Detroit Lions: Revisiting the 2018 draft class three years later

Frank Ragnow, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Frank Ragnow, Detroit Lions (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Tracy Walker, Detroit Lions (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images)
Tracy Walker, Detroit Lions (Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images) /

Tracy Walker

Position: Safety
Selection: Round 3 / 82nd overall
Career Stats: 44 games played, 19 starts, 2 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 211 total tackles
Contract Status: Signed through 2021

Walker was another surprise selection in 2018. The little-known safety from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was likely not on too many draft boards at that spot, and for good reason. Only five Ragin’ Cajuns had been selected over the previous eight drafts prior to his name being called.

Regardless, Walker found an early role on special teams with the Lions and gradually saw his defensive snaps increase as the season progressed. With his growing experience and obvious versatility, he looked like a potential replacement at starting safety for the aging Glover Quin, who would end up retiring after the 2018 season.

By the end of his rookie season, Walker had a regular role on defense and looked primed to break out in 2019. His second campaign got off to an excellent start, as he played every defensive snap over the season’s first three games and notched an interception in a season-opening tie against the Arizona Cardinals. He was definitely trending upwards for a Lions team that was 2-1-1 at their bye.

However, the Lions would win just one more game all season, and big defensive plays from Walker would become scant. He also missed three games due to injury and was unable to build on the promise that he had generated during the second half of his rookie season.

2020 got off to a rough start for him, as he was pegged as the number three safety behind veteran Duron Harmon and second-year player Will Harris. His status behind Harris was particularly perplexing due to his unimpressive 2019 rookie season.

However, Harris’ early struggles in 2020 led to his defensive snaps being greatly reduced, and Walker was rarely coming off of the field by the middle of the season. A foot injury sidelined him for a midseason matchup with the Minnesota Vikings, and he finished the year without making much of an impact as the Lions won just two of their final eight games.

Walker enters 2021 as the unquestioned number one safety on the roster, leading a unit that arguably ranks as the Lions’ weakest. They did not draft a safety and have questionable depth behind their starters. However, Walker also enters 2021 on an expiring contract.

It seems unlikely that he will receive an extension before the start of the season, despite the lack of long-term answers behind him at the position. He’s an above-average player but has yet to realize the potential that many have seen in him over his three seasons.

Perhaps being freed from the restraints of the previous coaching staff will help him reach a new level. If not, he’ll likely be playing elsewhere a year from now and the Lions will be looking at wholesale changes at the safety position.