But he must have shown enough to impress the Lions, as general manager Bob Quinn has already named Abdullah the starting running back for 2017.
"It's a tough balance, but I think Ameer's [Abdullah] injury last year was sort of a fluke thing and he's back 100 percent," Quinn told reporters after April's 2017 NFL Draft. "Theo's [Riddick] dealing with a few things, but we think he's going to be ready to go, too. You can't carry 10 running backs. That's just the nature of what the NFL league rules are. You've got 90 guys on the roster and you've got to split them up as best as you see fit."
The Lions' website reported Monday that the team expects Abdullah to "play a featured role" in the offense next season. Abdullah, 23, had 158 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown on 23 touches through two games in 2016. He was then tabled with a foot injury on Sept. 18, leading to season-ending surgery.
Abdullah never missed a game at Nebraska and played all 16 games during his rookie campaign. That season he led the NFL with 37 kick returns for 1,077 yards. He also piled up 780 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns on 168 touches. The Lions did not sign or draft a running back this offseason. Abdullah is signed through 2018.
The Lions begin OTAs this week in Allen Park, Mich. Mandatory minicamp begins on June 13. Lions coach Jim Caldwell told reporters on May 12 that Abdullah is "awfully good."
"I believe this," Caldwell said. "I believe Ameer Abdullah, when he's healthy and rolling, he's awfully good. All you have to do is just take a look at the numbers. Don't listen to me. Look at the numbers and see when he's on the field for you what he does. When Theo [Riddick] is out there healthy for us, I mean everybody knows what he can do."
"Those guys create a punch and I don't think anybody in this room has any questions whether or not Zach Zenner can run the ball," Caldwell told reporters. "We've got a young guy in Dwayne Washington. Nobody really knows how good he can be, but he has talent. He has ability. We like what we see in that particular area and he's developing and then we've got Mike James as well. So we have a pretty good group of guys and obviously Tion [Green] is a part of that group in free agency. We'll see what happens, but I think overall, we've got some pretty good depth there. Now do we look to improve anytime that we can? You better believe it. Anytime we can we look and we see if it fits us and if it does we'll make that decision. If not, we'll move on."
Abdullah is a sleeper RB2 that can be employed as a PPR RB1 in good matchups next season. Look to target him after the fourth round in standard leagues. If Abdullah plays 16 games, look for at least 40 receptions and 800 rushing yards, paired with seven or eight touchdowns. Expect well over 200 touches for a healthy Abdullah.