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Lions treat Best like a feature back

Posted by: $author under Vikings, Lions, NFL draft, Adrian Peterson, Chester Taylor Updated: May 3, 2010 - 3:05 PM

Lions rookie running back Jahvid Best was being humble and respectful of his veteran teammates when he said over the weekend that he just needed"to play my part" in a running back by committee approach this season.

That's nice of him, but it seems the Lions have a different idea. They've thrown Best on the fast track to being their feature back ASAP. 

"We're throwing everything we have at him. We didn't spoon-feed it," Schwartz said during the team's rookie minicamp. "He's a guy that when he does come back, he has to assimilate right away into the offense. We can't slow the offense down for where he is. We moved him around a lot and exposed him to a lot of things. I thought he did a really good job of handling it."

In doing so, the Lions, according to Schwartz, got a taste of what the exciting scat-back can do.

"He sort of got his feet under him as the weekend went on," Schwartz said. "He started off a little bit lethargic and then all of a sudden exploded. You can see what you saw on film with him. He obviously has speed, he obviously has instincts and quickness and those kinds of things."

If Best doesn't blow this opportunity, he'll open the season as the feature back. Maurice Morris probably will back him up. Kevin Smith is coming off a torn ACL. I was talking to someone close to the situation recently and was told Smith might not be 100 percent until 2011, if ever.

It will be fun to see how the 2010 rookie running back class develops. There were 14 running backs drafted. Seven of them went in the top 59 picks.

The Vikings' selection of Stanford's Toby Gerhart 51st overall will be judged against the four other running backs who were selected between Nos. 30-59.

Obviously, the player we'll all be watching and comparing Gerhart to is Best. The Vikings could have stayed in the No. 30 spot and taken Best. Instead, they traded down with the Lions and hand-delivered Best to a division opponent.

It's going to be a difficult comparison to make since Gerhart and Best are different types of players being asked to perform totally different roles. Best should have the better stats since the only way Gerhart becomes a feature back is if something really bad happens to Adrian Peterson.

But If Gerhart can fill Chester Taylor's many underrated duties (pass protection, receiving, complementing Peterson) on a winning team, wouldn't that be better than Best putting up better rushing stats on a losing team?

The other backs we can't help but compare to Gerhart will be Dexter McCluster (No. 36 to the Chiefs), Ben Tate (No. 58 to the Texans) and Montario Hardesty (No. 59 to the Browns).

The Vikings could have taken McCluster at No. 34, although it's hard to criticize them for taking a big corner (Chris Cook) over a 5-9, 172-pound running back.

The Vikings also could have taken Tate or Hardesty -- two big powerful backs from Auburn and Tennessee, respectively -- when they traded from No. 62 to No. 51. Particularly interesting in that scenario was the running back-starved Texans trading the 51st pick to the Vikings. Houston gave away Gerhart but then traded up from No. 62 to No. 58 to take Tate. Hardesty came one pick later to Cleveland.

The next running back wasn't taken until USC's Joe McKnight went to the Jets in the fourth round (112th).

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