NFL Scouting Combine Preview: Running backs

Posted Feb 19, 2013

The Detroit Lions are on the lookout for a change-of-pace running back. lead writer Tim Twentyman takes a look at his top prospects to work out at this week's NFL Scouting Combine.

The Detroit Lions missed running back Jahvid Best last season. In fact, the offense missed him more than people realize.

With Best in the lineup, the Lions offense is much more dynamic and treated very differently by defenses. In 2012, the Lions ran more plays (855 of a possible 1,160) against defenses with six or fewer defenders in the box than any other team in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Best is the big-play threat the Lions offense was missing outside of Matthew Stafford to Calvin Johnson.

With Best's future still in doubt, the Lions will certainly have their eye out for that big-play, change-of-pace back at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis this week .

The Lions should be able to fill this role in the middle of the draft if they don't fill it in free agency first.

Here are a few names that could fit the bill to keep an eye out for in Indianapolis this week.

Andre Ellington, 5-10, 190, Clemson

Best trait: Production

Concern: Undersized

The skinny: It's too bad we only got to see Ellington for one day at the Senior Bowl before he withdrew because of a hamstring injury. In that one day, though, Ellington showed terrific speed and quickness in drills and the ability to catch the football out of the backfield. He proved to be a good kickoff return man at Clemson, which is also a need for the Lions.

Kenjon BarnerKenjon Barner, 5-11, 195, Oregon

Best trait: Big-play threat

Concern: Pass protection

The skinny: He's a touchdown waiting to happen. He averaged more than 6.0 yards per carry all four years at Oregon, but never caught more than 20 passes in any season. Has terrific speed and shiftiness, but also showed a willingness to run between the tackles down in Mobile. Barner also showed that he was a willing blocker at the Senior Bowl, which scouts wanted to see.

Giovani Bernard, 5-10, 205, North Carolina

Best trait: Hands

Concern: Torn ACL in 2010

The skinny: He was a very accomplished runner, receiver and punt returner in college. He caught 47 passes for 490 yards and five touchdowns this past year after 45 catches in 2011. He also returned 16 punts for 263 yards and two scores in 2012. He'd fit multiple roles for the Lions.

Joseph Randle, 6-1, 200, Oklahoma State

Best trait: Complete back

Concern: Doesn't have elite speed

The skinny: In a national conference call on Monday, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said Randle was a player teams could spread the field with in the passing game. He had 108 receptions in three college seasons and averaged 5.5 yards per rushing attempt.

Mike Gillislee, 5-11, 209, Florida

Best trait: Doesn't have a lot of wear and tear

Concern: Agility

The skinny: The Lions had an opportunity to coach Gillislee at the Senior Bowl and his best day of practice was Wednesday when he rattled off a couple nice runs that earned a pat on the helmet from Lions head coach Jim Schwartz. He only started his senior season at Florida, so there's not much wear and tear there. He's a downhill runner. Not real shifty, but has good speed when he gets going.

Denard Robinson, 5-11, 195, Michigan

Best trait: Speed

Concern: Hands

The skinny: This is just my opinion, but I think Robinson is better suited to play that change-of-pace running back role at the next level than receiver. He has a long way to go from a receiver standpoint from what I saw at the Senior Bowl. He's a natural runner and one of best open-field runners coming into the NFL. Elite speed.