Detroit Lions Rookie Kevin Smith: The 2008 Starter At Running Back?
When the Lions released Kevin Jones prior to the 2008 NFL Draft, it looked as if they might be ready to give Tatum Bell a shot at the starting running back job. At least that’s what they told Bell: that he had a chance to start.
It was a bizarre move and one Lions fans have come to expect from the team because it didn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense from the outside. Bell pouted and barely played in 2007 with the Lions, but then again, some signs pointed toward Bell actually having a shot to do much better in 2008.
He seemed to clash with offensive coordinator Mike Martz all year and wasn’t a great fit for his system of passing the ball 40+ times a game. Bell flourished in the Denver Broncos’ zone-blocking scheme because of his speed, quickness, and ability to make one cut and quickly run downhill. Now that the Lions have added a similar blocking scheme, Bell has a great chance to be productive again.
But the Lions also managed to grab a rookie running back that has a great chance of starting in his first year, even though he was only the first pick in the third round. His name is Kevin Smith from Central Florida and he put up staggering numbers near the end of his career with the Golden Knights.
Smith also seems like a great fit for the zone-blocking scheme because of his ability to make quick cuts, keep his balance, and accelerate downfield, and ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has already gone on record as saying he’ll be one of the biggest contributors of all rookies in the draft. The knocks on Smith are that he didn’t play against great competition in college and he also has a lot of wear and tear on his body, having rushed many more times than the other backs in the draft in most cases.
In an era when running backs only last an average of about 4-5 years, the latter is a worrisome sign. So maybe the Lions plan to rotate both Bell and Smith in the backfield as their two main runners. It seems like a sound plan because keeping Smith fresh could pay big dividends, and Bell is hungry to prove last year was a fluke after used to be a 1,000-yard+ rusher with the Broncos.
Kevin Smith may or may not start but if he plays the way he did at UCF, there’s no doubt that he’ll get a lot of carries and yards in 2008 for the Lions. Fantasy geeks (err players), keep an eye on Kevin Smith because the Lions have a new focus on running the ball and the zone-blocking plus rookie Gosder Cherilus at right tackle could lead to much better numbers across the board, especially for the rookie.