Lions new regime must avoid second-round draft busts

Teez Tabor, Detroit Lions (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Teez Tabor, Detroit Lions (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

In recent years, the Detroit Lions have struggled to find solid contributors in the second round of the NFL draft. It’s one of the main reasons the Lions have found themselves in the basement of the NFC North division for the past several seasons.

Finding reliable starters in the first and second rounds is key to building a team through the draft. According to the Lions’ new special assistant to owner Shelia Ford Hamp and team president Rod Wood, former longtime linebacker Chris Spielman, you can’t buy a locker room in free agency. Spielman believes in building through the draft.

The new regime in Detroit likely agrees with Spielman as the Lions’ new general manager, Brad Holmes, was the longtime director of college scouting for the Los Angeles Rams after all. But if the new kids on the front office block elect to rebuild using the draft, they’re going to need to hit on more draft picks in the second round than their predecessors did.

Prior to the selection of Georgia running back D’Andre Swift last year, the Lions had a six-year run of bad luck drafting in the second round of the NFL draft. And that’s a round where teams traditionally find instant starters or, at least, future ones. For Detroit, it’s been riddled with draft busts.

Check out the Lions’ second-round selections between Swift and former Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay, who was the top Day Two selection by Detroit back in 2013.

  • 2013 – Darius Slay, CB – Mississippi State
  • 2014 – Kyle Van Noy, LB – BYU
  • 2015 – Ameer Abdullah, RB – Nebraska
  • 2016 – A’Shawn Robinson, DT – Alabama
  • 2017 – Teez Tabor, CB – Florida
  • 2018 – Kerryon Johnson, RB – Auburn
  • 2019 – Jahlani Tavai, LB- Hawaii
  • 2020 – D’Andre Swift, RB – Georgia

Out of this group, only Swift, Tavai, and Johnson remain on the current roster in Detroit. Kerryon has struggled with injuries his entire career, so much so the Lions drafted his replacement last year.

Tavai was acquired to fit Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme, the team’s former head coach. And he’s coming off a down second season where Pro Football Focus gave him a depressingly low overall grade of  32.1 for his performance in 2020.

Of all the busts on the above list, the most egregious is Florida cornerback Teez Tabor. Selected 53rd overall by Motown in 2017, Tabor would play in a total of 22 NFL games and not record a single pass deflection or interception. The Lions released him after only two seasons.

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If the new regime in Detroit is deadset on building their roster through the NFL draft, then they are going to have to avoid the Teez Tabors of the world. Otherwise, their odds of exceeding the results of their predecessors will be slim.