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Ready to ride the Theo Riddick hype train?

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Fantasy footballheads have already been gifted with a pair of young running backs to froth over this offseason.

After Atlanta's Devonta Freeman was billed by Falcons brass at the combine as a workhorse-in-waiting, Detroit's Theo Riddick is now being touted as a breakout candidate after Wednesday's release of Reggie Bush.

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The offseason is a special place, a lawless frontier ripe for glowing puff pieces and spine-tingling overstatement.

Riddick is a talented young player, but let's look closer before hopping on the hype train, shall we?

"It depends on what we want to do, but he's capable of carrying it more than what we gave it to him," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said of Riddick last week, per ESPN.com. "But he's also, you can also see his numbers of out of the backfield, catching the ball. Things of that nature, they jump out at you.

"So he's got a unique skill there, but he's also a good ball carrier, so we'll see how that goes."

Riddick managed just 2.6 yards per carry off 20 attempts last season, while none of his 29 career carries have gone for more than nine yards. Joique Bell remains the clear-cut option between the tackles.

Still, there is no denying Riddick in space. The 5-foot-9, 200-pounder was a blast to watch on Game Rewind, exploding onto the scene in Week 6 against the Vikings with 75 receiving yards off five grabs. He piled up eight catches for 74 yards against the Falcons the following week, laying the bedrock for a passing-down role that saw him haul in 34 balls for 316 yards and four scores in his second NFL season.

Riddick's 2.45 yards per route run in 2014 were the best of any NFL running back, per Pro Football Focus.

"He's a good player, he's been productive and certainly we're going to use him in the future," offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi said in December.

Still, there is scant evidence to suggest that Riddick and Bush are interchangeable on the ground. Bush averaged 1,026 yards rushing per season between 2011 and 2013 at 4.6 yards per carry. Riddick has never run for more than 16 yards in a game. When he was on the field last season, opponents knew the Lions were angling to pass.

A receiver at Notre Dame before he took over backfield duties, Riddick's 4.68 speed certainly brings another dimension to Detroit's offense, but I side with Around The NFL's Kevin Patra in remaining leery about tagging him as Bush's replacement:

Bush was due $3.25 million next season. His release likely had as much to do with his unwillingness to accept a pay cut as anything they saw in Riddick. After all, Bush still showed juicy burst and versatility in space when healthy last season.

The Lions know what Riddick is, with general manager Martin Mayhew saying last week that he "can make a difference in the passing game." Detroit, though, remains a strong candidate to spice up the backfield through free agency and a runner-rich draft.

Will Riddick's role expand? Sure. Should we spend the spring and summer months churning out flowery think-pieces declaring his greatness? I'd pump the brakes on that operation.

The latest Around The NFL Podcast previews free agency and tells you which big-name players could be released. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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