Will Jones' injury alter Lions draft plans?

While the rumor that running back Kevin Jones is out till mid-season wallows in its infancy until it's either confirmed or denied, the possibility of losing their starter for that length of time would drastically alter (and clarify) the Lions' off-season plans.

If there is any validity to an NFL Network report that running back Kevin Jones could be out until the middle of the 2007 season, consider the Detroit Lions draft strategy rather lucid.

According to the report, Jones' Lisfranc fracture will require a recovery timetable of almost a full-year. Jones suffered the injury near the end of last season, and the team has been unusually mum regarding his status.

The report does, however, contradict a few leaks from Allen Park in early January that implied Jones could return in time for training camp. The Lions have yet to comment on the most recent report.

While the rumor wallows in its infancy until it's either confirmed or denied, the possibility of losing Jones for that period of time would drastically alter the Lions' off-season plans. With apologies to Shawn Bryson and Brian Calhoun, the absence of Jones would create an immediate need for a capable running back in Detroit's offense.

For both now, and in the future.

In spite of missing four games in 2006, Jones was involved in over a quarter of the team's plays from scrimmage, finishing just behind receiver Roy Williams in total yardage (1,209) while scoring eight touchdowns. He also caught 61 passes out of the backfield.

Simply put, replacing Jones' production won't come easy.

With a relatively weak free-agent class at running back (Packers' UFA Ahman Green might be an interesting, albeit unlikely option), the Lions would be inclined to spend their No. 2 overall pick directly or via trade on a running back they desire. While their draft position would still have leverage (although not to the degree it would if Jones' health was intact), Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson might be worthy of the No. 2 overall pick. They could also trade down to snag rising prospect Marshawn Lynch (California) in the middle of round one.

Both players would fit well with offensive coordinator Mike Martz's scheme.

Again, much of this speculation is based on the premise that Jones is out for an extended period of time. But even if he isn't, the oft-injured running back will force the Lions to consider all of their options.

What makes at least the thought of drafting a franchise running back realistic is whether or not Jones will ever fully recover from his most recent setback. If he's out until the middle of the season, or even training camp, a slow recovery could rob him of future potential. Just ask Charles Rogers.

A workhorse to be certain, and one of the team's few locker room and sideline leaders, the thought of Kevin Jones going the way of former Lion running back Billy Sims is unsettling. However, it remains a possibility, for which the franchise must be prepared.

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