This draft class is loaded with talent and variety. Teams will be able to find starters on days one and two, as well as compliment pieces throughout. All-purpose backs, power backs, third-down backs, this class has them all.
As good as the top talents are in this class no player is a can’t miss prospect. I wrote up mid-season evaluations on my top rated running backs discussing their strengths and weaknesses: Dalvin Cook (Florida State, here), Leonard Fournette (LSU, here), and Christian McCaffrey (Stanford, here).
Talent-wise, Joe Mixon (Oklahoma) is also in the discussion as a top-tier running back, but his well publicized domestic violence incident will keep him off the Lions radar. Some will argue he is worth the risk because he has stayed out of trouble since 2014, but Lions have a firm stance on this issue because of owner Martha Ford. Mrs. Ford has won awards on her stance against domestic violence and has made it clear, she has a zero-tolerance policy on the issue.
Wayne Gallman (Clemson), Kareem Hunt (Toledo) and Jeremy McNichols (Boise State) are players in my next tier and would offer value if they make it to the third round. Gallman is as close to a complete back as there is in this class. Hunt has 856 career carries and only fumbled once, as a freshman, and he recovered it. McNichols is flying under the radar right now but he is another back who can contribute on all three downs.
If the Lions are targeting a power back to compliment the shifty backs currently on the roster: D’Onta Foreman (Texas), James Conner (Pittsburgh), and DeVeon Smith (Michigan) all prove fits at different rounds in the draft. Foreman is the most athletic of the big backs in this class and at 250 pounds he has the potential to be a rare talent, but is still raw. Conner isn’t just a feel good story (he beat cancer), he can bring the hurt better than any back in this class. Smith was a bruiser at Michigan but his third down skills will get him drafted. I wrote a bit on Smith before the season: here.