Best's tale of the tape: spectacular
Though he doesn't follow college football closely, Schwartz sought out more information and highlights. The more he saw of Best, the more enamored he became. Eventually, Schwartz had a DVD filled with the best of Best.
"Every running back has a highlight reel -- some a play or two, some 10 plays," Schwartz said Sunday in between Lions practices. "But there was nothing like that steady stream of highlights that [Best] put on tape."
What Best could do was just what the Lions lacked. Last season, Detroit ranked second in the NFL on runs of 4-plus yards, but they ranked dead last on runs of 20-plus yards. So Schwartz headed into the draft knowing the Lions would land defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, but praying they could find a way to get Best.
Schwartz sweated out most of the first round, tried to finagle his way back into it later on, and eventually traded up to the 30th overall pick. The Lions were able to use that pick to draft Best, who had fallen in the draft because of the concussion concerns some teams had about him.
Just like that, the Lions had the player Schwartz had been studying since November, the type of home run hitter that Tennessee got when it drafted Chris Johnson when Schwartz was the Titans' defensive coordinator, and the most dynamic running back in Detroit since Barry Sanders.
"He filled a spot on our team that we were lacking," Schwartz said.
From his days as a defensive coordinator, Schwartz knew defenses could always take one offensive weapon out of a game. The problem came when there were two.
Now Schwartz believes the Lions have two weapons -- Best and wide receiver Calvin Johnson -- to go along with the improvements they've made at tight end with Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler and at wide receiver with Nate Burleson and Bryant Johnson. Schwartz's man-crush on Best has not subsided. He is enamored with how Best catches the ball, not just out of the backfield, but 30 yards downfield. He is fully aware of the 8.1 yards per carry Best averaged in his sophomore season and his 7.3 career average at California. And he raves about Best's speed, which enabled him to run a faster 40-yard dash at the combine than the Bills' C.J. Spiller (the ninth overall pick) and win the California Interscholastic Federation 100-meter state championship as a high school senior.
"When you're the fastest person in California, there's a lot of countries you could be representing in the Olympics," Schwartz said.
Now Best is representing the Lions. The Lions hope -- and think -- they've won gold. Other observations from Lions camp:
Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.
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