The Detroit Lions have had landed three key players in the third round of the NFL Draft since 2016. Will they find another contributor there in 2019?
When the Detroit Lions traded wide receiver Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles in October of last season, they lost one of their most productive offensive players. They had no viable replacement for him at the time, and the offense wilted. What they got in return however, could allow them to follow one of their most recently successful roster building patterns.
The Lions own the Eagles’ third round pick (88th overall) in this year’s draft thanks to the Tate deal. Despite the fact that losing the veteran wideout caused the Lions’ offense to spiral downward in the second half of 2018, that selection could be the difference between a good and great draft for the Lions in 2019. In particular, round three has been very kind to the Lions.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn has had his draft misses, most notably taking cornerback Teez Tabor in the second round in 2017. That year, receivers JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cooper Kupp were taken subsequently, as well as running back Alvin Kamara. All three have gone on to have major impacts with their respective teams.
However, the Lions landed wide receiver Kenny Golladay at the tail end of round three that year too. Golladay wasn’t heavily scouted coming out of Northern Illinois University, but the Lions’ staff did their homework, and selected him. He’s fresh off of his first 1,000 yard receiving season and is firmly entrenched as the Lions’ number one receiver.
This came a year after the Lions landed Michigan center Graham Glasgow in round three in Quinn’s first draft. Glasgow, one of three offensive lineman selected by Detroit that year, is hardly a household name around the NFL and not a star. Heck, how many casual NFL fans would recognize him if he was standing in line behind them at a Meijer?
Glasgow, though, is the definition of a rock solid NFL player. Since 2017, he has missed just one of the Lions’ offensive snaps. That’s the kind of player you want anchoring your offensive line. As he readies for year four, he was the recipient of a collection of performance bonuses this past March, and is a prime candidate to receive a contract extension before the start of next season. Another check mark for round three.
In the 2018 draft, little known safety Tracy Walker out of Louisiana-Lafayette was sitting there with the Lions on the clock at number 82. His selection was certainly surprising at the time, but the shot of Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia’s hearty handshake and ear to ear grins after choosing him clearly showed that they landed one of their hidden targets.
Walker’s impact was small in his rookie season, playing behind veteran safeties Tavon Wilson, Quandre Diggs and the recently released Glover Quin. However, he showed enough flashes and heady play last year to warrant a longer look in 2019, particularly in the wake of Quin’s departure. He’s certainly one to watch going forward on defense, and could be the latest success story for the Lions in the third round.
It’s debatable, but the Lions have arguably had more success with their third round picks under Quinn’s watch than earlier rounds in terms of value. Their first round choices during that span – left tackle Taylor Decker, linebacker Jarrad Davis and guard Frank Ragnow – were all day one starters, and are key pieces as well. But they’ve each had their bouts of inconsistency too, and are under more pressure to perform better this season, with so much at stake.
The Lions had a very productive – and expensive – free agency period, filling several roster holes in the process. Still, their primary roster needs (edge, cornerback, tight end) remain unchanged. One or more of those needs could be addressed in earlier rounds, but count on Quinn sticking with a “best player available approach”, rather than targeting a specific player to fill a specific need by the time round three arrives this year.
Whomever the Lions select in the third round (we have them taking an offensive lineman in our latest mock), they were wise to wedge themselves back into that stanza for this year’s draft, regardless of the cost. Their recent third round picks have become some of the most important players on the team. Another find this year could mean progress for the Lions in 2019 in a pivotal season for many of their main personnel.
Which player or position do you think the Detroit Lions should target in the third round of this year’s draft? Let us know in the comments section below.