In his second draft with the Detroit Lions, general manager Bob Quinn looked to fill their primary defensive holes in the early rounds by selecting linebacker Jarrad Davis and cornerback Teez Tabor, both out of Florida. The Gators had a loaded defense last season and Quinn clearly spent a significant amount of time watching that team. While some were pushing for the Lions to add a running back, myself included, the Lions opted to not select a single player at the position. This means they will be relying heavily on the health of third year back Ameer Abdullah who missed nearly the entire 2016 season. Last year, the Lions chose a similar route in relying on the health of linebacker DeAndre Levy who was also coming off a injury filled season and the Lions were badly burned when he missed most of the season and the Lions suffered from a lack of linebacker depth the whole season. However, the Lions did fill some major needs on their defense. Here’s who they selected:
First round, 21st overall: Jarrad Davis, linebacker, Florida
Second round, 53rd overall: Teez Tabor, cornerback, Florida
Third round, 96th overall: Kenny Golladay, wide receiver, Northern Illinois
Fourth round, 124th overall: Jalen Reeves-Maybin, linebacker, Tennessee
Fourth round, 127th overall: Michael Roberts, tight end, Toledo
Fifth round, 165th overall: Jamal Agnew, cornerback, San Diego
Sixth round, 205th overall: Jeremiah Ledbetter, defensive tackle, Arkansas
Sixth round, 215th overall: Brad Kaaya, quarterback, Miami
Seventh round, 250th overall: Pat O’Connor, defensive end, Eastern Michigan
Lions 2017 Draft Grade: 7.5/10
Detroit Lions 2017 NFL Draft Review
The Best Player: Jarrad Davis
It is not too dramatic but Jarrad Davis was the Lions best pick by far. Davis will be able to make an immediate impact on the Lions defense with his diverse skill set. Davis is very athletic and brings both run stopping ability and pass rush skills and he can also play in pass coverage. While Davis does not have as high of a ceiling of some of his counterparts in this draft like Rueben Foster and others, he has a very low floor and his bust potential is basically non-existent, barring any injuries. Expect Davis to make an immediate impact in the middle of the Lions defense.
The Head-Scratcher: Kenny Golladay
The Lions picking Golladay in the third round is really confusing when there were still so many capable running backs available, which in my opinion is a way bigger need for the Lions. With Abdullah coming off a season-ending injury last season and the Lions having virtually zero run game last season, they could have really used a running back. Golladay does give the Lions someone who can stretch the field, which they lacked in 2016. He is big and fast and that is exactly what you want for someone trying to be a deep threat. However, receiver was not one of the Lions biggest holes.
The Surprise: Brad Kaaya
Whenever a team with a franchise quarterback like Matthew Stafford picks a quarterback it is always a surprise. Kaaya is certainly going to be a project for the Lions. His mechanics can sometimes be very poor and his arm strength is average but he has the intangibles and appears to have the type of game that can be molded and worked with which always attracts people in the front office. Expect Kaaya to battle with former Michigan quarterback Jake Rudock for the backup quarterback spot.
The Steal: Teez Tabor
Although Tabor ran an extremely slow 40-yard dash at the Combine and at his Pro Day, Tabor is a gamer. When you watch Tabor’s film, you can immediately see him making plays all over the field. Some teams were certainly disturbed by his speed or lack thereof, but the film has convinced many people he is worth the selection and especially in the second round. The primary concern for Tabor involves his ability to guard speed burners on vertical routes. Knowing this, the Lions will likely try to put him on the slower receivers and in the slot where Tabor can use his skill set more effectively.
Most Likely to Turn Heads in Training Camp
None of the Lions picks were huge head turners but many of them are very solid picks. Davis will have his athleticism on display during camp but many will likely be expecting this because that is the primary reason the Lions selected him. For late round players, Michael Roberts has the size that will likely stick out, especially early in the year before everyone is in pads. The Lions drafted Roberts to serve as the second tight end to Eric Ebron, who just had his fifth-year option picked up for $8.2 million. The Lions will be expecting big things from Ebron at that price tag, which means Roberts will be expected to be a force as a blocker.
Fourth round selection Jalen Reeves-Maybin is a small but athletic linebacker from Tennessee. The pick adds depth to the linebacking core that was extremely thin through pretty much all of 2016.
Cornerback Jamal Agnew, the Lions fifth round pick, is in the same category as Reeves-Maybin in that he will add depth to a spot the Lions desperately need. Agnew has impressive speed and clocked in under a 4.4 second 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. In addition, he had 11 interceptions in his career at San Diego. Agnew was knocked for his size. He’s 5’9″ and weighs 185 pounds, which will hurt his ability to play against receivers on the outside and will likely force him to play in the slot.
Jeremiah Ledbetter, the defensive lineman from Arkansas, was the Lions sixth round pick. Ledbetter provides the Lions some versatility as he is somewhat of a tweener and can play both defensive tackle and defensive end. In order to play inside, Ledbetter will need to put on weight, as he currently weighs 280 pounds, which is light for the position in today’s NFL.
In the seventh round, the Lions selected Pat O’Connor who played just down I-94 from Ford Field in Ypsilanti for the Eastern Michigan Eagles. O’Connor was the school’s all-time leader in sacks with 20 for his career. After being an underdog at EMU for years, O’Connor will try and channel those same efforts he made to turn around their football program to make the Lions roster that’s already fairly deep at defensive line.
The Bottom Line
The Lions walked away from the 2017 NFL draft with a very solid performance. They weren’t swinging for the fences so they didn’t hit any home runs. But they hit an RBI single. They moved things along and made their situation better.
The Lions are likely not done this off-season and rumor has it they are in the running to add free agent running back LeGarrette Blount who had a solid season with the Patriots in 2016. Blount had 18 touchdowns and largely served as a short yardage and goal line back. If the Lions are indeed planning on adding Blount, many of their other selections like Golladay in the third round make a lot more sense.
Picking Tabor showed real courage from Quinn who clearly does his homework, watches the tape and makes his decisions based more on what a guy can do on the field rather than in spandex running the 40-yard dash. This sounds like a simple concept but year after year teams fall into the trap of picking solely on speed and that is rarely an effective strategy.
Overall, this Lions draft rates as a 7.5/10. The Lions didn’t go for the real flashy moves and stuck to their guts even when this got difficult and players like Rueben Foster and Joe Mixon were still on the board. Although there were some questionable choices, this could be said about almost every team and the Lions did a nice job of picking based on where they had needs, specifically on defense. Expect many of the Lions picks to make a real difference in 2017 and beyond.