With the 2019 NFL Draft coming to a close, the Detroit Lions have a host of new players on the roster. As such, position battles will be a major theme leading up to next season, and a group of 2017 draft picks will face stiff competition to maintain a roster spot.
Positional competition is one of the most intriguing parts of the NFL offseason leading up to a new campaign. For their part, the Detroit Lions could have some spicy battles involving members of their 2017 draft class as they gear up for 2019.
Much was made of the Lions’ surprising second round selection of linebacker Jahlani Tavai. While he may have been a reach at such an early pick, he fits the physical mold of linebackers preferred by general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia.
Linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin, a former fourth round choice from 2017 doesn’t fit that profile, and has yet to find a consistent role in Detroit. Adding a big linebacker was a need, and Tavai’s addition means that Reeves-Maybin is facing a steep climb to find a way to stick on the team.
One of the other pressing needs for the Lions this offseason was the second starting cornerback spot opposite veteran star Darius Slay. The Lions did add corner Justin Coleman in free agency from the Seattle Seahawks, but he is likely headed for a role in the slot. In their endeavors to find a legitimate outside compliment to Slay, landing corner Amani Oruwariye in the fifth round was one of the biggest steals of the draft.
Oruwariye likely won’t be a starter right out of the gate. However, his selection along with other veteran holdovers and additions puts 2017’s second round choice, cornerback Teez Tabor’s future as a Lion in jeopardy. Tabor has essentially been a liability when on the field and if he is unable to hold onto a roster spot for 2019, he will likely wind up being one of Quinn’s biggest missteps.
Aside from Tabor, fewer Lions incumbents will be under more pressure this offseason than tight end Michael Roberts, another fourth rounder from 2017. Despite obvious physical gifts and red zone prowess, Roberts has been largely disappointing in his two seasons. Dropped passes, average blocking and some maturity issues have kept him from making any consistent contributions.
The Lions have comprehensively overturned their tight end group since the end of 2018. Naturally, first round selection T.J. Hockenson and free agent addition Jesse James are locks to make the roster. Add in a group of free agents and another late draft pick and Roberts has a steep climb to remain a Lion.
Thankfully for Detroit, the 2017 draft was not a complete whiff. Linebacker Jarrad Davis (first round) has had a rocky two first years, but he finished last season strong and is an important part of the Lions defense moving forward.
Wideout Kenny Golladay (third round) broke out last season to the tune of 1,063 receiving yards and is one the Lions’ primary offensive threats. He ranks a one of Quinn’s most shrewd acquisitions.
In his post draft wrap-up press conference, Quinn stated that the roster, specifically on defense, now basically represents the one he envisioned creating when he became general manager. If that proves to be an inaccurate, and more high draft picks from previous years don’t make the cut, it’ll be a strike against Quinn in a critical season.
Which of these 2017 draft selections do you think has the best chance of remaining on the Lions’ roster in 2019? Let us know in the comments section below.