According to detroitlions.com, the Lions envision using their running backs like the New Orleans Saints, with Mikel Leshoure as Mark Ingram, Jahvid Best as Darren Sproles, and Kevin Smith as Pierre Thomas. It’s certainly an interesting concept and a good model to follow as the Saints’ trio led them to average 4.9 YPC last year, tied for 4th in the NFL.
However, the idea is based on the concept that Best can be as good as Darren Sproles at what he does. That seems highly unlikely, considering Sproles rushed for 6.9 YPC last year and caught 86 passes. Many teams are trying to find their own version of Darren Sproles (see the 49ers drafting LaMichael James), but there appears to only be one. The Lions’ trio is also much more injury prone than the Saints’ trio as Best, Leshoure, and Smith all missed significant time with injury last season. Best and Smith also have extensive injury histories.
Last season, Ingram had 122 carries and 11 catches in 10 games, an average of 13.3 touches per game. Sproles had 87 carries and 86 carries, good for 10.8 touches per game, in spite of a large amount of receptions which seems unrepeatable, especially not by Best. Thomas, meanwhile, 110 carries and 50 catches, good for 10.0 touches per game.
In this model, Leshoure figures to get the bulk of the carries, like Mark Ingram in New Orleans. He’ll also get the majority of the short yardage and goal line carries and, while he missed all of last season with a torn Achilles, he doesn’t have Best’s or Smith’s injury history. While he’ll miss the first 2 games of the season with a suspension, the 2011 2nd round pick appears to be the back to own in fantasy leagues at his average draft position in the 8th round. Best, meanwhile, is going in the 6th while Smith is going in the 13th.