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Lions trade up, draft running back Sione Vaki

Lions general manager Brad Holmes wasn't done moving up on the final day of the draft Saturday, targeting players high on his board. He traded with the Philadelphia Eagles to move up to pick 132 in the fourth round to select Utah running back Sione Vaki. Detroit traded picks 164, 201 and a 2025 fourth rounder and got back 210 in the sixth round this year.

After serving a religious mission from 2019-21, Vaki joined Utah prior to the 2022 season as a safety and immediately made an impact on defense.

Because of injuries at the running back position, Vaki, 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, also played on offense and had 42 carries for 317 yards and two touchdowns, while catching 11 passes for 203 yards and three scores. His 158 rushing yards vs. California were the highest by a Pac-12 defensive back in recorded league history.

On top of that, he recorded 51 tackles and 8.5 tackles for loss on defense.

The Lions view Vaki more as an offensive weapon and special teams threat as he met with offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and running backs coach Scottie Montgomery on his pre-draft visit to Detroit.

"My initial thought was to just come in and I don't know just be wherever the coaches and organization needed me to be," Vaki said. "It was for the offensive side of the ball, so wherever they need me I'm ready to go."

He was a finalist for the Hornung Award, given to college football's most versatile player. He became the first Utah defender with two rushing touchdowns in a single game since Eric Weddle in 2006.

The Lions have a terrific running back duo in Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery, but competition is never a bad thing. Vaki's versatility and athleticism could make him a core special teamer and potentially a weapon with the kickoff rules being changed this season.

Vaki's versatility certainly made his pre-draft process pretty unique, but he sees it as an advantage heading into the NFL.

"I think just my understanding of both sides of the ball," he said. "Being able to play in both positions and understanding where both sides want to attack. Where the offense wants to attack and things like that. In that sense I feel like it helps me out a lot."

View photos of running back Sione Vaki.

Vaki also has extensive experience on special teams including returning kicks. He said he's all about special teams, something Lions head coach Dan Campbell has emphasized since taking the job in 2021.

"When it comes to that, that's where I earn my stripes," Vaki said. "That's where I plan to earn my stripes as well in Detroit."

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