Lions Trade Up to Get RB Jahvid Best

Posted Apr 22, 2010

Drafting California running back Jahvid Best with the 30th pick in the first round of Thursday's NFL Draft could be a twofold benefit for the Lions.

They not only acquire a difference maker for the offense, but they made sure none of their rivals in the NFC North Division grabbed him.

"He has magic as a runner, things you can't coach," said coach Jim Schwartz. "He's an all-around player. You can line him up as a wide receiver, you can put him in the backfield, you can hand him the ball, you can throw him the ball -- and we have a quarterback who can get him the ball.

"This was a player we had a plan for exactly how we were going to use him on offense. If we didn't get him, I was just praying he wouldn't go to Green Bay, Minnesota or Chicago where we'd have to see him twice a season."

Detroit traded its second- and one of its seventh-round picks to the Vikings and flip-flopped picks in the fourth round with Minnesota to get the opportunity to draft Best.

"There were three running backs in the draft that we liked and the other two (C.J. Spiller and Ryan Mathews) were already drafted," said general manager Martin Mayhew.

The Lions didn't invite Best to their Allen Park headquarters, but that wasn't because of a lack of interest.

When asked if that was because Detroit was trying to fly under the radar as far as Best was concerned, Mayhew paused briefly and replied "Yes. We really liked him. It's been a process. We felt the smart thing was not to say anything."

Best didn't expect to wind up with Detroit.

"I was surprised," he said. "They didn't contact me a lot during the process. But I'm excited. They already have weapons. I'm just the newest one."

Best said that his strength is something that Detroit was missing last season.

"I have home run ability," he said. "I can make a big play out of any play."

That was one of the reasons Schwartz was so excited to add Best to the roster.

"With so many other weapons that we've added on offense and with a quarterback that we drafted last year, we have the makings of some firepower," Schwartz said. "He's a guy that can go the distance. We struggled with 20-yard runs last year. He's got a lot of them."

After last season, Lions pro personnel assistant Joe Pirucki did a project where he looked at the top five offense in the NFL over the last several seasons. He found one common denominator.

"They all had a wide receiver. They all had a quarterback, they all had a running back and they all had a tight end," Schwartz said. "It was funny that left tackle wasn't in that group, but the top five offenses over the last three years had those things in common.

"We drafted a pretty good tight end (Brandon Pettigrew). We traded for another tight end that's a matchup threat for us (Tony Scheffler). We have the wide receiver (Calvin Johnson) and we drafted a quarterback last year (Matthew Stafford). The running back gives us that other weapon. It's exciting."

The more weapons a team can amass, the more effective the other weapons become.

"We see a lot of tricked-up coverages on Calvin Johnson," Schwartz said. "A running back that can beat a linebacker one-on-one can raise hell with those kind of coverages.  (Best) averaged over eight yards a carry as a sophomore and over six yards a carry last year. He's a human highlight film."

Best isn't a big back, but he's big enough. At 5-feet-10 and 200 pounds, he's bigger than Tennessee's Chris Johnson, who led the NFL in rushing last year with more than 2,000 yards.

"He's bigger than C.J. Spiller. He's 20 pounds more than Chris Johnson," Schwartz said. "Ray Rice went to the Pro Bowl last year and he's not very big. (Best) is pretty well put together."

One of the concerns about Best was whether he had recovered from a concussion he suffered when he made an awkward landing in the end zone after scoring a touchdown against Oregon State.

Both Best and Mayhew said that was no longer a concern.

"I'm fine with the concussions," Best said. "I was checked out by the best doctors in the world."

That injury might have been a blessing for the Lions.

"If it hadn't been for that time he landed on his head, we probably wouldn't even be talking about him at this point in the draft," Schwartz said.

Best said that one of the first things he was going to do was seek out his new teammate, Ndamukong Suh. Both of them were in New York for the draft, but Best said that he didn't talk a lot with Suh.

"He's a quiet guy. He didn't talk too much," Best said. "I'll have to connect with him now that we're on the same team."