Detroit Lions draft review, 3rd round: Do 3 picks equal 3 busts or 3 contributors?


The 3rd round is where the Lions really need to make serious hay during the draft. Millen and Marinelli had 3 picks in a round where most teams expect to find contributors, if not starters. Sad to say, the Lions aren’t most teams.

That’s not to say the 3 picks will be busts, as all have NFL credentials. Hopefully the talent is there, but it’s not as if the Lions have mined gold in the draft’s 2nd day during the Millen era. They don’t get the benefit of the doubt from me, so I’ll have to actually see their picks produce before I can truly call this draft even remotely successful. As it is, there are some concerns…

3rd round (64th overall) Central Florida RB Kevin Smith

The Lions traded a 6th round pick in order to jump to the 1st pick of 3rd round. They used that pick on the prolific film director back, Kevin Smith. A talented runner who left college after his junior season, Smith put up Barry Sanders-esque type numbers during his final season at UCF.

"Rushing yards: 2567TD’s: 29YPC: 5.7Fumbles: 0 Carries: 450"

There’s a reason 450 is in BOLD. That’s an insane amount of carries at ANY level for ANY back. We’re talking 450+ times being hit, 450+ times taking punishment. Even if that punishment was in Conference USA, not exactly known as a football power conference, is it any wonder Smith decided to turn pro? He’d have nothing left for the NFL if he returned to UCF for his senior season.

In regard to Smith’s workload, there’s an NFL corollary known as the “Curse of 370.” As taken from the excellent Football Outsiders

"The 370-carry theory is generally summarized as follows: “A running back with 370 or more carries during the regular season will usually suffer either a major injury or loss of effectiveness the following year, unless he is named Eric Dickerson.”"

The most recent NFL back to suffer from the “Curse of 370” was Seattle’s Shaun AIexander, who declined so badly in 2007, he was released by the Seahawks. I’m aware Smith’s high workload was at a lower level, and he didn’t suffer the punishment of your typical NFL back, but that’s a lot of wear on the legs for a kid coming out of college.

Despite that workload caveat, Smith should be a good fit for the Lions. He’s big and durable (Obviously), and can move the pile, with the main downside being he lacks big time speed. In other words, he’s a Marinelli type football player. It’s obvious the Lions wanted Smith, and wanted him badly.

Why? Because Smith’s depth chart competition is Tatum Bell, Brian Calhoun and Avieon Cason.

Let’s hope the durability carries over to the NFL, as the Lions need Smith to become their feature back.

3rd round (87th overall) Florida State DT Andre Fluellen

Fluellen is a bit undersized for a tackle at 6′-2″, 296 lbs. When compared to ex-Lion Shaun Rogers, he’s actually svelte. His draft stocked dropped due to suffering through an injury filled senior season, starting only 5 games. With his FSU pedigree, I’d expect Fluellen to play quite a as a rookie, as part of the defensive line rotation. Depth is always welcome on the line, and Fluellen should fit right in.

With the drafting of Fluellen to join the defensive line rotation, I think it’s worth noting the Lions had to find 2 players to take the place of one Big Baby. (When you factor in their signing of free agent Chuck Darby) I’m not saying it was a mistake to unload the rotund one, as he needed to go for the sake of locker room chemistry, but it left a massive roster void on the line.

The Fluellen pick also tells us the Lions don’t expect much production from Shaun Cody. The Lions now have Fluellen to take Cody’s place next to the veterans Darby and Cory Redding, the starters manning the middle of the defensive line. For a player who at one time was expected to be a starter (When you consider his status as a 2005 2nd round draft pick), I think it’s safe to say Cody can be considered another Millen drafted bust.

3ird round (92nd overall) Purdue DE Cliff Avril

Another tweener (Marinelli has a thing for them, it seems, if you go by the drafting of the undersized Jordon Dizon and Fluellen), Avril has linebacker size (6′-3″, 252), and was scouted by some NFL teams as such. But he was drafted by the Lions to be a pure pass rushing defensive end. With Dewayne White on right side, the hope is Avril will pressure the QB from the left side on 3rd downs (Unlike the long gone Kalimba Edwards), as at 252 lbs, he’s not going to be playing on running downs.

This is another pick with Marinelli’s fingerprints all over it, as Avril is a lineman he can hope to mold in the model of his players in Tampa. Unfortunately, the Sarge hasn’t shown he actually can mold Lions, if you go by the high dollar/high profile flameouts of Big Baby and Edwards. But Avril does fill a definite need, and that’s more than we can say about many past Lions draftees.

Overall Grade: B-

I know, it’s the same grade I gave the day one picks, but it feels right. All 3 players drafted in this round fill a need, as RB, DT and DE were positions everyone thought the Lions needed to target as early in the draft as possible. So Millen and Marinelli get a passing grade for that alone.

But the players targeted by the M & M boys all have caveats. There’s Smith with his massive rushing workload and lack of burner speed, along with the size issues in regard to Fluellen and Avril. The linemen could also be considered slight reaches. Again, mostly due to their being undersized for their respective positions.

The Lions needed to strike, if not gold, at least a valuable metal on the draft’s 2nd day. Going by their 3rd round, I’ll say they struck silver. Not bad, all in all…

Next: The final 4 picks