Detroit Lions Find Nice Mix of Starting Talent, Capable Projects in 2014 Draft


Nov 9, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Utah State Aggies corner back Nevin Lawson (1) breaks up a pass intended for UNLV Rebels wide receiver Marcus Sullivan (18) in the end zone in the fourth quarter of an NCAA football game at Sam Boyd Stadium. Utah State won the game 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

The process of grading a team’s enitre NFL Draft has become a fools paradise recently. Fortunately, there’s a better way of looking at things.

Instead of handing out a letter grade A through D, folks should judge at a draft in terms of immediate starters a team finds. From that standpoint, this past weekend, the Detroit Lions collected a very good haul, securing at least three certain starters with the possibility of quickly adding a fourth.

First and foremost, there’s Eric Ebron, the tight end from North Carolina. What Detroit may have lost in not trading up for Sammy Watkins, they immediately gained by staying put and selecting the massive Ebron, who will quickly play a significant role for the offense over the middle of the field and command nearly as much attention as a top wide receiver would.

In the second round, Detroit made a mild move up to select Kyle Van Noy from BYU, a prospect who had more collegiate sacks than Jadeveon Clowney (26). In the process, they solved an immediate need at outside linebacker with a prospect who can bring the heat on the quarterback while having enough ball-skills to hold his own in coverage (7 career interceptions, 21 passes defended).

Detroit returned to their 2013 roots in the third round, nabbing Travis Swanson, a guard and center combo prospect from Arkansas. Though the pick wasn’t sexy and is likely the most questionable selection Detroit made other than Ebron, chances are Swanson can play a role quickly, as well. Should Detroit sustain an injury on the interior of the line (a definite possibility), Swanson will be able to step in, all while learning the ropes from Dominic Raiola for a future at center.

Seeing a responsibility to find a quality young kicker, Detroit grabbed their fourth potential starter from 2014 in Nate Freese from Boston College. Freese has the consistency and accuracy needed to succeed in the NFL,

Other than that, Detroit also did a fantastic job identifying possible diamonds in the rough. Larry Webster (fourth round defensive end), Nevin Lawson (fourth round cornerback), Caraun Reid (fifth round defensive tackle) and T.J. Jones (sixth round wide receiver) all fill needs at important spots while offering a tantalizing mix of talent and possible value.

Whether or not Swanson sees the field quick, between him, Lawson, Reid and Jones, at least one will get a chance to make a major impact early, surprising some considering where they were taken. There’s also a chance that Webster, though few know his name or his game, can evolve into a major difference maker on the defensive side of the ball. As the saying goes, you can’t teach height or athleticism for that matter, and Webster has both, along with an NFL bloodline.

In the days ahead, many will obsess about how to grade Detroit’s draft or what grade the team should receive. Save the letter evaluations for school. Each pick the Lions made was at a clear position of need. Detroit found three starters at the minimum, and some intriguing talents to develop, too.

All in all, that made for what should be viewed as a solid weekend of work.