With their second round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions had options. They could take a corner. They could take a defensive tackle. They could also take a running back. With both Tevin Coleman and Ameer Abdullah on the board, they chose Abdullah to be their running back. The move was a bit shocking to Lions fans as Coleman was faster, more productive, and had better ball control. He was also viewed by some draft pundits as the 3rd best running back behind Todd Gurley and Melvin Gordon. Some scouts saw Abdullah as the third best running back, and apparently so did the Detroit Lions.
The Lions put a premium on players with outstanding character and avoided players with injury concerns. It is widely viewed that the Lions passed on Coleman, who visited the team for a pre-draft visit, due to concerns over his health. He injured his foot last season and played half the season on it. They also wanted a player, either at receiver or running back, who could return kicks and punts. Abdullah can do that too. When taking the blinders off, you can see the big picture view the Detroit Lions had when they took Abdullah in the second round. With that said, who is Ameer Abdullah?
Ameer has been solid in terms of production in college. He started for three seasons and recorded at least 1,000 yards in each season. He also had a 5.0 or higher yards per carry average. In his past two seasons, he recorded at least 1,600 yards rushing and 6.0 yards per carry. While those numbers are not the explosive numbers achieved by Gordon or Coleman, they show a consistent level of production which is important to the Detroit Lions. He is also one of the better receivers and returners in the running back class this season.
According to a review of Abdullah by NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, Abdullah has first round talent, but the major knocks on him are his ball security and his size. At 5’9 and 205lbs, he is a touch small for a running back. He is too small to fit the role of a power back and he does not have the speed necessary to be a speed back. He is best fit to be a rotational back in a system, which is how the Lions will use him. He is excellent in the passing game having not dropped a pass in two years which will help him fit into the pass happy Detroit offense. He is a decisive runner who does not dance behind the line of scrimmage and will finish his runs. Ameer is very unpredictable with the ball, which makes him harder to tackle, which is evidenced by him being credited with forcing 66 missed tackles in 2014 according to Pro Football Focus.
Ameer Abdullah‘s weaknesses are the biggest concern. He lacks speed that running backs his size typically have. He only ran a 4.60 forty at the combine, and his pro-day times maxed out at 4.53. He is poor in pass protection and tends to only give partial effort running routes in the passing game. The biggest concern is his ball security. He fumbled quite a bit at Nebraska and claims the fumbles were mental mistakes. Regardless of why they happened, he needs to clean those mistakes up. At the NFL level, games are won and lost based on turnover margin.
All in all, Abdullah is a solid pick for what coach Jim Caldwell says he wants in a running back. He fits into the pass attack that the Lions currently have, and his character was a huge draw for Caldwell. The lack of speed and pass protection skills are a concern for his production almost as much as his ball security is. If he can control the ball, Detroit’s new offensive line should give him a chance at solid yardage. If he struggles in that area, he will have a hard time seeing the field.