The Detroit Lions backfield has changed since the departure of Jamaal Williams in free agency. David Montgomery, a reliable and dangerous back, signed a three-year deal with the team. Although Montgomery has an impressive average of 229 carries per season, his big-play ability is limited. With D’Andre Swift’s injury troubles and contract situation, the Lions may look to draft a running back with pass-catching skills.
Developing Depth: Young, Unproven Backs on the Roster
Beyond Montgomery and Swift, the Lions have a roster featuring Craig Reynolds, Jermar Jefferson, and Greg Bell, all young talents who have yet to prove themselves on the field. Their greatest contributions may come on special teams. The Lions ranked 12th in rushing attempts last season, so a rookie who can share the workload with Montgomery over the next three years could be ideal.
Breaking Convention: Lions’ Draft Picks and Prospects
Despite conventional wisdom advising against drafting a running back early, the Lions’ two first-round picks and five selections within the first 81 choices could tempt them to do so. The top three running back prospects include Bijan Robinson (Texas), Jahmyr Gibbs (Alabama), and Zach Charbonnet (UCLA). All three have different strengths, yet they all provide versatility behind the line of scrimmage.
Star Potential: Bijan Robinson’s Elite Vision and Skills
Robinson is the best running back prospect since Saquon Barkley and possesses elite vision, footwork, and measurables. His performance in the 40-yard dash and vertical and broad jumps caught everyone’s attention at the combine. Although not expected to be picked as high as Barkley, Robinson’s star potential is undeniable.
Day 2 Gems: Gibbs and Charbonnet Offer Unique Skill Sets
Gibbs and Charbonnet are the standout options for Day 2 in a deep running back class. Gibbs, compared to Alvin Kamara, is a pass-catching back who also served as a returner at Alabama. Charbonnet, who transferred from Michigan to UCLA, may not be as elusive as Robinson or Gibbs, but led the nation in all-purpose yards last season, showcasing his three-down potential.
Late-Round Steals: Running Backs to Watch Beyond the Top 75
Recent drafts have seen teams hesitate to pick running backs early. Devon Achane (Texas A&M), Roschon Johnson (Texas), Tyjae Spears (Tulane), and Nichols are potential late-round steals, each boasting unique skills that could lead to starting roles in the NFL. Kendre Miller (TCU) and Keaton Mitchell (East Carolina) have also been involved in rumors to the Lions.
Late Round Sleeper: Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota
Mohamed Ibrahim from Minnesota could be a potential late-round pick of the Lions. Ibrahim has built a reputation for being a hard-hat running back with his innate toughness, vision, and feel for cut timing. All traits that would suit the Detroit Lions’ inside/outside zone attack. Though he may lack the burst to outrun NFL defenders, his decisiveness and creativity keeps runs alive. Ibrahim’s no-nonsense running approach and feel for the end zone would be a valuable asset for the Lions, who could benefit from his experience and skills.
Despite concerns over his injury history, Ibrahim has consistently avoid being tackled behind the line of scrimmage. He just always seems to get to the LOS and fall forward. His college career, which included 1,665 yards on 320 rushing attempts and 20 touchdowns, showcases his ability to perform under pressure and handle contact in finishing runs. Ibrahim’s size and low center of gravity, coupled with his patience in waiting for blocks and decisive running, make him difficult to bring down. His potential to develop into an effective pass blocker, and his demonstrated ability to catch passes out of the backfield, would make him a well-rounded addition to the Detroit Lions’ backfield.
With the depth of this running back class, the Detroit Lions have a wealth of options to strengthen their backfield in the 2023 NFL Draft.
For more from our Detroit Lions beat writer, Matt Broder, check him out on Twitter here: @mattbro21
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