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Lions trade up, draft running back Kerryon Johnson

The Detroit Lions were the worst rushing football team in the NFL last season.

Help appears to be on the way.

Lions general manager Bob Quinn has worked hard to upgrade that portion of Detroit's offense this offseason.

He signed veteran running back LeGarrette Blount in free agency, drafted interior offensive lineman Frank Ragnow in the first round of Thursday's NFL draft, and most recently added more help to their backfield after moving up in the second round to select Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson.

Johnson is a power back with the ability to make defenders miss in the hole. He ran for 1,391 yards (4.9 average) and 18 touchdowns last season, but was also active in the Tigers' passing game. He added 24 receptions for another 194 yards and two scores. Teams value backs that can play all three downs, and Johnson has proven that ability at Auburn.

The Lions gave up their fourth-round pick to New England (117th overall) to move from 51 to 43 to get Johnson.

With the additions of Blount and now Johnson, the Lions now have a duel-threat power option in their backfield.

"I'm just ready to go to work," Johnson said in a conference call after the selection. "That's what I'm ready to do. This is an extreme honor, that's a great football team and I'm ready to get in and go to work."

Johnson joins Blount, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, Zach Zenner, Tion Green and Dwayne Washington in Detroit's backfield.

The Lions need to spark a rushing attack that also ranked last in the NFL in yards per carry average (3.4) and ranked 29th in the number of 10-yard runs they had (34). For reference, playoff teams averaged 54 runs of 10-plus yards. The Lions were also last in the league in converting on 3rd & 1 and 4th & 1 runs.

Lions head coach Matt Patricia has talked this offseason about wanting to be more balanced on offense.

Johnson was the SEC offensive player of the year this past season and a Doak Walker finalist. He led the SEC in rushing (115.9 yards per game) and all-purpose yards (132.1 ypg). His 18 rushing touchdowns were the ninth most in the nation.

View photos of running back Kerryon Johnson.

"I think the (SEC) is the closest league to the NFL that's not the NFL," Johnson said of how playing for Auburn in the SEC might ease the transition to the NFL. "You look in that first round you've got what, 10 SEC guys or something like that?

"To the competition and speed of the game it's as close as you're going to get to the NFL. Hopefully that helps with the learning curve and helps me succeed at the next level."

Coincidentally enough, Johnson said his favorite running back to watch is Barry Sanders.  

"You watch Barry Sanders, I mean what's not to like," Johnson said. "He's a fantastic running back. He's a fantastic guy. He's extremely exciting to watch. Extremely hard to tackle.

"I wish I was alive during that time to get to watch him in person. Fantastic running back and just going through the same organization as him is awesome. It's like a dream come true."

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