I’ve had a few days to analyze the picks and think them over and I must say that I still cannot get over the Detroit Lions picking a punter in the 5th round. So here is a short rant before analyzing each pick:
Drafting a punter in the 5th round is just a lazy pick. They took a punter over Kenjon Barner and Andre Ellington and then drafted Theo Riddick. There is a 0% chance that someone would have taken that punter if they didn’t take him right then and if someone does draft him, who cares. It was that pick that showed the Lions organization doesn’t actually draft by best player available, even though they claim they do. They actually don’t have any sort of logical draft strategy. Once Denard Robinson got picked, they clearly didn’t know what to do, traded down and then realized they didn’t have a plan B and panicked.
The biggest issue is that in order for teams to be successful, you must be able to draft well late. Hitting on 1st and 2nd rounders is how you stay out of the Top 5 (usually) but drafting well in the 4-7 rounds is how you win championships. Just look at the Packers, Patriots, Giants, 49ers and Ravens. Look at any organization that isn’t as inept at drafting as the Detroit Lions. There were numerous players the Lions could have taken instead of a punter. Jesse Williams from Alabama, would have added depth at defensive tackle. Ricky Wagner an offensive tackle from Wisconsin to help add depth to the offensive line. David Quessenberry, Cornelius Washington, Bacarri Rambo, the list just goes on.
Only TWO punters were drafted and when you have limited picks, it’s ignorant to draft a punter. You can get steals in the last rounds and something tells me that this dude isn’t going to be the next Ray Guy. And even if he is, I don’t care, I’d rather find the next Terrell Davis or Alfred Morris. If the Lions had 15 picks and they used one of their compensatory 7th round picks on a punter, I wouldn’t care. Hell, even if they used a compensatory 7th round pick on a punter this year I wouldn’t have cared. But a 5th round pick is still a viable round to pick players that can contribute in some sort of fashion. Sure Nick Harris sucked last year, but he only punted the ball 67 times. Oh and this kid, Sam Martin, has never held for a left footed kicker before which is what we have with David Akers. Ridiculous. This pick greatly frustrates me, not because punters are unimportant, but because the Lions need other players at other positions. It’s almost the type of ineptness that makes me wish the Lions miss the playoffs and then they clean house. Almost.
Now onto the important stuff.
1st Round, 5th overall: Ezekial Ansah, DE, BYU
He was the one player I didn’t want the Lions to take with their first selection. As a team that needs players that can help now Ziggy isn’t one of them. Sure, three years from now he could be the best player to come out of this draft. But he could also be back in Ghana working as a teacher if he doesn’t pan out. He’s a project and has only started NINE football games in his career, let that sink in for a second. Sure his measurables are off the chart and he has some serious potential, but you don’t use Top 5 picks on guys with potential. Not when Dee Milliner and Barkevious Mingo, two proven players, are sitting there. I get that Ansah fits the wide 9 and that they fell in love with him at the Senior Bowl, but I’ve never seen a player have such a meteoric rise based on two weeks. If it weren’t for the Combine and the Senior Bowl, Ansah wouldn’t be getting drafted in the first three rounds, that’s just a fact. I’m not saying Ziggy is going to be garbage, but for a Top 5 pick, I have very low expectations for him next year. I’ll just be happy if he is starting to be quite honest.
If you’re wondering who the defensive end that lined up opposite of Ansah and completely overshadowed him the whole game it was Cornelius Washington. The Lions could have had both of them if they didn’t draft a punter. Just saying.
2nd Round, 36th overall: Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State
Some people were surprised that Slay was selected ahead of his teammate Johnthan Banks, who won the Thorpe Award for best college defensive back. Unfortunately for Banks, the NFL doesn’t care about college awards, they care about measurables. Slay ran the fastest 40-time at the Combine, posting a 4.36 while checking in at 5’11 7/8″ and 192 lbs. The Lions like their cornerbacks to be fast, typically those that run anything sub-4.4, which is why they stayed away from guys like Jonthan Banks and Jordan Poyer. Which is too bad because taking Poyer in the 7th round would have been a solid value pick. Slay is very good in man coverage and does a good job creating turnovers. His only negative is that he is a JUCO Transfer and so most of his experience is against lesser competition, but he was dominant in the SEC last year. I think that Slay will start opposite Chris Houston starting from day one and Bill Bentley or Jonte Green will play in the nickel spot.
3rd Round, 65th overall: Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
This was an absolutely fantastic pick. Warford and Slay were my two favorite picks of this draft and the only reasons why I wouldn’t call this draft a complete and utter failure (slight exaggeration). Warford is massive (6’3″ 332 lbs) and is a road grader with solid strength, putting up 28 reps on the bench at the Combine. Warford will be the starting right guard next year. The Lions appear confident enough in Riley Reiff to start at left tackle and that’s why they opted to take an offensive guard. Obviously given his size, Warford isn’t extremely athletic, but he’s a very good blocker and is good in tight spaces. He is a mauler and will be a beast up front and help open holes for Reggie Bush, while giving Matt Stafford more time to throw.
4th Round, 132nd overall: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
This pick will always bother me, especially if Taylor doesn’t pan out. I was begging for the Lions to take Denard Robinson here, and if Taylor doesn’t become a good pro, I’ll be furious. There was no reason to think that Devin Taylor wouldn’t have been there at the top of the 5th round. Taylor may be big (6’7″ 266 lbs) but he has an inconsistent motor. He has long arms and is good at run blocking, but the fact that he only had 27 tackles and 3 sacks while lining up opposite Jadeveon Clowney is a problem for me. Clowney commanded a double-team nearly every down and you’re telling me that Taylor wasn’t good enough to get more than 3 sacks? Yes, the Lions did need another defensive end, especially with a serious lack of depth on the strong side. I just think they could have taken Denard here and then five picks later taken Devin Taylor, rather than trade down. Taylor had decent measurables, except for his strength. He ran a 4.72 40-yard-dash, had a 35″ vertical and put up 14 reps on the bench. Taylor will need to add some weight and strength this offseason. His size and athleticism give him a great deal of potential and he could be a beast some day, but he’s got a lot of work ahead of him.
5th Round, 165th overall: Sam Martin, P, Appalachian State
See above rant for my feelings about this pick. All I know is Mel Kiper had this guy ranked as the 21st best punter in the draft and the only other punter that was drafted Mel had ranked #1. Say what you want about Kiper, but I doubt that he was that far off when rating the punters in the draft.
6th Round, 171st overall: Corey Fuller, WR, Virginia Tech
Corey Fuller is an intriguing pick, but he is a bit of a raw prospect. He’s a former track athlete who transferred from Kansas and then played two years of football at Virginia Tech. He has pretty good size (6’2″ 204 lbs) and Fuller’s slowest reported 40-time was a 4.45, with his fastest being a 4.28, he put up 12 reps on the bench and has a 31 1/2″ vertical. All very solid numbers for a wide receiver. He put up respectable stats last year catching 43 passes for 815 yards with 6 touchdowns in eight games. Fuller can play in the slot and on the outside, and my guess is that he is the eventual replacement for Nate Burleson. He’s likely to start out as the 4th receiver, with Mike Thomas and Burleson ahead of him, and will shift to the 5th receiver spot once Ryan Broyles is healthy.
6th Round, 199th overall: Theo Riddick, RB, Notre Dame
This is the type of pick that irritates me. It has nothing to do with him going to Notre Dame, I actually think Riddick is a decent player. But is he better than Kenjon Barner or Andre Ellington? No way. If they don’t take Sam Martin then they could take Barner or Ellington and then draft the punter here. It just doesn’t make sense, there is no way that the punter was that high on their board.
Riddick is probably the best pass catching runningback in the draft, because he used to be a wide receiver but the problem is he is slow. I mean really slow. He ran a 4.68 40-yard-dash. Sure you don’t run in a straight line that often, but I mean that is one slow freaking runningback. Riddick will be used as insurance for Reggie Bush and I wouldn’t anticipate him getting any significant amount of carries. I see him as a player that will also motion out into the slot and catch some passes. Riddick is a slower, less dynamic version of what Denard Robinson could have been with the Lions. Riddick meanwhile, has better hands and is a more polished route runner…for now.
7th Round, 211th overall: Michael Williams, TE, Alabama
Michael Williams was a great pick by the Lions this late. Tony Scheffler and Brandon Pettigrew are both free agents at the end of this season, and there is no guarantee that they will be able to keep both. And in Pettigrew’s case, they may not want to keep him unless he comes cheap. Williams is not going to be an elite pass catching tight end, but he is a fantastic blocker and is probably the best blocking tight end in the whole draft. He’s a big body (6’5 3/4″ 269 lbs) and has solid hands, but not elite hands. He’s not a game breaker speed-wise and will mostly have his impact felt as a blocker in the run game. He could provide a red zone option, but don’t expect much, last year he only had 24 catches for 183 yards and four touchdowns. This is another player, along with Ansah and Warford, that the Lions got to know at the Senior Bowl.
7th Round, 245th Overall: Brandon Hepburn, MLB, Florida A&M
I had hoped the Lions would take Chase Thomas the linebacker out of Stanford with this pick, but they decided to address the depth at middle linebacker instead. I’m not even going to pretend like I know what this guy is like on the field, but here is what ESPN had to say about him:
Hepburn has a great frame and thick trunk, providing him with strong point-of-attack skills. However, he lacks ideal instincts and fluidity in space. He can provide depth, but will need to excel on special teams to stick around.
I’ve got no problem with this pick, Hepburn has decent size at 6’2″ 240 lbs and it fills a need. Hepburn ran a 4.68 40-yard-dash, had a 32″ vertical and put up 21 reps on the bench at the Combine, so he is pretty athletic. Looking for depth on defense and a special teams player is about all you can ask for when you have a compensatory 7th round selection. Or you know, you could have taken a middle linebacker in the 5th round instead of a punter and then taken a punter here. But I digress…
In case you were curious, Michael Williams and Sam Martin were the only Lions draft choices that were not invited to the NFL Combine and seven punters were invited.
I don’t really like to do Draft Grades because you can’t truly grade a draft until 3-5 years down the road, but my grade as of right now is a B-. Could have been much better and could have been worse, barely above mediocre.
The Lions also signed a bunch of undrafted free agents and I was quite disappointed with who they signed except for Joseph Fauria. Fauria was the starting tight end at UCLA and went to the NFL Combine. I guarantee that he will make the team and the Lions will carry four tight ends, especially since they let Will Heller walk. Fauria is 6’7″ 259 lbs, and had 46 catches for 637 yards and 12 touchdowns, a very productive season for a tight end. Despite his size, Fauria isn’t a great blocker and will be more of a pass catching tight end in the NFL and he has pretty solid athleticism, posting a 4.77 40-yard-dash.
The rest of the Lions undrafted free agent signings are here:
Austin Holtz, OT, Ball State
Cody Wilson, WR, Central Michigan
Steven Miller, RB, Appalachian State
Michael Brooks, DL, East Carolina
Skyler Allen, C, Ohio
Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan
LaAdrian Waddle, OT, Texas Tech
Jon Morgan, LB, Albany
Martavius Neloms, CB, Kentucky
Alex Elkins, LB, Oklahoma State