Detroit Lions 2016 Draft Overview: Running Back

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In the Draft Overview series, I’ll be looking at five college players that might get drafted by Detroit position-by-position, breaking down the positives and negatives of each player and projecting if Detroit were to take them, which round they would be taken in. The final position I am looking at today is:

Running Back

This position is packed and Detroit shouldn’t even consider taking a running back in this years draft. Detroit has Theo Riddick, who had a great season last year, and he presents a solid threat in the passing game. Ameer Abdullah is a 3-down type of back with catching, quickness and some power. Steven Ridley was brought in to be Detroit’s “power back”, but he isn’t anything close to that, still though a good pickup and it helps the position greatly. Zach Zenner, who only played in four games last year after suffering an injury, and he did impress in the preseason, but didn’t get much of a chance to show his skill set in the regular season. George Winn has been a practice camp body and a preseason favorite, but he can contribute when needed. Finally, Michael Burton at fullback. While he isn’t the best, he isn’t the worst. Overall, what I am trying to say is Detroit is set at the fullback and running back positions. Does that mean they still won’t look at running backs? No, but should they draft one? Absolutely not. Detroit could move on from Winn and find a younger player to replace him on the practice squad, but that is the only scenario I see Detroit taking a running back for. On that note, let’s see who Detroit may take at that running back position.

Draft Overview: Running Back Options

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1. Kelvin Taylor – Florida

Taylor has a nice quick cut which he uses to avoid tackles and keep moving. With his ability to read the field and understand what is going on around him, he can get some extra yards with his vision. He can pinch his way through the tight spaces and burst out with speed. While he is good at making cuts, he sometimes has trouble making up his mind when he gets to the line and focuses on his next move rather than where to run. He isn’t a strong running back, so usually the first hit takes him down. While he isn’t a bad blocker, when faced with strong linebackers, he has an issue with being able to stop them. Taylor has the ability to get to the outside quickly and gain the edge on the defense. When he is asked to block for another back, he can take out a cornerback or safety and help that player gain some yards. Taylor had 2,108 yards, 23 touchdowns, along with 24 catches for 179 yards in his three years at Florida.

Taylor is a fifth round pick. He could compete with Winn and possibly beat him out, but besides that Taylor could end up getting cut if Detroit takes him.

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2. Keith Marshall – Georgia

Marshall is the fastest guy on this list, running a 4.31 40 yard dash at the combine. Even with the knee injuries, Marshall is still fast. Like Taylor, Marshall can find those small, tight spaces and wriggle right through them. He has great speed that he uses to break free when he hits the hole. While he still is fast, the ACL injury in 2013 seems to have slowed him down a bit from where he once was. Confidence is something he lacks, and you can see it when he plays. Usually when he gets hit, the play is as good as over. Since he doesn’t have the quickness that he used to, he can’t get lose the safety if he finds a hole and is challenged. Marshall is a better blocker than Taylor though. His footwork is also impressive with the quick cuts. He is a smart guy, so with some coaching, he could improve and become a better all around player. Marshall had 253 carries for 1,379 yards and 12 touchdowns, along with 24 catches for 225 yards and three touchdowns at Georgia.

Marshall is a sixth round pick. The ACL injury does scare me, as he isn’t like what he was in 2012, but he still ran a 4.31 at the combine, which is impressive in itself. He could possibly make the practice squad if he ends up in Detroit.

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3. Jhurell Pressley – New Mexico

Pressley knows how to keep a play alive.  His stiff arm, balance, and quickness, are just some of the ways he keeps going. His hips aren’t tight and he can move freely, giving him a bounce in his step and quickness in his feet. His cut is impressive as well. Once he is open though, good luck catching him, he kicks it into another gear when he is open and free. Pressley doesn’t like to quit though and will fight instead of giving up, sometimes costing him yards. He will need to learn to take play as a failure, rather than possibly making it worse for the team. He doesn’t have much power to knock a tackler down to gain those few extra yards. His hands are also a problem, with four drops on 22 passes in his career, this would keep him off the field in third down situations for the team. Pressley does have good field vision, knowing where to run and reading what is coming. Unlike Abdullah, ball security isn’t an issue for Pressley, with only two fumbles in his entire career. Pressley ended with 394 carries for 2,725 yards and 35 touchdowns, he also had 18 catches for 220 yards and a touchdown at New Mexico.

Pressley is another sixth round pick for Detroit. The lack of passing game is a factor for Detroit, but he does have some good second level speed and he can use that stiff arm to keep a play alive.

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4. Aaron Green – TCU

Another player who can make one quick move and avoid traffic. Green has a good cut and fast feet to get by defenders. His ability to change the direction of play is good and it makes his play even better. When he gets to the outside, he has the advantage over the defense and can usually gain a good amount of yards on them. When it comes to blocking though, he isn’t very good at all. He barely puts his hands up and instead just throws his body at the incoming defender, which makes him easily avoidable and he can be knocked down with one swat. He is a small back, so breaking tackles isn’t for him. He doesn’t like to run between the tackles and tries to run to the outside, often costing him yards. Green does have good hands and his ability to hold onto the ball is splendid. Green had 469 carries for 2,531 yards and 22 touchdowns, while in the air he had 40 catches for 332 yards and five touchdowns.

Green is a seventh round pick. His lack of blocking strength and inability to consistently run between the tackles is something that won’t make for a long career in the NFL. Green is going to have to improve on those things if he wants a chance to make it on any roster.

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5. Tre Madden – USC

Madden is the tallest running back on this list at six feet tall. His size is good for the NFL and his legs are thick compared to other backs. He used to play linebacker, so his toughness and ability to break some tackles is there. He doesn’t make quick cuts like the other guys though, so it makes him a short yardage running back. His hips are tight, making it hard for him to dodge tacklers. Injuries are another factor for him. He missed 2012 for a knee injury and 2014 with a turf toe, along with missing some time in December of last year. Madden lowers his head and takes the shots given, but when he does he moves the pile forward instead of backward. When he has blockers in front of him, he is primed to make a few cuts. His pass blocking skills are adequate. Madden had 223 carries for 1,155 yards and eight touchdowns, along with 32 catches for 334 yards and five touchdowns at USC.

Madden is another seventh round pick. The number of injuries raises some red flags for me and should for Detroit. He would be a good option for power back or fullback, but with the time he misses due to injuries, there’s no need to take the risk.

There you have it, the final installment of the draft overview series. Thank you for checking out this series and don’t forget to listen to the live draft show on Thursday with Chris, Case, and some of the writers from the website, including myself, as we talk shit and about that draft thing that is going on. Follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and leave me your thoughts in the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.