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 The Running Game 
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Bubbles the Lion
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Post The Running Game
Question to the Forum: What are the odds that we select a RB in this draft? I think there's a chance we could pick one up with one of our 3rd round picks, depending on how the rest of our draft plays out.

The fact is our new coach wants to feature a running attack on offense. We only have one legit Running Back, sorry Morris, and pretty much all the teams that run the ball effectively (think Pittsburg, Tenn., San Diego) have two quality Running Backs.

I would love to see a Smash and Dash type one/two punch to our running game. Is this wise or should we concentrate on the O-Line this year?


April 19th, 2009, 12:01 pm
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I personally find Smith and Morris to be a perfectly acceptable tandem, though it can't hurt to improve the stable. I am no fan of Calhoun or Cason, as RB or KR either. I can't help but think that Morris was brought in to be the change of pace, and Smith is the every down back. If we draft a third RB to take Morris' place, then his signing was moot.

The draft you are suggesting is need based, with an assumption that RB is the fourth or fifth biggest need on the team. I don't think that it is. I wouldn't have any problem with a late round pick to compete with Calhoun or Cason for a spot, especially if it was a speedster to double as KR, or a burly big back with a different skill set from Smith/Morris. Those late picks can't be relied on as starting material.

I'd like to raise a small possibility. Everyone knows Schwartz opinion on the value of KRs. He sees them as being as valuable as receivers. Lions fans have viewed this as an indication that we could draft a late round, dedicated KR. But that, frankly, is the status quo for KR acquisitions. If Schwartz truly believes that KRs are as valuable as receivers, don't discount the possibility that they could draft a speedster fairly early in the draft. I'm talking the top 3 rounds. That is after all, where most top quality receivers are taken. I'm not expecting it, but I wouldn't be blown away by it.

Again, that would be a speed guy though. I just don't see a bruiser back in the cards.

-ILMP


April 19th, 2009, 1:34 pm
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Bubbles the Lion
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Good points. I am not, however, advocating we take a RB in the 3rd round. I'm only suggesting that I believe there is a possiblity that the staff would look at a RB, if the first two rounds fall a certain way.

A KR running back would certainly catch their eye, as Schwartz has said he will place more empahsis on the return game. The wises course would be to follow what you suggested, and take someone in the 6th or 7th--if they think we need more depth this year.

I don't like Cason or Calhon either. Cason probably holds the Lions record for being cut and then brought back! I think this draft will show how together the coaching staff and the front office are. Hopefully, we see a common vision as opposed to previous years.


April 19th, 2009, 1:47 pm
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With so many other needs of starters and depth, I would hope the Lions avoid selecting a RB at all, despite this draft having pretty good talent through the middle rounds.

I would prefer the Lions cut Calhoun and Cason, then let Felton be the backup at both RB and FB, thereby getting them an additional roster spot to play with. Felton would be a good 3rd down, short yardage option who can catch out of the backfield.


April 19th, 2009, 1:54 pm
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Bubbles the Lion
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I had almost forgotten about Felton. The club was so high on him at the start of last year, and then you didn't hear much about him the last 2/3 of the season. I remember he was injured for some of that time. I like your thinking though, cut the C&C brothers, and let him be a primary backup.

On a side note, J. Ringer seems to be slipping in a lot of mocks I've seen. I wonder why? Could he be a value pick for us or another club in the late 5th or early 6th?


April 19th, 2009, 2:00 pm
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I like that strategy. I personally don't see either of those two adding much value. I see Cason as a reliable, but unimpressive return man, and would easily dispatch him in favor of a dedicated returner.

I could also see value in an extra DT spot on the roster. We have two young, relatively unproven tackles in Cohen and Fluellen. We have a situational run stopper in Grady. We could likely draft a DT and have Darby to consider. Point is, we have young guys with upside all along the D line (Avril, IAF) and it would be unfortunate to have to cut one off the 53 man roster in favor of a seldom used RB.

-ILMP


April 19th, 2009, 2:03 pm
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I view Ringer as a reliable, hard worker. I don't feel like he is a great talent in terms of skills. I am a big time MSU homer, but it seemed that Ringer accumulated the stats in early non-conference play, only to disappear in the heart of Big-10 play. I would expect more of the same in the NFL.

Ringer could use some more size to benefit his style of running IMO. He has very strong legs, buy is only 5'9'' and 202 lbs. Guys that size really need the elite speed, or elite cutting ability. Unfortunately, Ringer has neither.

Does he really offer anything different from Smith or Morris?

-ILMP


April 19th, 2009, 2:13 pm
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Bubbles the Lion
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If I remember correctly B. Sanders was 5'9" (at best), and played at about 215-220lbs. Does Ringer have the frame to put on 15-18 more lbs.? And if he did, how would that affect his speed? I am in no way comparing Ringer to Sanders, other than in size.

I am not real familar with the running style Morris brings to the Lions. My question here is how is he a change of pace from Smith? Smith is neither an outside burner or a power inside runner--but has a little of both. His two best assets are his vision and his desire to be great. I think this will serve him, and the Lions, well if he is not overused.

I don't know if Smith will ever be all-pro, but he can be a cog in a solid two back system, given the right partner. I just don't know what Morris has to offer that would make him a valuable part of a one/two punch.


April 19th, 2009, 3:38 pm
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Quote:
FBO: Combine shows weak RB class
"Speed score" says that teams should avoid RB in first round
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Insider
By Bill Barnwell
Football Outsiders
Archive

Right around the time you see offensive linemen running 40 yards downfield for the first and last times of their NFL careers, it's reasonable to wonder whether the NFL scouting combine is really just a big waste of time -- an excuse for NFL teams to spend hours trying to figure out whether a player's bubble (read: posterior) is too big or his hands are too small, or that he doesn't run patterns well against a set of orange cones.

So then, is the combine worthless? Is it safe to throw out all the data and just look at how a player performed on Saturdays against inferior competition? No one has bothered to actually go back and check whether what happens at the combine bears any relationship to NFL performance -- besides Football Outsiders, that is.

The answer is that, well, it depends on the position and the player. One place where a bit of combine data can actually go a long way in predicting a player's viability in the NFL is at running back, where we've come up with a metric known as "speed score."

Speed score (explained in further detail here) takes into account each player's 40 time and weight to produce a number scaled around 100; the average speed score for a drafted back is 102.4, a number which rises to 111.1 for backs taken in the first round. The formula -- (Weight x 200)/(40-yard time to the 4th power) -- adjusts the minuscule differences in 40 times from player-to-player by accounting for the weight each player has to lug around on his 40-yard dash. The result is a metric that has a stronger correlation to NFL performance on a one-year, three-year or five-year stretch than any other combine drill, including the standard 40-yard dash.

2009 Combine speed scores
Quote:
Player School 40 Time Weight speed score
Andre Brown North Carolina State 4.49 224 110.2
Cedric Peerman Virginia 4.45 216 110.2
Ian Johnson Boise State 4.46 212 107.2
Javarris Williams Tennessee State 4.52 223 106.9
Chris Wells Ohio State 4.59 235 105.9
Kory Sheets Purdue 4.47 208 104.2
Donald Brown Connecticut 4.51 210 101.5
Rashad Jennings Liberty 4.64 231 99.7
Shonn Greene Iowa 4.63 227 98.8
Mike Goodson Texas A&M 4.54 208 97.9
Chris Ogbonnaya Texas 4.61 220 97.4
Marlon Lucky Nebraska 4.59 216 97.3
Knowshon Moreno Georgia 4.60 217 96.9
James Davis Clemson 4.61 218 96.5
Glen Coffee Alabama 4.58 209 95.0
Jeremiah Johnson Oregon 4.61 209 92.5
Bernard Scott Abilene Christian 4.56 200 92.5
Anthony Kimble Stanford 4.66 216 91.6
Javon Ringer Michigan State 4.60 205 91.6
Branden Ore West Liberty State 4.67 214 90.0
Tyrell Sutton Northwestern 4.66 211 89.5
Gartrell Johnson Colorado State 4.71 219 89.0
Kahlil Bell UCLA 4.68 212 88.4

Last year, speed score pegged Chris Johnson (121.9) as the best back in the class, with Darren McFadden (120.0) and Jonathan Stewart (116.7) shortly behind. It predicted Matt Forte' (109.7) to be a sleeper, while believing that Ray Rice (99.8), Kevin Smith (98.6) and Steve Slaton (96.9) would struggle. Speed score is certainly not a foolproof indicator, but as you can see from that level of performance, it's a useful indicator.

The 2009 crop of running backs isn't as highly regarded as last year's, a group that produced five first-round picks. That's borne out by their speed scores. Knowshon Moreno, regarded as the draft's top back, ran a disastrous 4.6 40-yard dash that yielded a speed score of only 96.9. Going back to 1999, that would be the lowest speed score posted by a first-round pick; the only two backs selected in the first round to post a speed score under 100 are William Green (98.7) and Trung Canidate (99.3). They have as many 1,000-yard seasons in the NFL as I do.

Even if you go with the time of 4.55 that has also been unofficially reported for Moreno, his speed score would be only 101.3, putting him just below Chris Perry (102.7).

While Beanie Wells' 4.59 40-yard dash almost perfectly mirrored Moreno's, the fact that he did so with 18 extra pounds on his frame produces a speed score of 105.9 (below-average for a first-rounder, but passable for a day-one pick). He actually profiles as rather similar to another Big Ten back: Larry Johnson, who was 228 pounds and ran a 4.55 40 at the 2003 combine, yielding a speed score of 106.4. Unfortunately, Wells doesn't come with the 2006 Chiefs offensive line.

The two players who improved their stock the most are the two ACC products who sit atop the speed score leaderboard. North Carolina State's Andre Brown ran a 4.49 40 at 224 pounds; that compares comfortably with Tampa Bay's Earnest Graham, who ran a 4.50 40 at 223 pounds in 2003. The book on Brown is that of a versatile, injury-prone back without the speed necessary at the NFL level; speed score thinks he can be a useful player in the pros.

The fastest 40 time of the day for running backs belonged to the other riser, Virginia's Cedric Peerman, a back similar to Brown in both stature and proneness to injury. While Brown projects to be a mid-round pick, though, Peerman (before Sunday) rated out as practice squad fodder.

The reason why? Scouts fear that the 7 7/8-inch hands of Peerman will yield too many fumbles as a professional, despite the fact that he fumbled all of four times on 448 touches in college. Maybe the combine is a stupid idea, after all.

Bill Barnwell is an analyst for Football Outsiders.


April 19th, 2009, 4:53 pm
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I wouldn't have a problem if they took a late round flyer on a RB, but I wouldn't want to see them draft one any earlier than the 6th round, we just have far too many holes to plug to even think about it. Kevin and MoMo form a pretty solid tandem (I think Kevin could really blossom this year), and Cason isn't anything special, but he isn't terrible either. Calhoun is a waste of space, and I can't imagine him sticking around for too long.

One guy that intrigues me is Bernard Scott, out of D2 Abilene Christian. He looked very explosive from what I saw in the postseason all-star games, and could be a possibility in that 6th round range.


April 19th, 2009, 5:11 pm
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I'm willing to bet that the only way they take a RB is if one presents some extraordinary value at a certain draft slot.

Having said that, I doubt it happens because the priority has to be the trenches and defense I would imagine.


April 19th, 2009, 5:35 pm
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yostevo wrote:
I'm willing to bet that the only way they take a RB is if one presents some extraordinary value at a certain draft slot.

Having said that, I doubt it happens because the priority has to be the trenches and defense I would imagine.


They would also probably be mnore of a speed/cut runner who may also function as a KR/PR.


April 19th, 2009, 8:40 pm
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That speed score chart won't sit well with most Lions fans. Kevin Smith doesn't do well in that metric. It does bear out my personal opinion of this draft class (weak) as well as my personal opinion of both Wells and Moreno. I view both as highly over-rated.

-ILMP


April 19th, 2009, 10:53 pm
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InterimLionsMasterPimp wrote:
That speed score chart won't sit well with most Lions fans. Kevin Smith doesn't do well in that metric. It does bear out my personal opinion of this draft class (weak) as well as my personal opinion of both Wells and Moreno. I view both as highly over-rated.

-ILMP


Overrated those two may be, but there are a lot solid running backs that grade out in those middle rounds. I would love to see another running back in here. I like Smith, but I'm not so sure about Morris. I would like to see a big bruiser in there, but maybe that's what Jerome Felton is.

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April 20th, 2009, 8:43 pm
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