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

Running back Kerryon Johnson proved a point in his return from injured reserve to play in the Detroit Lions' final two games last season, and it also showcased his value to the offense.

In spot duty, Johnson had 10 carries for 42 yards in a road loss to the Broncos and 11 for 53 in a loss to the Packers in the 2019 season finale at Ford Field.

Although it was a down season overall for Johnson, with a decline from 641 yards and 5.4 yards per carry as a rookie in 2018 to 403 and a 3.6 average in 2019, Johnson made a final impression that he is a lead back, when healthy.

But "when healthy" should be a worrisome qualifier for the Lions – one that makes an impact on their draft plans. Johnson missed six games with a knee injury as a rookie, and eight in 2019.

Adding a starting quality back to provide production, depth and and insurance is a priority.

Following is a look at where the Lions stand at running back going into the draft, with a look at five running backs who could be of interest to the Lions, with one sleeper.

Lions running back draft status: It's a position that should get strong consideration.

The Lions are in position to get one of the three prospects at the top of this year's running back class either with their second-round pick – 35th overall – or possibly with a trade for a pick late in the first round. Adding a back later in the draft for depth and development is also a possibility.

View photos of Mike O'Hara's top 5 running back draft prospects that could interest the Lions.

Lions depth chart:

Tailbacks: Starter –- Kerryon Johnson. Backups – Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, Tra Carson, Wes Hills.

Fullback: Nick Bawden.

1. D'Andre Swift, Georgia.

5-8, 212. 4.48 Combine 40.

Stats: 3 years, 43 games, career high 11 starts in 2019. 2,885 career rushing yards -- 1,049 in 2018, 1,218 in 2019.

Breakdown: Playing in a pro-style offense and receiving experience – 73 career catches – should help him. Instincts and ability to find running room in tight spots helped him set the school career record of 6.56 yards per carry, breaking former record of 6.44 held by Todd Gurley.

Where he could fit Lions: Three-down rotation back who can start.

2. Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin.

5-10, 226. 4.39 Combine 40.

Stats: 3 years, 41 games, 40 starts. Season totals of 1,977, 2,194, 2,003 yards. Career total of 6,174.

Breakdown: No load management. Carried the load – 926 runs, 42 catches. Broke the previous three-season record of 5,596 career rushing yards, set by Herschel Walker of Georgia from 1980-82. Bigger receiving role with 26 catches in 2019 helped prepare him better for the NFL.

How he could fit Lions: Can be a three-down player, with emphasis on running, and no questions about durability.

3. J.K. Dobbins, Ohio State.

5-9, 209. No Combine 40 time.

Stats: 3 years, rushing seasons of 1,403, 1,053 and 2,003 yards. Career total, 4,459.

Breakdown: Ran primarily in a one-back offense at Ohio State and did it well enough to tie two-time Heisman Trophy winner Archie Griffin as the only backs in school history to hit the 1,000-yard rushing mark in three seasons. Dobbins is the only one to do it in his first three.

How he fits Lions: He can hit the hole and get big gains. One concern is running style. He takes hits – and the pros deliver them.

4. Clyde Edwards-Helaire, LSU.

5-7, 207. 4.60 Combine 40.

Stats: 3 years, 38 games, 13 starts, all in 2019. 2,103 career yards – 658 in 2018, 1,414 in 2019.

Breakdown: Combine 40 time was a little disappointing, but he was impressive in big games against top teams -- 136 yards vs. Auburn, 103 and 3 TDs vs. Alabama the next week, 110 plus 5 catches for 54 yards in LSU's drubbing of Clemson in the national championship game.

Where he could fit Lions: Receiving ability – 55 catches for 453 yards in 2019 – showed he can be a runner-receiver. Would not be a bad pick for the Lions, especially with a team that can get the ball downfield.

5. Cam Akers, Florida State.

5-10, 218. 4.47 Combine 40.

Stats: 3 years, rushing totals of 1,024, 706 and 1,144 yards for 2,874 total and 27 TDs.

Breakdown: In good company with Warrick Dunn and Dalvin Cook as the only runners in school history with multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons, but he's not quite in their company as a pro prospect. Akers looks to hit the hole when he sees it. Benefits sometimes from being patient.

Where he could fit Lions: More of a development player than the top prospects.

Sleeper: A.J. Dillon, Boston College.

6-0, 247. 4.53 Combine 40.

Stats: 3 years, rushing totals of 1,589, 1,108 and 1,895 yards and 39 career TDs.

Background: A big man at 247, with some speed and athleticism – 41-inch vertical jump – to go with production. The combination makes him an intriguing third-day prospect.

Where he could fit Lions: Last year they went for speed in drafting Ty Johnson of Maryland in the sixth round. Dillon is considered a straight-ahead runner. At 257, he might be able to run some people over.

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