His pick might not have received the loud response that Tim Tebow’s did, but former California running back Jahvid Best could turn out to be a steal for the Detroit Lions.
Tebow, who was not in attendance for the first round of the 2010 NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall in New York on Thursday, received a loud mixture of boos and cheers when the Denver Broncos selected him with the No. 25 pick.
Best went five picks later, and unlike Tebow, who will start out behind Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn on the depth chart, he’s got a chance to make an immediate impact as a pro.
Best was a touchdown machine during his three seasons with the Golden Bears, finding the end zone 29 times on running plays and 35 times overall. He rushed for 2,668 yards on 364 carries during his career, despite missing the final four games of the 2009 season with an injury.
It’s that injury that allowed Best to slip to the Lions at No. 30, otherwise the 5-foot-10, 200-pound back would have been long gone.
Best suffered a concussion on a scary play while scoring a touchdown during Cal’s 31-14 loss to Oregon State on Nov. 7. Best took a direct snap from the 7-yard line, ran left and attempted to leap over OSU safety Cameron Collins at the goal line. While in the air, Best was pushed by another Beavers defender, causing the Cal running back to twist sideways in the air and soar even higher; he fell at least five feet, and his helmet went flying as he landed hard on his back and head.
Best, who had suffered a slight concussion the previous week, was carted off the field and taken to the emergency room for testing. He missed the rest of the season with a concussion.
He says, however, that he’s completely healthy and ready to go.
“I’m fine with the concussions,” Best told Chuck Klonke for the Detroit Lions’ website. “I was checked out by the best doctors in the world.”
The Lions sure hope he’s fine.
Detroit’s incumbent starter at running back is 6-1, 217-pounder Kevin Smith, who will enter his third season coming off a torn ACL. After Smith, the Lions’ best option at running back is 30-year-old Maurice Morris.
So Detroit is counting on Best to be at his best for the upcoming season, if nothing else, as an insurance option should Smith falter.
Smith flirted with the 1,000-yard rushing mark during his rookie season of 2008, when he rushed for 976 yards and eight touchdowns. He tallied 747 yards and four TDs through 13 games in 2009 before injuring his knee in a 48-3 victory over Baltimore on Dec. 14, forcing him to sit out the remainder of the season.
Smith has indicated his recovery is on track, but the Lions don’t expect to have him back for fall training camp, and he might not even be available by the opening week of the regular season.
So Best could be pressed into action, sharing carries with Morris early on.
The Lions obviously think he’s capable of contributing right away, having given their second- and a seventh-round pick to Minnesota – as well as flip-flopping fourth-round picks with the Vikings – in order to get the opportunity to draft Best.
“He has magic as a runner, things you can’t coach,” Detroit coach Jim Schwartz told the Lions’ website. “He’s an all-around player. You can line him up as a wide receiver, you can put him in the backfield, you can hand him the ball, you can throw him the ball.
“This was a player we had a plan for exactly how we were going to use him on offense.”
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