Lions ready to find Jahvid Best's replacement

Leon Halip

Detroit needs a speed back to fill the hole left by Jahvid Best. Lions GM Martin Mayhew won't let one slip away this off-season.

The Detroit Lions need a fast running back. There's no other way to put it.

The Lions thought they had that with Jahvid Best, a first-round draft pick in 2010, but concussions kept him off the field in 2012 and he still hasn't been cleared to play, according to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press:

... Best isn't expected to play football again after doctors refused to clear him this season following a pair of concussions in 2011.

Best played in 16 games as a rookie, picking up 555 yards and four touchdowns on 171 carries. While he wasn't overly impressive running the ball, he did catch 58 passes for 487 yards and two scores. In 2011, Best played in just six games, rushing for 390 yards and catching 27 passes for 287 yards.

Now, the Lions need to find Best's replacement.

Here's what Lions general manager Martin Mayhew is looking for:

"We need that shifty back that can come in and be that change-of-pace guy who can catch passes out of the backfield, a guy that can run routes and get one-on-one with a linebacker," Mayhew said. "That's what Jahvid gave us, a guy with some juice, some elusiveness."

One potential replacement is Oregon's Kenjon Barner, who was the NCAA's fourth-leading rusher in 2012 with 1,767 yards. Barner is fast and can catch the ball, which would help the Lions' offense and fill Best's gap.

However, as Birkett notes, Barner also has a history with head injuries:

Midway through the 2010 season, Barner was knocked unconscious in a violent collision on a kickoff return against Washington State. He spent the night in the hospital, missed the next two games (plus a bye week) and has been mostly injury free since.

NFL teams will weigh Barner's concussion history as part of their medical evaluations this spring, but Barner said he doesn't think that should be much of an issue going forward.

"That was three years ago," he said. "I haven't had a concussion since then so I don't feel like that's too much of a problem.

Birkett also mentions Stanford's Stepfan Taylor and Florida's Mike Gillislee as potential draft picks for the Lions.

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