Now that we’ve had a little time to let the Detroit Lions draft class of 2016 settle into our collective minds a bit, here are a few random observations I picked up from being in Selection Square in Chicago for some of Friday night and all but the final pick on Saturday.
Bob Quinn is a man of his word
At his early press conferences, the new GM expressed his displeasure with the state of the offensive line. He was not kidding. Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow in the first three rounds is a clear indication that Quinn is going to demand a lot more from his offensive line going forward.
Taking Joe Dahl in the fourth cements this destruction of status quo. Heck, even venerable veteran long snapper Don Muhlbach saw his replacement enter the building…in the sixth round, no less.
Almost unanimously, the offensive line has been the number one complaint from Lions fans for a long time. It has to be encouraging that the new regime identified the problem and acted swiftly to try and solve it.
Postseason All Star games matter
Every selection except the final one, Washington RB Dwayne Washington, who was eligible to play in a postseason all-star game actually participated in one. That includes Decker, who accepted his invite to the Senior Bowl but bowed out with an undisclosed medical excuse.
- Taylor Decker
- Graham Glasgow
- Miles Killebrew
- Joe Dahl
- Jimmy Landes
- Antwione Williams
- Jake Rudock
- Anthony Zettel
Glasgow thrived so much in St. Pete for the Shrine Game he earned the call-up to Mobile the next week!
A’Shawn Robinson was not eligible as an early entrant, but I did bump into him in the host hotel at the Senior Bowl, and he was spotted at one of the practice sessions taking in the action as well.
The Lions presence at both events was quite prominent. I’ve gone to the last five Shrine Games and nine Senior Bowls, and I’ve never seen more Lions at either event other than the year the Jim Schwartz staff got to coach one of the Senior Bowl squads.
It really stood out in St. Pete. I met the freshly hired Kyle O’Brien there, and I encountered at least four scouts and three coaches there as well. In the past, the Detroit contingency was often just Martin Mayhew and a smattering of scouts, none of whom were there longer than two of the four days of practices. O’Brien was there all week, as were the scouts, even on the sparsely attended final afternoon practice.
The Quinn regime clearly places value on the extra exposure and ability to get to know the players more extensively. These events are bonus time to interact with the players and see them in both a more professional and also a more informal setting. I saw O’Brien interview a couple of players at a poolside café in St. Pete, after all.
The passing offense is going to look a lot different
One of the bigger points is there are no wideouts in the draft class. That flies in the face of national pundits who boldly proclaimed wideout the biggest need on the team after Calvin Johnson’s departure.
Quinn and the Lions saw things quite differently, as some of us tried to tell those pundits. In signing Marvin Jones and Jeremy Kerley, Quinn filled the hole via free agency. And the void in the offense will be filled by spreading out the volume, not counting on any one guy to try and do what Megatron did.
That’s smart. Asking anyone to fill Calvin’s considerable shoes would be disastrous. That’s part of the reason why I railed against the idea of Laquon Treadwell or Josh Doctson in the first round; y’all would expect him–overtly or sunconsiously–to be like No. 81 and that’s a recipe for failure.
The Lions offense going forward will feature a lot of double slot formations and 11 (1 RB, 1 TE) personnel. Tate will continue to play both outside and in the slot, but expect lots of reps where Jones and Tate line up on one side, with Ebron flexed outside Kerley (or Theo Riddick) in the slot on the other side. You can also expect a lot of Riddick motioning out and Ebron starting flexed but moving in-line. This quicker lineup is less predictable, which means the Lions will be dictating the matchups, not the defense. As awesome as Calvin was, defenses knew what to expect with him lined up outside. He was just so physically gifted that it didn’t matter. Now the Lions have the variable personnel to force defenses into sub packages, and also better exploit teams with big safeties who lack quickness…which is most opponents.
In keeping with the passing offense, my biggest disappointment from the three days of the draft is that there is no new Lion blood at tight end.
Ebron is clearly the No. 1 and his role is going to expand. It’s a huge year for the 2014 first-rounder. I was hopeful the team would upgrade the rest of the corps and push out tired Brandon Pettigrew and ineffective Tim Wright. Free-agent signee Matthew Mulligan is not that guy.
That didn’t happen, other than a pair of undrafted guys I haven’t scouted yet. Casey Pierce from last year could step up, and Jordan Thompson was well on his way to seizing that Wright spot before tearing up his knee last preseason. Still, a more athletic receiving tight end and/or a more physical inline blocking presence would have been nice. The latter is arguably the biggest need on offense entering training camp.
In looking at the current list, there are a couple of guys I really think have chances to make it. I’ll explore this deeper in the next few days, but I think Quinshad Davis and Adairius Barnes will fare well in rookie camp and definitely get a chance once training camp rolls around. Fingers are crossed for CB Ian Wells from Ohio University, my alma mater. He’s got freaky athleticism and showed some ability to play the ball for our Bobcats. It’s easy to root for Simms McElfresh just for the name value alone.