Detroit Lions roster prediction: Running backs

ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Kerryon Johnson
ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Kerryon Johnson /

The Detroit Lions bolstered their running back corps in free agency and the NFL Draft. How will those additions shape the rest of that position group?

It was forecasted long ago that the Detroit Lions were going to make considerable changes to upgrade their run game. This offseason, Bob Quinn made good on his promise to upgrade the talent to build a successful rushing attack for the 2018 season. He added LeGarrette Blount and rookie Kerryon Johnson. The running back depth chart will look vastly different next season. There will be an absence of some familiar faces.


LeGarrette Blount

In free agency, Quinn hauled in Blount – a bruising, relentless, powerful ball carrier who has a nose for both the end zone and getting the tough yards. He is the perfect player that can help the Lions convert those short-yardage situations that avoided them at an astonishing clip last year. His veteran leadership and multiple Super Bowl rings also give the locker room a reliable presence.

Kerryon Johnson

In the NFL Draft, the Lions aggressively moved up in the second round to draft Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson in the second round. His skill set will have him flying up the depth chart as the team’s youngest and most talented all-around running back. He may have to earn his touches, ceding carries early on as he becomes accustomed to the speed of the NFL.

Ameer Abdullah

Sorry, Lions fans – Abdullah is not going anywhere. He will play out the final year of his rookie contract with the team. I see no reason the Lions part ways from the tailback. His true potential has been buried by injuries and horrible blocking schemes. He still has considerable value as he knows the offense, is very talented and can catch the ball out of the backfield.

Theo Riddick

I’ve said it countless times before: the Lions have both underused and misused their most versatile talent at the position. Riddick signed a contract extension just two seasons ago. Though he lacks the ability to run between the tackles, he is a matchup nightmare as a pass catcher. If Jim Bob Cooter deploys him properly this season, he is an easy bet for 80 receptions.

Nick Bawden

The Lions eliminated the fullback from their offense only a year ago. In last month’s draft, the team turned an interesting about-face, using a seventh-round pick on Bawdin. Based on the team’s focus to be tougher up front, I see him making the roster and seeing plenty of action. He will provide extra blocking for the team’s revamped rushing attack this year.


Zach Zenner

The only reason Zenner’s name appears here is that the Lions tendered him a contract this offseason. It was a low-risk, one-year deal that I believe was the ultimate insurance policy. In the event the Lions swung and missed on their free agent targets, and did not land a prized running back in the draft, Zenner was their safety net. Instead of letting him hit the free agent market, they kept a player they really like.

Let’s not get delusional here, though. It is a long shot for Zenner to make this team, given the amount of running backs on the roster. And yes, though he has had his moments, those other running backs are better than him.


Dwayne Washington

Washington stands almost no chance to make the team this year. He was unable to take advantage of his opportunities over the last two seasons. He was a healthy scratch for numerous weeks last season. And that was a season when the team was desperate for anyone to step up. He wasn’t good enough then, and he isn’t good enough now.

Next: Kickoff rules threaten Abdullah's roster spot

The Detroit Liosn will keep five running backs on their 53 man roster. Blount, Johnson, Abdullah, Riddick, and Bawden will all be on the final roster barring injury.