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Is Jahvid Best the Next Barry Sanders?

Jahvid Best has been said to be the "Best" since Barry Sanders. Best has earned praise from seasoned veterans. Let's hope they're right.
Best made short work of the Spartans when they came to Cal.

Best made short work of the Spartans when they came to Cal.

OK, so Detroit Lions rookie Jahvid Best has impressed his peers.

That's phenomenal news for Lions fans, and to see a rookie earn the respect of veterans like Jeff Backus is encouraging.

Best scored two touchdowns in Detroit’s gut-wrenching 19-14 season-opening loss to the Chicago Bears on Sun., Sept. 12. The guy has skills, and his teammates aren’t afraid to say so.

But hold on just a minute, Backus - did you really say Best has "similar traits" as Barry Sanders?

To say they have similar traits is one thing, but a side-by-side comparison of the two is unheard of. Backus even went as far to compare Best to Tennessee Titans running back, Chris Johnson. Although Johnson wasn't specifically mentioned by name, I find it hard to believe Backus was talking about former Michigan State standout Javon Ringer.

"In my nine or 10 years of being here, I don't think we've had a running back with his skill set, the way he can cut and get upfield and his quickness, that stopping and starting and getting up to full speed," Backus said. "From watching Barry Sanders when I was a kid, he's got a lot of his traits.

"I hate to tag him with that, but he does. He's like the kid in Tennessee (Chris Johnson) who can take the ball at any point and score from anywhere on the field. Hopefully, we can take advantage of what he brings to the table."

And speaking of former Spartans, Julian Peterson, who was a vital component of Michigan State's defense during his collegiate career, threw out the Sanders-Best comparison, too.

Best must be something if Peterson endorsed him. Peterson has made a great living chasing down future Hall of Fame backs.

The former Pro Bowler and first-round draft pick Peterson said of the 5-foot-10, 200-pound rookie: "Yeah, I know, but that's the type of guy he is. He's like a Marshall Faulk and or a Charlie Garner - somebody who's not the biggest guy but can get in the trenches and still create stuff and make big plays. He's not just an outside guy, he can go inside."

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I like Best as much as anyone right now. The reports of his meteoric advancement would make any Lions fan smile. Best was one of the most explosive college football players two years ago, and the Spartans tried their best to keep the prolific runner under 100 yards on Aug. 30, 2008.

Michigan State's defense was close, as it held Best to 111 yards on 24 carries. He added a touchdown and 63 yards receiving en route to a 38-31 Bears victory.

Best was even talked about in regards to Heisman Trophy before injuries sidelined him.

So let's clear the air.

Sanders, while at Oklahoma State, won the stiff-arm trophy in 1988. He then proceeded to hit the ground running, and racked up rookie accolades faster than a Michigan football player can transfer.

The 5-foot-8, 203-pound defensive player's nightmare was named the Associated Press' Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1989. Sanders didn't stop there; he was a 10-time Pro Bowl selection. That's quite a feat, considering he made the team every year he was in the league.

The six-time All-Pro and first ballot Hall of Famer Sanders is arguably the greatest man to ever carry a football from the backfield in the illustrious history of the NFL. Few could argue Jim Brown, maybe even Eric Dickerson. Walter Payton's place in history would be a valid argument as well.

Sanders is third all-time in rushing with 15,269 yards. He is just over 2,000 short of Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith, who played four years longer; and reaped the benefits of having one of the best offensive lines in the history of pro football.

To compare players is human nature, rather, the nature of sports fans. We all do it.

But to compare a rookie to Sanders is absolutely insane. Insane, does that explain it? How about inexplicable, ludicrous or flat-out crazy.

Backus and Peterson know football. Both are seasoned veterans with more knowledge of who's going to be who than most scouts. I sure hope they're right about Best.