Going into the 2017 NFL Draft it was known that this is one of the deepest drafts in recent history, if not ever. Fortunately for the Lions, the weakest positions were quarterback and offensive line and both of those starting units/positions are all set. There had been quite a bit of draft buzz leading up to Thursday that the Lions would be looking at tight end early and that David Njoku was the apple of their eye. For me, he was a no-go since I did not see a need to draft a second Eric Ebron. Thankfully, it appears that Bob Quinn and I are on the same page. I had hoped that they would also trade back in one of the rounds and add at least one more pick and they did exactly that. All in all, I was pretty pleased with the Lions draft. I’m at the point where Bob Quinn has my full trust and he should have yours too.
Let’s take a look at their picks, shall we?
1st Round, 21st Overall: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
If you read my draft preview or follow me on twitter, Davis was one of four players that I really wanted the Lions to target in the first round and two of those players were gone by the time the Lions got on the clock (Originally Gareon Conley was one of the four but then the rape allegation came out so that was a no go for me). Davis will step in and start immediately at the MIKE linebacker spot. Davis addressed a major need for the Lions. Last year, with DeAndre Levy out most of the year with injury, their linebacking group was brutal. They had issues covering opposing tight ends and they had a tough time in run support. One way to help out your defensive line and your secondary is to get a good crop of linebackers to improve the front seven.
Davis’ biggest issue is that he has some trouble staying healthy. But in terms of athleticism, technique and overall skill set, he is a damn good player. He can cover sideline-to-sideline better than most and he’s good in coverage, better than Mel Kiper gave him credit for. He really can do it all as a linebacker and he can be a leader in that front seven.
2nd Round, 53rd Overall: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
I would be lying if I said I was very happy with the Jalen “Teez” Tabor pick. He got absolutely torched by Jehu Chesson in Citrus Bowl in 2016. He’s a good player, but his slow 40 time is something I’m not a fan of. I do not like putting a ton of stock in just a player’s 40 time, but I also a not a fan of corners that run a 4.62 at the combine and then a 4.7 at their Pro Day.
That all being said, Tabor is a scheme fit and he’s a playmaker. The Lions run a lot of zone coverage on defense and his lack of high-end speed should not be an issue there. On top of that, you’re not drafting him to be your #1 corner, you’re taking him to be your #2. He was talked about as a first round pick going into the pre-draft process, so obviously the talent is there. He had 33 pass deflections last year to go with 8 career interceptions, so he can make plays on the ball. One of the many things that the Lions defense did not do well last year was take the ball away. Overall, I do not love this pick, but I trust Quinn and as I said, he is a scheme fit.
3rd Round, 96th Overall: Kenny Golladay, WR, Northern Illinois
Kenny Golladay was not a player I was expecting the Lions to take in the third round. I thought they would look at a tight end or a defensive lineman here but they went a different direction. The best part about the Golladay pick is that the Lions do not have a wide receiver on the roster like him. Marvin Jones is 6’2″, TJ Jones is 6′, Golden Tate is 5’10”, Keshawn Martin is 5’11” and Jace Billingsley is 5’9″. Golladay is a whopping 6’4″ 218 lbs and has a great catch radius. At the Combine, Golladay ran a 4.5 40, put up 18 reps on the bench, a 35.5″ vertical and a 120″ broad jump. He’s very athletic for a receiver his size and he will immediately become a red zone threat. Drafting him allows them to put him outside and move Golden Tate to the slot on occasion and gives them their first big receiver since Calvin Johnson retired. Golladay will need to improve on his route running but he is a deep threat and tracks the ball very well. Not only that, but he’s shown that he can beat press coverage with quickness and strength at the line, which is a big asset. You do not put up back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons at Northern Illinois with Joe Nobody throwing you the football without talent.
The Lions ended up trading down before they made this pick and I was convinced it happened because they were looking at Chris Godwin and Tampa Bay took him the pick before the Lions were on the clock. Now, Quinn says that they were already making the trade before Godwin got taken but did say that there was a run on players that they wanted before they could make their pick. Something I found to be quite interesting…have to wonder which player(s) they were targeting.
4th Round, 124th Overall: Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee
JRM was a guy that I thought the Lions would look at later in Day 3 of the draft but Bob Quinn said that he was a guy that was in the Top 10-15 of their board going into Day 3. JRM is a talented player, but like Davis, had some injury issues. He has great instincts, like Davis, and while he’s undersized he has good range as a linebacker. He’s going to come in and compete to start at the WILL linebacker position and has some great cover skills. The big thing with the Lions two linebacker picks is that they are instinctive and they can cover. It’s clear that Quinn knew this was a need and went out and addressed it in a great fashion. Had he not gotten hurt, JRM would have likely been a second round pick and he has some great pursuit ability.
4th Round, 127th Overall: Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo
Roberts was one of three tight ends that I wanted the Lions to take in this entire draft so I’m quite happy with this selection. I was hoping for Roberts, Jake Butt or George Kittle. Unlike Butt and Kittle, Roberts is an absolutely massive human being. He’s 6’4″ 270 lbs and has tennis rackets for hands.
11 1/2″ hands. That is completely ridiculous. Now before you ask, no, he is not an Eric Ebron replacement. As Bob Quinn put it, Ebron is an F Tight End and Roberts is a Y Tight End. Roberts ran a 4.86 40, so he’s clearly not a burner but that’s good speed for his size. He’s going to be another red zone target for Stafford, 10 of his 16 TDs at Toledo last year came in the red zone. He’s more advanced as a receiver than you might expect and he’s a solid route runner. The one area that he needs the most work at though is his blocking.
For some reason the Lions did not embed Roberts’ highlights in a tweet, so you can check them out here.
5th Round, 165th Overall: Jamal Agnew, CB, San Diego
In years past I might have known who Agnew was, but I simply do not have the time any more to know who he is. What I can tell you though is what I have heard and what I saw.
Agnew is 5’9″ and ran a 4.35 40 and he will be a slot cornerback. Once he gets comfortable with that at the NFL level, he’s going to be in the mix to return punts. He is a willing tackler and he looked pretty good making plays on the ball. He set a school record with 59 pass breakups and was described as a junkyard dog. Obviously, he played at a lower level of competition so I do not anticipate him having an immediate impact on the defense next year.
6th Round, 205th Overall: Jeremiah Ledbetter, DE/DT, Arkansas
Ledbetter’s greatest asset is that he can play multiple positions on the defensive line. Quinn says that they’re going to start him off at defensive tackle, but I would not be shocked to see him lined up at multiple spots on the defensive line throughout the year. I do not think he has the skill set or the speed to be an edge rusher and I think he’ll get the majority of his snaps inside to be a difference maker. He’s only 280, so they’ll need to decide if he should bulk up to play defensive tackle or stay undersized and excel as a pass rusher in the interior. One thing the Lions defensive line struggled with last year was getting pressure from the defensive line in the passing game. Haloti Ngata and A’Shawn Robinson are big run stuffers, so Ledbetter gives you a bit of a different, more versatile presence inside.
6th Round, 215th Overall: Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami (FL)
Bob Quinn has said that he will look to draft a quarterback at least every other year so this pick should not come as a surprise. In terms of value, it’s fantastic. Getting a player in the 6th round that can actually have an impact on your team is rare, so it’s better to take a shot on Kaaya and see him develop into your backup quarterback. I know there are plenty of Michigan fans that like Rudock, but Kaaya has far more potential to develop into an NFL player. At the end of the day, if either of them are playing, the Lions are toast.
Kaaya has experience playing in a pro-style offense and if I remember correctly, had three different offensive coordinators the last three years. Kaaya has good enough arm strength, accuracy and athleticism to play in the NFL. But, he has some problems with his decision-making and his arm strength is not high-end. He’ll get happy feet too often in the pocket and can be late on his throws due to his indecisiveness. For a 6th round pick, the value is there though and he’ll compete with Rudock for the #2 spot.
7th Round, 250th Overall: Pat O’Connor, DE, Eastern Michigan
O’Connor is another guy that I do not know anything about. What I do know is that he adds some depth/competition to the defensive end spot for camp. He had 20 sacks in his career at EMU (a school record) and while he does not have the speed or ideal range for an NFL defensive end. He’s 6’4″ 275 lbs, plays violent and was a three-year captain. Something we have come to know is that the Lions, and specifically Bob Quinn, love guys that were captains in college.
In the preview, I said that the Lions met with 6/10 of their draft picks in the pre-draft process and that you should expect at least 50% of the guys they draft this year to fit that same rule. This year, 5/9 players they picked were guys they reportedly met with during the pre-draft process. This means that you can have a pretty good idea each year of who the Lions are going to take if you pay attention to who they are meeting with during that process.
After going through the Lions’ Draft, I’m going to give it a B/B+, just like last year. They were safe and smart with their picks and addressed needs. It may not be as “flashy” as some people wanted but it was effective. Some may have wanted the Lions to take a DE or a RB earlier in the draft, but the Lions are clearly comfortable with their group at those positions. Quinn said that they looked at addressing running back in the middle of the draft but did not think anyone that was available would be able to beat out anyone currently on their roster. I’m inclined to agree with him. Getting two linebackers that can improve their coverage on defense, two big red zone receiving options for Stafford and a corner to start opposite Darius Slay were big additions. I’m happy with this draft and you should be too. I cannot wait for next fall and I have high expectations.
If you want a closer look at the Lions depth chart heading into training camp, I highly recommend this piece from Kyle Meinke.
Undrafted Free Agents
It’s still a bit early for these to reported and truly finalized but here’s a look at who the Lions have grabbed so far via CBS Sports.
- Alex Barrett, DE, San Diego State
- Maurice Swain, DT, Auburn
- Noel Thomas, WR, Connecticut
- Michael Rector, WR, Stanford
- Storm Norton, OL, Toledo
- Leo Koloamatangi, OL, Hawaii
- Des Lawrence, DB, North Carolina
- Robert Tonyan Jr., WR/TE, Indiana State
- Brandon Barnes, TE, Alabama State
- Tion Green, RB, Cincinnati,
- Jeremiah Voloaga, DE, UNLV
- Josh Thornton, CB, Southern Utah
- Nick James, DT, Mississippi
A final note, one thing that always sucks is all of the underclassmen that declare and do not get drafted. It’s not the end of their careers for them by any means, and you never know what their family situation is, but it always sucks to see so many guys get bad advice.
Photo via: @Lions