Win. Your. League.

Receive 3 Free Downloads More Details

Spotlight: Mikel Leshoure

posted by Jason Wood on Aug 6th

Jason Wood's thoughts

Some things are best avoided. Had I written this Player Spotlight a month or two ago, it would've read very differently. But as I sit down at the trusty computer to type my thoughts today, I'm left with a feeling of complete uncertainty as it relates to the Detroit Lions' backfield.

Jahvid Best is the most exciting running back on the roster - but he's yet to be cleared from last year's concussion symptoms, and his head coach has now said they're looking at Best's incremental improvement in a matter of weeks, not days.

Mikel Leshoure may be the most physically gifted back on the roster - but he's been a knucklehead off the field and an injury risk on it. After an offseason of missteps, he has yet to practice in training camp as he deals with a hamstring issue. This comes after Leshoure missed his entire rookie season, and now faces a 2-game suspension upon his return in 2012.

That leaves the Lions with the once and future starter - Kevin Smith. Smith came into the league four years ago and showed surprising versatility as a rookie - finishing as the 18th best fantasy back with 1,262 yards from scrimmage and 8 touchdowns. It's been mostly downhill from there as injuries limited Smith's effectiveness and led to the Lions opting not to re-sign him last offseason. But in an ironic twist of fate, it was injuries to Best and Leshoure that led the Lions to call Smith back into the mix - he re-signed in November and ran for 140 yards and 2 touchdowns (plus 61 yards receiving and another touchdown in the air) in his first start. That was the highlight of his return though, and he failed to gain more than 50 yards rushing in any of the remaining games.

Entering 2012, the Lions were supposed to have the trio back and ready to compete - giving them a dimension the 10-6 Lions lacked a season ago. Detroit ranked 31st in attempts and 29th in rushing yards last year, while the passing attack was 1st in attempts, 4th in yards and 3rd in touchdowns.

It's easy as ADP

  • Jahvid Best's current ADP is RB29 and 76th overall
  • Mike Leshoure's current ADP is RB41 and 113th overall
  • Kevin Smith's current ADP is RB49 and 141st overall

Right now, based on what we know, the easy choice here is to a) draft Smith late, or b) avoid the entire situation. As much as I like Best's skill set (he could perform at top 10 levels if he were 100% healthy), I would much rather draft Jonathan Stewart (RB28), Peyton Hillis (RB34), Donald Brown (RB35) or Mark Ingram (RB37). I would also avoid Leshoure - probably at any draft position. He's coming off a torn Achilles, is missing camp right now, is serving a suspension, and has off-the-field concerns. That leaves Smith, who should be your RB4/RB5 and purely serve as upside and a bye week option.

The NFL is a humbling game, and a lot of what we hold as trustworthy is really smoke and mirrors. We view certain players as durable simply because they've never been hurt. Adrian Peterson was an iron man who played hurt until he tore multiple ligaments last year. Meanwhile Isaac Bruce was once considered fantasy repellant because of chronic hamstring issues, and then he went on to a Hall of Fame worthy career once the hammies stopped being a problem. You just never know. I say that because both Best and Leshoure are young, HIGHLY talented running backs and play on a potent offense that's going to afford them opportunities if they can ever get on, and stay on, the field.

The issue you have to face is TRUST. Do you trust anyone on this roster to handle the ball consistently? I don't see how you can, at least not at the prices you're being asked to pay currently.


  • Leshoure has the size and strength to project as a full-time, 20+ carry runner, something that Best does not
  • The Lions passing attack is among the league's best, and there will absolutely be running lanes for whichever RB gets the rock


  • Leshoure has major issues on and off the field, already earning a suspension, a full season on Injure Reserve, and missed time this preseason
  • The Lions aren't going to be patient, and have no choice but to go with the hot hand, whether that's Best, Leshoure, Smith or someone else

Final thoughts

Pick your poison -- or don't. A month or two ago I would've sung Jahvid Best's praises and mentioned that his upside was worth the risk. Best has the kind of explosive game and versatility that can make him a fantasy star even if he only gets 12-15 touches. Unfortunately I never foresaw Best being held out of training camp and not cleared from his 2011 concussions -- that's a real concern. I will never trust Leshoure until I see him do something at the NFL level. Smith is, by default, an intriguing sleeper but you have to wonder if he too can stay healthy. This is a murky situation and one that could unfold 100 different ways. That's not the kind of situation I would recommend placing odds on on draft day.

Quotations from the message board thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

rickyg said:

I don't understand why Kevin Smith is going so under reported or talked about for 2012. He was, when healthy, THE BEST RB on the Lions roster last season, is only 25, and reportedly is coming into camp in even better shape, has had the ota's, mini camp and will benefit from a full offseason with the team or the first time in several years. He has had more time now to learn the playbook better and gel with the o line. The only backs he has ahead of him are a guy who is one hit to the head away from calling it a career and a guy comin off a devastating Achilles injury that will limit him this season and is also suspended for the first 2 games.

When I read that Smith, not Leshoure, took reps with the first team yesterday, I was not shocked. Smith is going to end up being the lead back for the Lions this year.

Sabertooth said:

I'm pushing my chips in on Best. I traded for him because I think you have a situation where you will have clarity (drink!). With the concussion thing, he will either play or not play. It isn't like turf toe or bruised ribs, he will either suit up at 100% or he won't play. This should conceivably give you a clear cut situation where you can replace him if he isn't going to go. And if he goes, he's going to score you points on par with Darren Sproles. He's explosive. When he played last season he only had one game under 10 fantasy points. He scores points when he suits up.

FF Ninja said:

I avoided Best the last two years, but was really excited when they drafted LeShoure. I was going to target him in every draft while the Best hype kept his value reasonable. But after that injury I've got less faith in LeShoure than I do in Best. Players do well just to make it back on the field after that kind of injury, and are rarely even a shadow of their former selves.

I'm not sure why Kevin Smith is getting no love. I really thought he proved his worth last year and would enter the year at least in a dead heat for the starting tailback job. To me this situation is impossible to provide projections for, but the decision to roll the dice on Kevin Smith couldn't be easier.

Shutout said:

I guess if you subscribe to the theory of Best being done because he's often injured, then you have to apply that to Smith as well. It kind of strikes me funny to see so many people wanting to bury Best because of it but completely ignore smith's own injury issues.

The plain truth is one of these guys (Best) has shown he can be a fantasy pinball machine, one (Smith) has shown that he can be very solid, and one (LeShoure) was seen by the vast majority as a much better prospect than both the others at this time last year.

the other truth is that all three have shown a propensity for injuries.

So, if you throw all that out as a push (instead of biasing it and using it to your particualr advantage), I think the better angle is to examine which one of these guys is likely to be there when you need it most (Weeks 12-16 of the NFL season).

I think the obvious answer is Best or LeShoure. If best comes out hot and LeShoure is sitting there suspended and resting, then LeShoure is the guy that can be the fresh, healthy guy late when Best gets dinged up and Kevin Smith does what Kevin Smith does (look great for about a month). If Best comes out hot and stays healthy, then its obviously Best.

Smith is the only one that really doesn't ahve a probable late-season roll because:
1)If best stays healthy, he's out.
2)If best gets hurt and a fresh Leshoure comes on and plays well, he's out.
3)if BOTH of these guys are out, Smith, himself, ahsn't shown he can go the distance.

Its just hard to envision the scenario where Smith is the last guy standing. I just get the feeling if it comes down to NO Best and NO LeShoure, the Lions will rever to what they did before; MOAR MEGATRON and some guy named Morris is just as likely to get the Tds as Smith is.

So, to me, its Best or LeShoure and I'm going to put my money on LeShoure just because:
1) He gets 2-3 weeks off due to suspension early. That doesn't hurt me in the fantasy playoffs and it actually just means thats 2-3 weeks he can't get hurt.
2)Since I'm gambling on one of the bigger NFL RB gambles, I'd rather put my money on getting some points vs. None because LeShoure at 80% is still better than Best with a concusion. I hate to say it because I LOVE Best and actually have him on a roster. I want him to do well. But I know, when I'm honest with myself that all it takes is that one Sunday in october where he gets his bell rung and that's it; no more best for the rest of the year. If he gets another concussion, they are going to go the Sid Crosby route with him and that doesn't help my fantasy team.

Mikel Leshoure projections

Jason Wood105415415801
Message board consensus000000