COMMENTARY | Taking a running back wasn't necessarily a top priority for the Detroit Lions, the addition of one, however, would have been an added luxury.
The 2012 NFL Draft wasn't packed with elite-level backfield talent other than former Alabama star Trent Richardson (third overall, Cleveland), Boise State's Doug Martin (31st overall, Tampa Bay), and maybe a couple others. The Lions weren't going to spend a high pick on a running back. But they wouldn't have had to, because there were a handful of serviceable ball carriers left in later rounds.
One such back was Texas A&M's Cyrus Gray, a 5-foot-10, 206-pound back whose size would mesh well with the Lions' style of running the ball. He has a mix of power and finesse. That's why Detroit drafted former Illinois star Mike Leshoure in 2011. But after an Achilles' Heel injury, Leshoure never had a chance to showcase his bulldozing ways.
Achilles' injuries aren't overly difficult to overcome, but they're not easy, either. Getting a powerful first jump is important -- a torn Achilles' hinders that. So does one that's not fully recovered. The Lions will see just how Leshoure responds this season.
But in case he's not up to par, it would have been nice to have a fill-in. Yes, the Lions (depth chart) have Keiland Williams, a concussion-prone Jahvid Best, an often-injured Kevin Smith, and Joique Bell in the backfield. Not to mention an aging Maurice Morris. It wouldn't have hurt to add another younger back to the fold, one like Gray, who was picked up in the sixth round by Kansas City.
Gray was a reliable pass-catching back with the Aggies. He returned kicks and was a threat to score each time he had the ball (12 touchdowns on 200 carries). Never a breakout star in college, but constant.
At the very least, Detroit would have a young player to develop at the position, or one to deal later. Using a fifth-, sixth-, or seventh-round pick to get a running back may have been better than taking an unknown cornerback late. They already selected Louisiana-Lafayette's Dwight Bentley in the third round.
And with talks of the Lions landing Dallas Cowboys' fourth-year veteran Mike Jenkins, why spend picks on corners after securing Bentley?
Michigan State's Edwin Baker was projected as a late, late-rounder. San Diego grabbed him in the seventh. Baker, who had a year left with the Spartans, opted to enter the draft, forgoing what would have been a productive senior year. He probably needed another year in college, but he was the 12th-ranked running back drafted, according to NFL.com. Not a lot of risk involved there. Possibility of decent return, though.
Surely the Lions knew of Baker, a hard runner with a good, but not great, speed burst. He was solid, bruising and possessed the ability to gain yards after contact. Again, another pinball back who could run up the middle and ricochet off defenders, or break to the outside for a big gain. He was somewhat known in college, considered one of the best backs in the Big Ten before taking a backseat to Le'Veon Bell.
And he played right down the road from the Lions. No takers?
Detroit could have used a little youth in the backfield. Leshoure is capable of being the featured carrier. Williams, Bell and Morris -- not likely. The Lions drafted well, addressed needs, but didn't make a real splash other than taking Iowa's Riley Reiff in the first round. They drafted a cornerback and took yet another receiver (Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles in the second).
A running back wasn't a need -- neither was Broyles in the second round -- but it would have been smart to get one late.
Adam Biggers has followed the National Football League for over 20 years, specifically the Detroit Lions. He can be found on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.