Detroit Lions Draft Review: Analyzing Every Pick

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Frank Ragnow

Analyzing Every Pick for the Detroit Lions in the 2018 NFL Draft

The Detroit Lions went into the 2018 draft with six picks after trading away their sixth rounder last offseason in the failed Greg Robinson experiment. While general manager Bob Quinn attempted to trade back and acquire more picks, the opposite occurred — twice. The Lions made some controversial moves and polarizing picks; let’s take a look at each one.

Round 1: Frank Ragnow, C/G, Arkansas

Ragnow was a late riser up draft boards, enough so that the Lions were forced to show their hand and grab him at pick twenty. The Cincinnati Bengals, New England Patriots, and Minnesota Vikings all reportedly had interest in selecting Ragnow.

Ragnow played right guard for 15 games in college, and he may start his NFL career there. That would push current right guard T.J. Lang to his more natural left guard. In turn, this would move left guard Graham Glasgow to his collegiate center position. As Bob Quinn told Ragnow when he was drafted, “we’re not sure what position you’re gonna play…. we’ll fit you in with the rest of our crew.”

While it would have been nice for the Lions to move back and acquire more picks, Ragnow is a versatile lineman with elite athleticism and a high motor who had first round interest for a reason.

Grade: A

For more on Ragnow’s fit with the Lions, head over to the day one breakdown of the pick.

Round 2: Kerryon Johnson, RB, Auburn

In the second round, the Lions surprised almost everyone, moving up in a trade with the Patriots to acquire Kerryon Johnson. The Washington Redskins, who owned the pick afterward, were reportedly planning on taking him. Instead, they moved back over a dozen picks and snagged the falling Derrius Guice. The Lions’ decision to move up may have been because of how much they liked him, but the fact that running backs were flying off the board at the time did not help.

Johnson, the SEC offensive player of the year, is an above average back who can do it all. He has good agility, but where he really shines is in his explosion, and it shows on the tape. He has drawn numerous comparisons to Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell because of his patience and ability to wait for a hole to open and accelerate through it.

While the Lions have made it known that they plan to operate in a running back by committee system, Johnson’s three-down ability should give him a premier role. For more of his highlights and how he fits in the Lions’ backfield, take a look at this thread of some of his best moments.

Early second round may have been a reach, especially considering the Lions gave up a fourth rounder. However, Johnson is still a great fit for what the Lions need.

Grade: B

Round 3: Tracy Walker, DB, Louisiana Lafayette

Walker was not a hot name coming from a small school; several reporters didn’t even know who he was when he was drafted.

For starters, he’s Lions cornerback Darius Slay‘s second cousin, so the Lions secondary now has blood relations. When it comes to film, however, Walker is a versatile, hard-hitting defensive back with a high ceiling. He’s a streaky player, but can completely shut opposing wide receivers down when he’s on his game.

Walker measures in as an above average athlete with good speed but middling explosiveness. He plays very physically and instinctively in coverage, which is risky but can pay off. In University of Louisiana-Lafayette’s matchup against Texas A&M this season, Walker was a big part of why Arizona Cardinals second-round pick Christian Kirk was held to just 34 yards the entire game.

New head coach Matt Patricia loves operating his defense out of three-safety sets, and with Lions safety Miles Killebrew having a disappointing sophomore campaign, Walker could step in and take over the nickel safety role.

While it may seem like a reach, Walker wast the third consecutive pick in which the Lions snagged someone just in time. According to various reports, the Carolina Panthers were considering taking him three picks later. The Lions were obviously very confident in picking him so early, as shown by the video footage of their war room at the time of the selection:

As a whole, Walker definitely has to improve his decision making and consistency, but easing him into the rotation as a third safety could help with that a lot. This pick was made with a clear bet on upside, but Walker seems to have a clear-cut place in the Lions’ defense.

Grade: B

Round 4: Da’Shawn Hand, DL, Alabama

Da’Shawn Hand is a powerful defensive lineman who many expected to go on day two of the draft. After he slid to the fourth round, however, the Lions saw an opportunity too good to pass up, trading away next year’s third rounder to get the Patriots’ current fourth rounder and select him.

When he met with the Lions at the Senior Bowl, Hand said the Lions planned to use him as a three technique and a ‘big end’ if they drafted him. This makes sense given his athletic profile, which fits him much better on the inside than the outside.

Bo Davis, who coached both Hand and current Lions defensive tackle A’Shawn Robinson at Alabama, is now the Lions’ defensive line coach, so the Lions surely have a good idea of how they would like to utilize Hand’s skillset.

While the Lions essentially spent a third round pick on Hand, he was definitively a day two prospect to begin with. The Lions desperately need help on the defensive line, and given their early commitment of draft picks to the offense, this was a necessary move or a player who could prove very effective in the Lions’ new defensive scheme.

Grade: A

Round 5: Tyrell Crosby, OL, Oregon

Crosby slid extremely far down draft boards and the Lions undoubtedly got a steal in round five. Crosby started off his career at Oregon playing right tackle. His junior year, he moved to left tackle but missed most of the season after suffering a broken foot in week three. Last season he came back and didn’t let up a single quarterback sack or hit in over 300 pass-blocking snaps. The film showed a likely day one prospect:

Teams were concerned about his foot, however, as it was reported his foot never fully healed and was weak. He had a late slide down draft boards in recent days and landed in the Lions’ lap in the fifth round.

While Crosby played his entire collegiate career on the outside of the offensive line, the Lions are planning on using him at guard, notably because they announced the pick as a guard out of Oregon. Crosby may be in line to be the aging T.J. Lang‘s successor.

Even with more pressing needs on defense, the Lions got a steal in round five with Crosby, who has the size, skillset, and willingness to succeed wherever the Lions decide to play him.

Grade: A

Round 7: Nick Bawden, FB, San Diego State

Nick Bawden was the man who most famously led the way for Seattle Seahawks first round draft pick Rashaad Penny in recent years.

The Lions have not used fullbacks much in recent years, emphasized by the release of 2015 fifth round pick FB Michael Burton after only two seasons with the team. The Lions instead opted to use linebacker and special teams ace Nick Bellore in a fullback/tight end role last season.

This selection, if nothing else, is an exclamation point on the Lions’ reshaping of the running game over the course of this draft. Bellore has been seen in offseason training activities working out with the fullbacks. The addition of Bawden makes it clear Patricia intends to make fullbacks a part of the offense.

I wrote earlier in the offseason about how the Lions’ backfield was likely to be shaped come the 2018 season, but with the addition of LeGarrette Blount along with Kerryon Johnson and now Bawden, there’s sure to be heavy turnover going into next season.

The Lions had much more pressing needs than fullback here, especially with Bellore being serviceable, adding a big body like Blount in free agency, and the likelihood Bawden would have fallen into free agency. It’s not a bad pick, however, as he is proven at the position and is obviously wanted in the offense given the overhaul of the run game.

Grade: B

Final Thoughts

The Lions definitely went more offense-oriented than almost anyone expected in this year’s draft. They sent a message, however, that they are committed to fixing the run game and expect significant improvement this year.

With significant holes along the defensive line and new personnel necessary due to Matt Patricia’s new scheme, it was shocking to see the lions only go defense once over the last three days.

Another thing that came as a surprise was the Lions’ decisions to move up to select Kerryon Johnson and Da’Shawn Hand. Going into the draft with only six picks, the Lions made it clear they wanted to acquire more, but circumstances simply played out in the opposite way.

As indicated by each pick’s grade, there were no picks in particular that were bad; all were warranted, reasonable picks that weren’t reaches (even if they seemed to be on the surface). It was a good haul with a clear commitment to fixing the running game.

Only time will tell how the class pans out for the Lions.

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