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O'HARA'S DRAFT PREVIEW: 5 running backs that could interest Lions

D’Andre Swift did enough as a runner and receiver in his rookie season with the Detroit Lions to show offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn that Swift can handle a bigger role this year.

"I think he's a three-down back," Lynn said. "I like his versatility. He does some things that we can do with him in the passing game, and get him a little more involved in that.

"We have to keep him on the field. We'll find someone else to go with him.

"I'm excited by what we saw on tape."

The Lions got help for Swift by signing free agent Jamaal Williams, and they could be adding to the position in the draft.

They got Swift with the third pick in the second round last year, but are not likely to use a pick that high this year given their other needs.

Also on the roster is 2018 second-round draft pick Kerryon Johnson, whose status has declined because of injuries and lack of production.

Swift lived up to the reputation he earned at Georgia as a highly skilled, versatile back.

In 13 games, Swift rushed for 521 yards and eight touchdowns, with an average of 4.6 yards per carry. He added 46 catches for 357 yards and two TDs. The receiving yards were the most by any rookie back last year.

Following is the running back position's draft strength, the Lions' depth chart and draft priority at the position, and five running backs who could fit the Lions.

Running back depth chart: D'Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams and Kerryon Johnson. Also fullbacks Jason Cabinda and Nick Bawden.

Position draft strength and Lions' priority: A solid draft year, similar to 2020, with Najee Harris of Alabama and Travis Etienne of Clemson at the top. The Lions are likely to draft for depth and development and use their top picks for other positions.

Rookie draft stat: Swift's eight rushing TDs last season were the most by a Lions rookie running back since 1989 when Barry Sanders had 14.

Five backs who could fit the Lions:

1. Travis Etienne, Clemson

5-10, 205

Stats line: Four-year player, 55 games, 4,952 career rushing yards, 70 TDs, 7.23 average per carry. Etienne's receiving ability gives him versatility and a chance to be a three-down running back. He had 201 career catches, with 48 in 2020 and a career high of 12.2 yards per catch. Ohio State held him to 32 yards on 10 carries in the playoff.

How he could fit the Lions: Combined run-receiving skills make a good match to go with Swift.

2. Najee Harris, Alabama

6-2, 230

Stats line: Four-year player, starter the last two years. Rushed for 1,466 yards, 26 TDs in 2020, with 1,224 and 13 TDs in 2019. An athletic big back with power. Highlight of his 2020 season was 206 yards and five TDs in Week 3 vs. Ole Miss. Expanded his role as a receiver with a career-high 43 catches in 2020.

How he could fit the Lions: A big, durable back (55 career games) could make him a complement to Swift.

3. Javonte Williams, N. Carolina

5-10, 220

Stats line: A three-year player: 35 games, 2,297 career rushing yards with 29 TDs. Saved his best for last in 2020: Career-highs of 1,149 yards and 19 TDs for the season, and 236 yards and three TDs in his final game against Miami (Fla.).

How he could fit the Lions: A strong runner with good size who can be tough to tackle.

4. Trey Sermon, Ohio St.

6-1, 215

Stats line: Three years (2017-19) at Oklahoma, 2,076 yards; 877 yards in eight games after transferring to Ohio State in 2020. Finished strong with rushing totals of 112 yards vs. Michigan State, 331 vs. Northwestern and 193 vs. Clemson before an injury in the national championship game against Alabama limited him to one carry for two yards.

How he could fit the Lions: He can change direction to get extra yards with a smooth running style.

5. Michael Carter, N. Carolina

5-8, 199

Stats line: Four-year player, starter the last two years. Rushed for 1,003 yards in 2019, 1,245 in 2020. Career total: 3,404 yards and 6.6 average per carry. Tacked on 305 rushing yards to Javonte Williams' 236 in the season finale vs. Miami (Fla.).

How he could fit the Lions: Good quickness and uses his compact build as an asset.

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