The Lions took 9 players during this year’s draft. Detroit made an effort to address its problems on both sides of the football. Below, I have my grades for each pick based upon when the player was taken. I’ll update this progress report after the preseason and then again at the halfway mark of the regular season.
ROUND 1 PICK 21 LB Jarrad Davis: The Lions are hoping he will do what he did at the University of Florida, bring a physical presence to the defense. A four-year college player, Davis will show up to Detroit as a player who isn’t afraid to lay the wood. When you analyze Davis you’ll find a guy who was a starter almost instantly as a true freshman in the SEC, which is impressive. He has a history of nagging ankle injuries but nothing serious as of recent. At 6’1 nearly 240 pounds, he has exceptional speed for his size, which means the Lions can keep him on the field on 3rd downs. Detroit was known to have a nasty and physical front line on defense during the Ndomakung Suh days but ever since his free agency departure, that unit has struggled with an identity. With Haloti Ngata and Darius Slay still in place, the addition of Davis will only add to what the Lions want to do on defense: bring back a physical defense.
My Grade: A
ROUND 2 PICK 53 CB Teez Tabor: We’re talking about a first-round draft pick here if it wasn’t for a horrible 40-time. Seems to me that management is fond of two Gators playing together. The Lions already have primary corner Darius Slay in place, so the real need is for a number two corner. Tabor has had some off the field issues which also propelled his draft stock in lowering, but the tape shows a late first-round talent. At 6’0, 200-pounds, he has good size for his position. Coach Caldwell will have to keep him in mostly zone coverage situations, as his lack of supreme speed might be an issue in press-man coverage. What you get in Tabor is excellent closing on the ball and a consistent tackler in run and passing situations.
My Grade: B-
ROUND 3 PICK 96 WR Kenny Golladay: Calvin Johnson a.k.a Megatron is gone. The primary receiver in Detroit is Golden Tate, who is really good but doesn’t present a big target for Stafford. That reality may be gone with this pick, as Golladay stands at 6’4, nearly 220 pounds. From the pride of Northern Illinois, Golladay is a versatile receiver. An All-MAC player who racked up 1,000 yards seasons in each of his final two years, Golladay also brings 4.5 speed to a big frame. The concerns for most scouts is his route running, an issue that wide receivers coach Robert Prince is confident that he can change. “He’s a versatile player that we think can play outside and inside,” general manager Bob Quinn said, and that’s exactly what the Lions need to complement Golden Tate.
My Grade: B-
ROUND 4 PICK 124 LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin: Not only another linebacker, but one from the SEC was taken first in round 4 by the lions. Not a lot of height at only 6ft, and has had a season-ending shoulder injury, but very productive when on the field. Making 100 tackles in each of the two years he started at Tennessee, Reeves-Maybin is simply put, a football player. You’re getting an athletic player with great tackling and instincts, that will compete for at least a special teams role from day one.
My Grade: C
ROUND 4 PICK 127 TE Michael Roberts: The Lions have seemingly tried to give Stafford bigger targets on offense and with their 5th pick, they did it again. Coming in at 6’4, 270 pounds, this is a solid tight end. What sticks out on tape is excellent blocking and the fact that he’s a huge red zone threat. When you look at Detroit, they have a need for big targets in the red zone and that makes Roberts a possible starter or rotation player from day one. You’re not getting an athletic freak at tight end with this pick. You are getting power, strength, size, and an ability to have a consistent big threat in short yardage situations.
My Grade: B
ROUND 5 PICK 165 CB Jamal Agnew: This pick for the Lions was all about getting faster. Agnew coming out of San Diego as a corner didn’t play against a lot of top receivers. You’re not getting a corner with good size or strength but he is exceptionally fast and brings athleticism to the table. 100-meter sprint champion who posted two sub 4.4 ties in the forty yard dash, Agnew brings Detroit another speed machine to go along with Ameer Abdullah. There isn’t consistently great technique on tape but there is a willingness to tackle in run support. The Lions add more depth to their cornerback group and have an immediate challenger for punt and kick returns.
My Grade: B-
ROUND 6 PICK 205 DE Jeremiah Ledbetter: The Lions orchestrated another defensive pick in the 6th round. Only playing two seasons at Arkansas, Ledbetter registered 7.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss during his tenure. At 6’3, 280, he isn’t the prototypical size for a defensive end, so the Lions will surely use him in specific situations. With Haloti Ngata as the leader of the D- Line, look for Detroit to use Ledbetter in specific packages most likely in pass defense coverage.
My Grade: C
ROUND 6 PICK 215 QB Brad Kaaya: This pick scratched some heads, including mine. Drafting a quarterback in any round seemed to be unneeded in Detroit. Perhaps the thinking behind this pick is to solidify a good backup quarterback as Stafford’s contract enters its last year. For the University of Miami, Kaaya left college football watchers anticipating a breakout season that never happened. Kaaya is an athletic quarterback with good length, whose accuracy mostly comes into question. To be fair, in Miami he was constantly getting hit so his accuracy questions may be answered once he’s behind a better offensive line. For a late 6th round pick, this doesn’t qualify as anywhere close to a gamble and if the project works out it could be a steal of a backup quarterback.
My Grade: C
ROUND 7 PICK 250 DE Pat O’Connor: Detroit uses their final pick to draft another defensive end. Slight durability issues have come up as O’Connor missed all of 2015 with a shoulder injury. He did return and play well enough to earn All-MAC honors and rack up 7.5 sacks. The Lions using another late round pick at defensive end proves one thing: they are looking for rotational players on the defensive line. The Lions obviously feel that their strength needs to be built in the back half of the defense, especially with having to face the best quarterback in the league twice a year. If Detroit is able to develop these late picks into solid rotational players, that would be a huge step for a budding Lions’ defense.
My Grade: B-