The NFL draft is over and for the most part the Lions have concluded their additions to the team which means I’m going to hand out my grades for each pick. I’m also going to give an overview of the draft class, as well as awards such as, best pick, best value pick, most questionable pick, and most intriguing pick. I’m also going to share my thoughts on who I think will have the best and worst careers of the Lions 2013 draft class, because odds are one or more of these picks won’t pan out. Let’s get started.
Nov 03, 2012; Starkville, MS, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive back Darius Slay (9) points out where he needs a block after making an interception during the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Davis Wade Stadium. Mississippi State Bulldogs defeated the Arkansas Razorbacks 45-14. Mandatory Credit: Spruce Derden–USA TODAY Sports
Ziggy Ansah- I love Ziggy Ansah. The more research I do about him the more I like him. We all know about his outstanding measurables, 6’5, 271 lbs, with 4.63 speed. Aside from what I’ve seen on the field and at the combine, what really makes me a believer is his outstanding work ethic and humble yet hungry demeanor. He really wants to be the best and he certainly has all the tools physically and mentally to reach his goals.
The top three tackles were off the board so drafting Ansah was the only logical pick the Lions could make at five. With Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley commanding double teams in the middle of the defensive line Ansah finds himself in the perfect situation to succeed while working on his craft.
Grade: Great fit, fills a position of need, and drafted a player in the top five with one of the highest ceilings we’ve seen for defensive end. A-
Darius Slay Some may question why the Lions addressed the cornerback position in the second round with young talent like Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood, and Jonte Green already on the roster, but I really like this pick. Each of the players listed above are unproven and Slay could very well end up the best cornerback in this draft class. He’s got all the physical tools at 6’0, 200 lbs and he ran a 4.36 forty. He only played two seasons at Mississippi State, but he progressed considerably each year finishing with five interceptions his senior year in the battle tested SEC.
Grade: Much like Ansah, Slay is a bit of a risk based on his lack of football experience, but I’d bet on him to be one of the best cornerbacks in the class, because he has great instincts and a solid NFL frame needed for the position. B
Larry Warford- I don’t think there is an analyst or Lions fan out there that doesn’t like this pick. I projected Warford as a mid-second round pick and for the Lions to pick him up in round three and address an area of need makes this a great value pick. Of the guards in this year’s draft Warford was my favorite because his tremendous size and outstanding run blocking which is exactly what the Lions needed.
Devin Taylor: Picking up a player like Taylor in round four makes a lot of sense. He has the measurables of a first round pick, 6’7, 266 lbs, 4.72 forty time, but his production in college didn’t add up with his physical attributes. With Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley commanding double teams and Ansah and Jones likely starting at the ends, this is a great situation and scheme for Taylor that I ultimately expect him to excel at and eventually start in the next few years. If not, it was worth the risk picking up Taylor that late in the draft.
Sam Martin: There isn’t a whole lot to talk about with Martin, because we don’t know much about him. He had solid stats at Appalachian State, but most of us are curious as to why he was drafted so high. He had a pre-draft visit with the Lions so he obviously impressed the coaches enough for them to select him so high. It will be interesting to how this pick plays out, because getting a punter that can turn the field is a huge asset.
Corey Fuller: I questioned the Lions addressing the wide receiver position so late in the draft with solid options in rounds 2-5, but given the Lions lack of success in recent drafts in taking receivers early I don’t blame them. In all honesty, the best option for the Lions to draft a receiver early was Justin Hunter, who I believe they would have drafted had the Titans not jumped ahead of the Lions to select him. With that said, Fuller could have a very productive career in Detroit in the Lions vertical offense playing alongside Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, and Ryan Broyles. Only real problem is when the Lions will see that production from Fuller who has great size and speed, 6’2, 204 lbs 4.43 forty, but isn’t a great football player yet.
Grade: I envision Fuller starting the season as mostly a return man and special teams player who should get more opportunities as the season progresses. Good developmental player and good value for a sixth round pick. B.
Theo Riddick: Riddick is a good pick up, but hopefully a player we don’t see much of. He has great hands, can line up in the slot, he can run between the tackles, and he may be a a candidate to be a return man, but his role on the team will likely be as a sub for Reggie Bush because of his similar skill-set or in case Bush receives an injury.
Grade: Lions were smart to add another dynamic back and he could work his way into the rotation if Mikel Leshoure or Joique Bell have down years. B
Michael Williams: A productive tight end in the most competitive conference in college football, Williams will be a great asset blocking in the run game and filling the H-back role that Will Heller has played the past few seasons. He should also be a strong option in the red zone with his surprisingly good hands for his 6’5, 278 lbs frame.
Grade: Williams should have a huge impact in the Lions who have struggled scoring touchdowns in the red zone. Just having him on the field in those situations will help the run game, and give the Lions play action game a little more spice. I really like this fit. A
Brandon Hepburn: We don’t know much about Hepburn. He’s got great size for a linebacker at 6’2 ,240 lbs, he ran a 4.68 forty, and he recorded 86 tackles, 5.5 sacks, seven pass break ups, and a forced fumble, and he is a biochemist, a very interesting resume’ to say the least. What I can gather from the limited information I have on Hepburn is that he’s highly intelligent and a good athlete with ideal size. I wouldn’t sleep on this guy, he could pick things up fast and be a very productive football player.
Grade: I expect Hepburn to contribute on special teams right away. With an opening at linebacker thanks to Justin Durant’s departure and Hepburn’s skill-set he may be a sleeper candidate to enter the rotation at linebacker. If he turns out to be nothing more than a special teams player it was still a good pick up and an interesting one to say the least. I have may eye on this kid. B
Overview: This could be the best draft class in the Martin Meyhew era, because of the potential each player has. With that said, these players with high ceilings could turn out to be very average NFL players, bottom line is we just don’t know. Basically Meyhew has bet on his coaching staff to develop these players and I believe that they will. As of right now the Detroit Lions draft class receives a B+.
Best Pick: Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU round one
Best Value Pick: Larry Warford, OG, Kentucky, round three
Most questionable pick: Sam Martin, P, round five
Most intriguing pick: Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State
Best NFL career: Ziggy Ansah. He’s the biggest boom or bust player the Lions drafted simply because of where they drafted him. I’m leaning towards him being more boom than bust, because of the situation he’s in. His talents fit perfectly for a 4-3 defensive end and he’ll be playing with two of the most talented defensive tackles in the NFL in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairely, which should put him in an ideal situation for success.
Worst NFL career: This has to go to Brandon Hepburn. As intrigued as I am about him there are a lot of talented linebackers on the Lions roster already in Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis. He played at a small school and small school players have an uphill battle transitioning to the NFL. Odds are against him being anything more than a special teams player.