Well it’s taken quite a bit of time to get going on this, but real life can often get in the way of blogging. If you want the cliff notes version…I LOVED the Lions draft. Obviously my impression of the class is heavily weighted on the first two selections, but I’m a huge fan of how Brad Holmes moved around the board and was not afraid to be aggressive when the situation called for it.
1st Round, 2nd Overall: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Nothing like starting the draft off with a bang. Any time the player you want the most can fall right into your lap…man that is a good thing. Is Hutchinson going to be JJ or TJ Watt? Will he be as good as one of the Bosa brothers? Maybe not. But what I do know is that the Lions got one of the most NFL ready players in the entire draft and a guy that is an absolutely perfect culture fit. There probably wasn’t a more Dan Campbell player in the draft than Aidan Hutchinson.
Hard not to love this pick. A guy with a relentless motor and athleticism in bunches. I can’t say he’s going to win Defensive Rookie of the Year or have the same production that Micah Parsons had right away, but I do know that he is going to play right away and he will make an impact. How high his ceiling is remains to be seen, and I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that think it’s lower than the average Michigan fan. But what the Lions are getting here is a culture fit that will make plays and will ultimately make the team better and give them more juice to the pass rush. Everything they need to make their team and their pass rush better and ultimately that’s the goal with the draft. Make your team better with every pick you make and trust your coaches to get the absolute most out of them.
1st Round, 12th Overall: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama
Well everyone and their mother knew that the Lions had wide receiver on their priority list but I’m not sure there was anyone in the world that thought they would package picks and move up for one of the most explosive playmakers in the draft. I would not expect Williams to play early on in the year and I think he will ultimately end up on the PUP list and miss at least the first 6 games. But the Lions are not worried about winning a Championship this year. They’re working on building the best team they possibly can for sustained future success and adding a guy that can take the top off like Williams does exactly that.
I’m not going to insert every tweet…but man this was a fun thread to look at.
Trading picks 32, 34 and 66 for 12 and 46 was absolutely a monumental move by Brad Holmes. Amon-Ra St. Brown was essentially playing by himself at the end of last year so now you add DJ Chark and Jameson Williams to the receiving room and you have some legit playmakers to go along with TJ Hockenson and D’Andre Swift. Chark is plenty good of an athlete but adding a healthy Jameson to the mix part way through the year will give you a piece that will force defenses to not crowd the box. Without a deep threat last year (and Jared Goff’s propensity to throw underneath) it makes it hard to open up the run game or hit any semblance of big plays. Adding in these new threats to the offense will ultimately give the play callers more to work with (whoever ends up calling plays) and will give Swift and the other backs more room to run. It’s hard not to be excited about the element Jameson can bring to the offense once he is fully recovered. And no, I’m not worried that he transferred to Alabama to get out from under Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson. Alabama has a tremendous track record with wide receivers and I think Jameson will be a phenomenal weapon.
2nd Round, 46th Overall: Josh Paschal, DL, Kentucky
I thought this would be a spot that the Lions would target secondary help but they clearly felt they had to continue to add pieces to the defensive line. They have spent a lot of capital in the past two drafts revamping the defensive line and I think it is a group that is finally coming together. If you watched the “Inside The Den,” the Lions clearly loved Paschal and had their eyes on him for pick 34 if they had not traded up. As they said on the show, Paschal clearly has inside juice that they want and they are indeed going to use him and move him around the line.
Paschal checks a lot of boxes for the Lions with his versatility and the fact he was a three-time captain. That is the kind of culture fit this group has been targeting and I expect Paschal to play early and often. Not as a starter, but as a rotational rusher on the edge and inside while they move to having more four man fronts.
The Lions had the second most athletic draft class and you can bet that if Williams and Mitchell had been healthy enough to go through the testing instead of rehabbing that they would have gotten far closer to the Colts (who had a ridiculously athletic draft class). Again, if you’re catching any themes here…the Lions want athletic leaders and are not scared of previous injury history…they’re going to take shots on guys they like and are scheme fits even if they have some past injury problems. Always shoot your shot and do it with conviction.
3rd Round, 97th Overall: Kerby Joseph, S, Illinois
I was hoping the Lions would address safety earlier on in the draft but once they made the trade up for Jameson that was not going to be possible. Frankly, I thought the trade up to 12 was going to be for Kyle Hamilton or Malik Willis (thank god it wasn’t Willis) since safety was such a big need for them. It seems like Will Harris will end up staying at corner so that left them with only Tracy Walker and DeShon Elliott (and potentially Ifeatu Melifonwu if he goes through the position change they’ve discussed). Joseph gives them a guy that can cover sideline-to-sideline and while he probably will not be a day one contributor I think he has the potential to start in the future.
You don’t get 5 interceptions and 7 pass deflections in a season with poor ball skills. And adding playmakers in the secondary was definitely high on the Lions offseason priority list.
5th Round, 177th Overall: James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech
Another round, another box checked. The Lions did not have a 4th round pick but they managed to add depth to their TE room which was sorely needed. Unfortunately, Mitchell is rehabbing an ACL injury and there is not really a timetable on his return, but whenever that is, he will be a welcome sight.
Now, Mitchell is not going to be some gamebreaker that turns into the next George Kittle or something of that effect. He’s a good player and I think he’ll be a good TE2 at the very least. He’s an athletic pass catcher that can line up inline or in the slot. He’s a solid blocker as well and though he needs to make improvements, he has traits that the NFL loves. He was not overly productive in college which can always be a bit of a red flag…but he provides a versatile second option that should be able to be a bit of a mismatch for defenses when called upon.
5th Round, 188th Overall: Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Oklahoma State
I was hoping the Lions would take Rodriguez at 177 but ended up being lucky enough to snag him anyways. I’m a big fan of Rodriguez…he plays like an absolute missile. He’s undersized and can understandably have issues getting off of blocks, but if he can get a clear path, he makes plays and was insanely productive. Considering how much the Lions have invested in the defensive line, they should be able to do their jobs and keep the offensive line at bay and let Rodriguez and Derrick Barnes make plays.
I don’t expect Rodriguez to unseat Alex Anzalone before the season starts…but 130 tackles with 16.5 TFLs is absolutely ridiculous production. He literally averaged more than 9 tackles per game. And again, two-time team captain…so far the only player they had drafted to this point that wasn’t a captain was Jameson. Leaders and athletes.
6th Round, 217th Overall: James Houston, EDGE, Jackson State
It’s at this point in the draft that you start taking shots on toolsy guys and hope for the best…you could argue that starts in the 5th round, but I prefer to at least make sure you get guys that will make your roster right off the hop. Once you get to this point, you’re chucking darts and hoping someone sticks…many of these guys don’t last in the league for very long. I’m not going to sit here and tell you I know a whole lot about Houston other than he is athletic and raw.
It’s important to know that Houston did not start as an FCS player…he graduated from Florida and then went out looking for more play time. I don’t care what level you play at…70 tackles with 24.5 TFLs and 16.5 sacks as an edge rusher is a ton of production. I have low expectations for Houston in terms of his contributions and future production in the NFL…but he’s the type of toolsy player that has abilities you cannot teach in some areas and is absolutely worth taking a shot at.
7th Round, 237th Overall: Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State
Alright so there is always going to be one pick you do not like during the draft and for me it was this one. No, I’m not going to get bent out of shape about a 7th round pick taken this late in the draft but I am never a fan of taking a guy that is 25 and was in college for 6 years.
Things somewhat unraveled for him after he was a freshman All-American and he’s an average athlete but adding a depth player here that will probably end up cut in the a couple years is not the worst thing. I think at this point it’s better to add someone that is younger with more upside, but here we are. They cannot all be winners.
UNDRAFTED FREE AGENTS
The Lions brought in a handful of guys that have a chance to make the roster and a couple of them got some solid guarantees out of it.
Central Michigan WR Kalil Pimpleton
Appalachian State DT Demetrius Taylor
Appalachian State WR Corey Sutton
Tulsa WR Josh Johnson
TCU OT Obinna Eze
San Diego State RB Greg Bell
San Jose State TE Derrick Deese Jr.
Ferris State OL Zein Obeid
Michigan State OG/OT Kevin Jarvis
Southeastern Louisiana TE Nolan Givan
Virginia Tech CB Jermaine Waller
Miami (OH) CB Cedric Boswell
I think it’s safe to say that Eze and Jarvis will have a solid chance to make the roster based on the guarantees and at the very least will be practice squad material. My personal favorite addition was Kalil Pimpleton. Anyone that watched college football can tell you he was absolutely electric to watch during weeknight MACtion games.
For more in depth stuff on the UDFA’s feel free to check this article out.
All in all, I was very very pleased with the Lions draft class. They checked off a lot of needs and got some great players at positions of needs. They moved around the board when they needed to and stuck to their convictions and their evaluations. A lot to be happy about with Brad Holmes and Co.