Lions trade up to draft RB Kerryon Johnson in second round

Was SEC offensive player of the year

ALLEN PARK — The Lions addressed their need for a running back by drafting Kerryon Johnson from Auburn in the second round on Friday night.

Detroit made a deal with the Patriots to move up to 43rd to grab Johnson by giving up their fourth-round pick and the 51st overall pick in the second round.

Lions GM Bob Quinn said he knew there was going to be a run on running backs in the second round, and Johnson was the guy they wanted so he wanted to move up. It’s become quite common for him to trade with the Patriots, his former team. He said it’s just easier to make deals with people he knows.

Johnson had 285 carries for 1,391 yards (4.88 yards per carry) with 18 touchdowns last season. He also had 24 catches for 194 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Johnson ranks seventh best at Auburn with a kick return average of 25.12 yards.

Quinn said Johnson is a patient runner but accelerates when he sees the hole and knows how to finish.

“The (Lions) said be ready to go to work. It’s an extreme honor, it’s a great football team, I’m ready to go in and get to work,” Johnson said in a conference call on Friday night.

Coincidentally enough, he said one of his favorite running backs to watch is Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. “When you watch Barry Sanders, what’s not to like? He’s a fantastic running back, he’s a fantastic guy, he’s extremely exciting to watch, extremely hard to tackle,” Johnson said. “I wish I was alive at the time to get to watch him in person … Going to the same organization as him is awesome it’s like a dream come true,” Johnson said.

Johnson was the SEC’s offensive player of the year in 2017 and thinks playing in the SEC could help him take the big step from college ball to the NFL.

“The competition and the speed of the game is as close as you’re going to get to the NFL. Hopefully that helps with the learning curve and helps me succeed at the next level,” Johnson said.

Other than his pre-draft visit, Johnson said he’s never been to Detroit. He sounds excited about making the move.

(Photo courtesy of Auburn)

NFL draft analyst Mike Mayock ranked Johnson, 6-foot and 212 pounds, as the seventh best running back in the draft and projected he would be drafted in the second or third round. “He’s kind of a leggy, jump-cut guy. Good athlete, finishes runs, but I see him somewhere late two to mid-three,” Mayock said.

Johnson was Alabama’s Mr. Football in 2015 with 25 touchdowns as a senior and was also all-state in basketball.

The Lions had the NFL’s worst running game in 2017 averaging just 76.3 rushing yards per game. They drafted offensive lineman Frank Ragnow in the first round who should also help the run game.


Author: Paula Pasche

Paula Pasche, a veteran sports writer, covers the Detroit Lions for her Lions Lowdown blog. She has written two books, "Game of My Life Detroit Lions" and "100 Things Lions Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" which are available at bookstores and on She won first place for column writing from the Society of Professional Journalists in Detroit (Class B) in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and was The Oakland Press 2010 Staffer of the Year.

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