No running back has been drafted in the first round since 2012. Could the Lions go that direction in the NFL draft that starts next Thursday?
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock sees it as a possibility.
He loves running backs Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin) and Todd Gurley (Georgia) who are expected to be first-round picks. There’s a good chance that neither one will be available at 23. (Photo of Gordon at NFL Combine.)
“I’ve got running back as a significant need (for the Lions),’’ Mayock said during a conference call on Thursday. “They’re game-changers. You have to balance what kind of team you want to be. You look at (the Lions) and they were 28th or 29th in the league last year in the run game. They throw the ball a lot and they throw it well. Are they going to change the balance to accommodate that guy or not?
“I love those two tailbacks. Really, it comes down to the team evaluation. You have to decide up front if one of those guys are there you’re taking them, if not you’re going the other direction,’’ Mayock said.
The Lions indeed were 28th, averaging 88.9 yards per game and that was with Reggie Bush who was released after the season.
Mayock gives Gordon a slight edge over Gurley who is coming off ACL surgery.
“To be honest with you they’re difference makers. One of those guys would be really hard for me to pass up (at 23),’’ Mayock said.
With the 23rd overall pick in the draft, Mayock says the Lions need to let the board come to them.
This reflects the philosophy of general manager Martin Mayhew who always says he drafts the best player available.
“I think what they really need is D-line or O-line and you could throw corner in there also with (Rashean) Mathis being 34 years old,’’ Mayock said. “... Where do you have the highest rated defensive tackle at that point. Is it Malcom Brown? Is it Eddie Goldman? Who is still on the board at 23 when it’s your turn versus who are the offensive tackles on that board. … They need some bodies up front on offense. You have to play the board, who is available at that particular point and how do you value that guy.’’
Most experts, including Mayock, agree that the draft has an elite class of running backs and also wide receivers.
If the Lions don’t grab Gurley or Gordon, they’ll have chances in later rounds to pick up a quality running back. There’s also a lot of depth in the draft for offensive and defensive linemen.
The biggest factor will be who is available when the Lions pick.
Mayhew always goes for the best player available. Don’t expect it will be any different next week.
The NFL draft starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 30, with the first round. Then it starts back up at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 1, with the second and third rounds. Saturday’s final day with rounds four through seven starts at noon.