Backfield Breakdown: The Detroit Lions

The Footballguys staff looks at how the Lions backfield will shake out

This article is about a 14-minute read.

In a Backfield Breakdown, we will look at a team's running backs from all angles. Is there a bell-cow back on the roster? How about sleepers? What roles do we foresee from these backs?

Let's find out about the Lions right now.

Coming into the 2019 season, despite some worry about his durability, Kerryon Johnson was thought to be the lightning to C.J. Anderson's thunder. Anderson lasted two games before being released. Johnson played eight before tearing his meniscus.

The rest of the year saw the Lions try a litany of runners, including Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, Paul Perkins, Tra Carson, and Wes Hills.

Obviously, something needed to be done to address the Detroit backfield. D'Andre Swift and Jason Huntley were added in the 2020 NFL Draft. And, of course, Kerryon Johnson healed up.

Is this backfield a two-headed monster this season? Can one of Swift or Johnson get an edge on the other? Do you have any faith in Johnson staying healthy all season? Is there room for Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, or Huntley to carve out a role?

How does this backfield shake out in 2020?

Chad Parsons

For 2020 specifically, I give a strong historical edge to Kerryon Johnson. Durability has been a watchword for Johnson through two seasons and I would imagine it was a major discussion point in the drafting of D'Andre Swift as a strong secondary option if Johnson misses time again. The rest of the depth chart consists of NFL baseline talents with their skillsets at best.

Historically, Johnson has two things working for him:

First, in similar situations where a Day 2 running back saw another Day 2 or higher running back added in their early-career years by the team, the veteran (Johnson in this case) turned out to be the correct fantasy answer in the first season. After that, the results were far more ambiguous. But in Year 1, the veteran has a significant advantage.

Second, Johnson fits all the criteria of the classic top-12 producer for a fraction of the fantasy cost in 2020. For running backs, the general criteria is Day 2 or better NFL Draft pick, 25 years old or younger, going outside the top-20 running backs, presumed to be the 1A option to open the season, with either an injury profile and/or incoming rookie suppressing their value or expectation. This fits Kerryon Johnson across the board (along with Ronald Jones II by the way) as ideal upside plays from the (relative) depths of the running back starting player pool in 2020.

Jason Wood

I disagree with Chad.

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