Road to the Draft

Quinn & Patricia agree: 2018 RB class is deep

Posted Feb 28, 2018

Both GM Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia like this year's group of running back prospects.

INDIANAPOLIS – Matt Patricia might be a defensive-minded guy, but the Detroit Lions’ new head coach can’t wait to delve into all aspects of his football team, including the offense and this year’s class of running backs down here at the NFL Scouting Combine this week.

“I would say I’m definitely just starting to get into the process (of evaluating this draft class) and right now, being where it is today, I like the running back group,” Patricia said.

“So, I’m excited about trying to get to learn them to the best of my ability.”

The Lions are looking to add to their running back room this offseason after they finished last in the NFL in both rushing and yards per carry last season. This is a deep and versatile class of running backs this year, perfect for a running-back needy team like Detroit.

In fact, the depth and talent of this class of running backs was a topic of conversation among multiple general managers and coaches down here at the Combine Wednesday. It certainly appears to be one of the stronger position groups in this class.

“It’s a deep class,” Lions general manager Bob Quinn said. “Those guys weighed in this morning. I just came from there. It’s a good looking crew. It’s guys that have different skillsets. Guys that can carry the ball. Guys that can catch.

“One underrated aspect of this running back class as I go through it is pass protection. It’s something a lot of these guys are skilled at. The passing game in college is really the key to most offenses. They have more experience in pass protection, so it’s a little bit easier to get the evaluation done.”

That’s obviously a key component to the game of young backs entering the NFL that usually decides how much they can see the field early on.

Quinn said after the season that he expects to add to the group. Whether that’s via the draft, and how early in the draft, is yet to be determined. How he evaluates this class this week could go a long way in determining that.

Also up in the air is whether Ameer Abdullah will be part of the Lions' plans. He’s entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2018 after leading the Lions with 552 yards (3.3 average) and four touchdowns last season.

“There’s about, I’d say, four or five lead or elite running backs in the league right now,” Quinn said. “You can probably name them on one hand.

“Does Ameer fit into that? He didn’t last year. But listen, he’s a guy we like. He’s a smart guy. He’s a versatile guy. He can catch it out of the backfield. He can run the ball. He has to have a good offseason and come back and prove himself to a new coaching staff.”

That will start to work itself out when the veterans return for the offseason training program.

In the meantime, the Lions will begin interviews with rookie running backs in Indianapolis, and those players will be on the field Friday for their workouts.

That group is likely to impress this week, and Quinn, Patricia and Co. will have some key decisions to make at the running back position this offseason as they attempt to make Detroit's offense more balanced moving forward.