ability to find quality backs late in the draft, or among the pool of undrafted free agents, referencing former New England Patriot BenJarvus Green-Ellis as an example. He ran for 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns in for the Patriots in 2010.
“I think you can get them in all shapes and sizes,” Quinn said. “You can get them early, mid, late. I think it’s really, you know, my job and my staff’s to kind of just get the best guy at the right time and whenever that is. If it is this year, then great.”