Ty Johnson could be the most electrifying runner the Lions have had in several years
Ty Johnson came into the season facing an uphill battle to even make the roster. Unless the Lions planned on carrying six backs including fullback Nick Bawden, he was someone who may have to be sent to the practice squad. After the first week of camp however, including the mock game, Ty Johnson started making a name for himself.
Johnson comes from Maryland, a school that has struggled since becoming a member of the big ten conference in the NCAA. Not many of their draft prospects get significant “hype”, as they’re a team that doesn’t field a lot of top tier talent. Johnson however, is very different than the typical Maryland player.
Johnson is an electric runner. Having an unofficial 40 time of 4.26 seconds during his Maryland pro day, he has speed to burn. He’s not exactly a power back by any means, and he hasn’t shown a lot as a receiver over his time at Maryland, but the big play ability flashes consistently.
Compare To The Jahvid Best Era
Jahvid Best was a fan favorite when he was healthy in Detroit. A first round pick, Best came out of Cal Berkley as a very highly touted runner who could turn nothing into something and hit home runs when he found open space. He was athletic, something the Lions hadn’t really had at the running back position to that extent in years. Then, the concussions came, and he was quickly forced out of the league.
His highlights were stellar. A Chicago Bears defense that at the time featured hall of fame linebacker Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs getting torn up by an incredible 90 yard touchdown run, for example, were some of the brightest spots during those days coming out of the 0-16 darkness that was 2008-09. It’s easy to see why he was a first round talent at a time when running backs weren’t valued commodities in the NFL Draft.
The Lions tried replacing him with Reggie Bush, and while he was a solid back for a season, he ultimately also suffered from injuries. Ty Johnson, fortunately, has shown an ability to stay healthy over multiple seasons at Maryland. If Kerryon Johnson can find a way to do that with the Lions as well… This pairing could be one of the best one two punches in all of football.
Lions Lack History of Long Runs
Last season, the Detroit Lions finished tied for 23rd in the NFL in runs of 20+ yards with ten. However, in terms of runs of 40+ yards, the Lions fared much worse, as only one of their runs went for more than 20 yards, and it was a 71 yard run against the Miami Dolphins by Kerryon Johnson. While only 17 teams had more than one run of 40+ last season, the Lions should be able to see more than one run of that distance this coming year with Kerryon Johnson and Ty Johnson both getting their hands on the ball this season.
In 2017, the Lions had zero 40+ yard rushes. During 2016, one rush of 40+ that went for 76. Over the course of 2015, none once again. The Lions have been alternating between one and zero rushes of that distance for a long time now. The last time the Detroit Lions had more than one rush of 40+ yards was back in 2011, Matthew Stafford‘s first healthy season with the team, when the Lions were 8th in the NFL with three. The Lions main running back at the time? The aforementioned first round pick from California, Jahvid Best. With Ty Johnson now in the fold, as well as Kerryon Johnson who’s shown the ability to break one, the Lions look to change that over the coming years.
Why Ty Johnson is a name to watch going forward
Ty Johnson may just be a sixth round pick due to a number of reasons, but he has the pure talent to develop into a steal. Playing with NFL caliber talent around him should be of great benefit, for instance. Likely, it will help that he’s not expected to be the lead back in this offense.
He might not be a guy that shows a lot in 2019, and that’s okay. However, that won’t limit his potential to what fans see out of him in camp, preseason, or even in flashes during this regular season. When he gets used to the speed of the NFL, and if he can develop as a receiver (or at minimum a pass blocker), the threat that he will bring to Detroit’s offense in the near future could be larger than his draft status would indicate.
He doesn’t need to be Chris Johnson with a 2,000 yard season to make an impact in Detroit. If he scores one ninety yard touchdown that gives the Lions a momentum shift in a must win game, or takes one to the house for 75 yards in a playoff game that becomes the difference in a win, the pick will have been more than worth it. He may not be a viable fantasy football option, however what he can do on the field for the Detroit Lions has the potential to be so much more meaningful to Lions fans than a couple of fantasy points.