GM Martin Mayhew still sees the value in drafting a running back

Posted Apr 20, 2012

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew isn’t among the growing number of NFL personnel who no longer value the running back position as they once did.

The NFL has obviously become a pass-oriented league in recent years, but Mayhew continues to view the running back position as vital to the Lions’ offense, and will always be on the lookout for ways to bolster the run game.

“The running back position has been kind of de-valued lately; people don’t really view the running back as a key position the way they used to,” Mayhew said during his pre-draft press conference Thursday.

“I think it’s a critical position. I think careers are shorter, obviously, but I think it’s a really important position on your football team. We felt that way and we drafted that way in the past.”

It’s why fans shouldn’t be surprised if the Lions select a running back for the third-straight year in the first three rounds of the draft.

The Lions moved back into the first round of the 2010 draft to select running back Jahvid Best. Best is lightning in a bottle and explosive in the Lions’ offense, but he’s coming off a season in which he missed 11 games  (including playoffs) because of concussions.

The Lions were wheeling and dealing for a second-consecutive draft in 2011, when they moved back into the second round to select running back Mikel Leshoure. Leshoure was as good as advertised for the first two weeks of training camp before tearing his Achilles tendon and missing his entire rookie year.

Mayhew gave up two draft picks and swapped picks in four other rounds to acquire Best and Leshoure the last two drafts. That’s certainly not de-valuing the running back position.

“I don’t share that sentiment that running backs aren’t important and you can just grab one whenever and the guy can play,” Mayhew said. “For every seventh-round pick or undrafted free agent that makes it, there are 10 of those guys that don’t make it. We’re going to look for quality players at every position.”

The Lions brought in a number of running back prospect to Allen Park for pre-draft visits, including Miami’s Lamar Miller and Oregon’s LaMichael James, two players expected to be drafted in the second and third rounds.

Best and Leshoure are expected to be back on the field in the fall and expected to be big contributors, but there’s an element of uncertainty there. Even running back Kevin Smith, who the Lions re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason, hasn’t proven he can stay healthy.

Mayhew values the position more than most and won’t be afraid to make the call on another running back if the talent fits the draft slot.