Over the past week while I’ve been in Washington D.C./Arlington, VA I’ve managed to put this together. The overall winners and losers posts of the NFL Draft will come later this week, so keep an eye out for those. Overall, I thought the draft was a solid draft, a lot like last year to be honest where I liked their 2nd and 3rd round picks quite a bit and didn’t love the first round pick.
1st Round, 10th Overall: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Ebron was one of the few players that I didn’t want the Lions to draft at 10th overall. I’ll be perfectly honest, this was my initial knee-jerk reaction to the pick:
If you’re going to take a tight end in the first round, I’d much prefer for it to be later and for them to have traded down. My biggest problem with all of it is that I would have rather had Odell Beckham Jr. Ebron is a tight end with some drop issues, and though he presents a matchup problem, he doesn’t stretch the field as well as OBJ would have. That being said, I started to get a little bit more on board with the pick when you consider that Ebron lined up in the slot 70% of the time in college and is likely going to do the exact same thing in the NFL. He also had some terrible quarterbacks throwing to him so it’s not as though all of the drops were 100% his fault. With 3 tight ends on the roster (Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and Michael Williams), I’d bet that Williams will move to tackle. That’s what Charlie Sanders said could happen and the Hall of Fame Tight End seems like a guy who would be in the know on this stuff.
I don’t usually disagree with Mike Mayock, but Ebron is not a better athlete than Vernon Davis. Not even close. Ebron put up a 4.6 40-yard-dash at 6’4″ 250 lbs and added 24 reps on the bench with a 32″ vertical and a 10′ broad jump. All very, very good numbers for a tight end and a man his size. Meanwhile, Vernon put up a 4.38 40 yard dash at 6’3″ 254 lbs and added 33 reps on the bench with a 42″ vertical and a 10’8″ broad jump. I know those are just measurables, but it’s pretty clear who the better athlete is there.
I’ve compiled some links on Ebron and the ways that he will be used in the NFL for you to read, but the best way to think of it is he will be used a lot like Michigan uses Devin Funchess. He’ll likely just be a tight end in name only and a wide receiver when it comes to actual game situations. He’ll be a big mismatch lined up in the slot. Either it will be a size mismatch if the defense puts a corner or a safety on him and then it will be a speed mismatch with a linebacker on him. If you line up Ebron on the same side as Calvin, it will be nearly impossible to shade a safety over the top of Calvin and if they do, then you have Golden Tate or Ebron to burn them with. At the end of the day 62 receptions for 973 yards and 3 TDs is pretty solid for a tight end at a school with a bad set of QBs and I think he’ll be able to put up some very solid numbers in the Lions offense. The Lions had him rated as the second highest offensive player in the NFL Draft behind Sammy Watkins and offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi thinks he can be Jimmy Graham. If the pick works out, Martin Mayhew and the rest of the front office will look like geniuses.
2nd Round, 40th Overall: Kyle Van Noy, OLB, BYU
Kyle Van Noy is one of the few small school players that I actually enjoyed watching play in college. He’s a straight up gamer, even if his measurables aren’t all amazing. He weighed in at 6’3″ 243 lbs and ran a 4.71 40 with 21 reps on the bench and a 32.5″ vertical, but he can play the game. He’s a guy that gets turnovers for his team and if you need to watch any tape on him, look no further than the Holiday Bowl against San Diego State. Van Noy was once discussed as a late 1st round draft pick, but he hung around until the early second and the Lions did the prudent thing and traded up for him. He’s going to be a solid replacement for Ashlee Palmer and he’s going to line up at the Sam linebacker position. He’s also going to shift down to the line of scrimmage and be a stand up defensive end in the 4-3 under front, basically a nine-tech. He’ll pretty much be the Von Miller of this defense and he’ll play the weak side in the sub packages. I’m a huge fan of this pick and Van Noy was one of the few guys I wanted the Lions to pick up in the second round. The starting trio of Van Noy, Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy is a very good one.
3rd Round 76th Overall: Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
With the 3rd round pick, the Lions addressed the need of a backup center/center of the future. When Dominic Raiola’s career is over, presumably after this year, Swanson will be promoted to starter. Swanson’s 6’5″ 312 lbs and adds solid depth to the interior of the offensive line. He’s not the most athletic center or finely tuned blocker as some of the other centers in the draft, but he has a full year to adapt to the Lions system and learn the tools of the trade, something that is invaluable for an offensive lineman. He already practiced at guard and center during the mini-camp and he will certainly be the utility guy on the interior. He started 50 games in his career, so his durability is not a question mark which is always nice. He’s a smart player with a lot of experience snapping to the quarterback in the shotgun, which is another obvious key point. Overall, I like the Swanson pick and think he’ll be a great player in the future.
4th Round, 133rd Overall: Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah State
This pick was a bit more of a head scratcher, but simply because the Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin discussed liking having taller corners and Lawson is 5’9″. Lawson will primarily play as the slot cornerback, though he will get some time on the outside. He’s got decent speed (4.48 40) and he put up 16 reps on the bench at the combine. He’s a bit raw as a cover guy and he can get into trouble with his physical play penalty-wise, but he is easily the most physical corner in this draft. He totaled 34 pass deflections in 49 career games as well as 6 interceptions, so he has fairly solid ball skills. I’d expect him to be no more than a depth corner to start his career, but will eventually be the starting slot corner. Just remember, those that wanted a cornerback a lot earlier than this, their secondary isn’t that bad.
4th Round, 136th Overall: Larry Webster, DE, Bloomsburg University
The simplest way to put it, Webster is a completely raw project. Webster was primarily a basketball player in college and only played two years of college football but he is the son of a former Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle. He’s about 6’6″ 252 lbs and he had a 4.58 40 with 17 reps on the bench, a 36.5″ vertical and a 10’3″ broad jump. Based on the East-West Shrine game practices, he was one of the worst players there, but he obviously has serious athletic ability. I wouldn’t expect Webster to have any sort of impact until he learns the game of football and to play lower and have better leverage. Many teams even projected Webster to be a tight end and not a defensive end. He went a bit early for my taste, and I would consider him a reach, but a raw athletic prospect could turn into something good.
5th Round, 158th Overall: Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
One of my favorite picks of the Lions draft. Reid was great during the Senior Bowl game and really caught my eye. He’s 6’2″ 302 lbs with a 4.85 40, 20 reps on the bench, 26.5″ vertical and an 8’10 broad jump. He’s not that athletic overall, but he has a very good first step and is explosive. He may have played lesser competition during his career, but he had 2 sacks in the Senior Bowl game. If he develops like they hope, he could be a replacement for Nick Fairley since they didn’t pick up Fairley’s 5th year option. I would expect him to get into the rotation fairly early on in the year to help him develop.
6th Round, 189th Overall: TJ Jones, WR, Notre Dame
TJ Jones gives the Lions another receiver, and if Ryan Broyles never returns to form, I’d expect him to be the future 3rd/4th wide receiver. Jones is a very polished route runner and he gets solid separation, he actually reminds me a lot of Golden Tate. He’s good at catching the ball with his hands and not his body and does a good job accelerating through his breaks. He’s only 5’11” 188 lbs with a 4.48 40 and a 33″ vertical, so he’s a solid athlete but nothing groundbreaking. He had 70 receptions for 1,108 yards and 9 TDs last year with Tommy Reese throwing him the ball, so that’s pretty impressive in and of itself. He’ll add depth, but I don’t expect him to have much of an impact this year.
7th Round, 229th Overall: Nate Freese, K, Boston College
Nate Freese was the only kicker that the Lions invited for a visit to their facility, so it’s no surprise that they ended up selecting him. Unlike drafting punters, I’m okay with drafting a kicker because they actually contribute points to your offense. Freese was an 86.4% career field goal kicker and went 20 for 20 with a long of 52 yards last year. I don’t know much about him, but he seems like a solid kicker that has made a few clutch kicks.
Undrafted Free Agents:
The Lions list of undrafted free agents that they signed isn’t amazing, but it’s solid. I think that Cornelius Lucas is a lock to make the roster as the 4th offensive tackle, especially since they gave him a $20,000 signing bonus of their $80,000 or so allotment. Last year Joseph Fauria only got $12,500, just to give you an idea for how badly they wanted him. Lucas is 6’8″ so he’s quite a huge guy and even though he isn’t the most fleet of foot, he could have an impact down the road. I would say the only other undrafted free agent that I would keep an eye on would be Jerome Couplin. Couplin is a very raw prospect, but he’s a pure athlete. I’d expect him to be the fourth safety on the roster, or at worst, on the practice squad.
At the end of the day, looking all the draft picks and taking a week to process everything, I’d give this draft a solid B grade. Obviously you can’t give grades out until at least three years down the line once everyone has actually played an NFL game, but if I had to give out something right now, that’s what it would be. The Lions were able to add three starters in Ebron, Van Noy and Freese. A potential starter in 2015 with Swanson and then depth at other need positions; a solid but not flashy draft.
Here’s a complete list of the Undrafted Free Agent Signings and the guys invited to the Rookie Mini Camp courtesy of Pride of Detroit:
- QB James Franklin (Missouri)
- FB Chad Abram (Florida State)
- WR Andrew Peacock (Appalachian State)
- TE Jacob Maxwell (Louisiana-Lafayette)
- OT Cornelius Lucas (Kansas State)
- OG D.J. Morrell (Old Dominion)
- OG Alex Bullard (Tennessee)
- OG A.J. Dalton (Robert Morris)
- LB Justin Jackson (Wake Forest)
- CB Mohammed Seisay (Nebraska)
- S Gabe Lynn (Oklahoma)
- S Jerome Couplin (William & Mary)