Saturday, May 14, 2016

Detroit Lions - May 14th 2016 - Running Backs

The post draft running back situation report.

The previous blog entry was on Quarterbacks, this will be on Running Backs. However, I did forget one comment on the 6th round draft pick QB Rudock. That is, his ranking (pre-draft) from a former scout with 30 years experience (using the NFL version of ranking players). Rudock had a B ranking (or a player you would draft in rounds 2 or 3) and a score of 6.4 which is "A solid college player with traits to succeed at the next level. Hey may ultimately become a 6.5 or better player and become a starter. You view this player as a solid backup type. Provides good depth for a championship team and should be able to play in a rotation. A backup with staying power." Okay, now that I got that over with, some running back discussion.

The Lions have one full back on the team unless they try to convert a tight-end to that position. That pretty much assures Michael Burton of his roster spot. Still, that leaves 6 players who play running back and most likely 4 roster spots on the team. Yes, it could be 3 spots or 5 spots but the most likely scenario is 4. I believe the lock at this position is Theo Riddick. His pass catching prowess was on full display last year and there is almost no chance he fails to make the roster in that role (barring injury, knock on wood). Ameer Abdullah is also a lock as his entire salary for this year is guaranteed and also because he was productive in only his 1st year in the league. This leaves one vet, two undrafted players from previous years, and this year's 7th round pick for the final 2 spots. The salary cap will play no part in differing these players from each other, their cap hits are all within $212,000 of each other.

The vet, Stevan Ridley formerly of the Patriots, was playing well for his previous team before injury took him out of the picture. Assuming he is fully healed, will remain healthy, and has not lost anything, he brings a veteran presence to the RB corp that won't be easily dismissed. He isn't a lock to make the team but in a tie he probably wins the spot. Basically, if he's healthy and able he's in. If not, he may be out.

George Winn, the undrafted player for the Lions in 2014, has an uphill battle. His experience with his fellow players and the current coaching staff gives him a small advantage, which he will have to use in full to remain on the team come September.

Zach Zenner, the undrafted player for the Lions in 2015, also has an uphill battle. He too has the one year experience with this coaching staff and that same time period with his fellow players. But, he's up against this year's 7th round draft pick. If Zenner can stay healthy it's possible he could beat out Winn, but he would have to really show some good things in order to beat out either a healthy Ridley or the Lions newest 7th rounder.

Dwayne Washington, this year's 7th round draft pick, is the final player in the group fighting for a roster spot. His first advantage is that he was drafted. His second is his ability to be a scoring threat from anywhere on the field (at least he was in college). It remains to be seen if he can transition into the NFL, if he can remain healthy, and if he can learn enough quick enough to beat out some pretty decent competition for the roster spots involved. His #RAS score is somewhere around fantastic (meaning his measurables are great). As I explained a few posts down, if a running back exceeds 5'10" in height, 4.5 seconds in the 40, and 10' 4" in the long jump he has a 78% of success in the NFL. Dwayne Washington exceeds all those. The only thing I can not find on him, and I've looked 8 pages deep in both google and bing, is his hand size. I have a personal preference of 9.5" or larger hands, but basically it's the larger hand size the better the odds. Dwayne has had some issues with drops/fumbles, but if it's not physical (meaning hand size) then it's correctable, with coaching on focus and ball security. It is entirely conceivable that Dwayne will be the Lions number 1 running back before his 4 year contract is up. It's also possible he'll end up cut and on the practice squad. This is a total boom or bust draft pick, it just happens that the odds are more in favor of a boom then a bust, even though he lasted until the 7th round. One thing for sure, he is going to be giving Ridley, Winn and Zenner a run for their money.

In summary, at running back, it appears at this point in time to be:
FB: Michael Burton; lock.
RB: Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah; both locks in my opinion.
RB: Steven Ridley (vet presence but health and ability remaining are concerns) and Dwayne Washington (draft pick but needs to learn fast) vs Zach Zenner and George Winn (both have shown something but both were undrafted and by previous regime at that) for the final two spots.

It's going to be some good competition, and some decent talent may end up being cut before the season starts.

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