The Lions finished in last place in the NFC North with a 6-10 record. Head coach Matt Patricia continues to try to model his team after the Patriots. They are making changes on both sides of the ball after firing their offensive coordinator and spending big on ex-Patriots DL Trey Flowers as well as adding ex-Patriot CB Justin Coleman to help on defense.
Team Needs Going Into the Draft
This is a team with a lot of needs, so we’ll only focus on the main ones. One of the most identifiable traits of the Patriot offense is running 2 tight ends and a lot of short and intermediate passes. The biggest missing piece this off-season was tight end, and it was started to be addressed by signing Jesse James for 4 yrs/$28.5 million. Even with James, they still needed more at tight end in the draft. Knowing that cornerback was another need, they used free agency again and signed Justin Coleman to a 4 yr/$36 deal and also picked up CB Rashaan Melvin on a 1 year deal. For the intermediate passes, they also used free agency and went with another ex-Patriot Danny Amendola. He’s 33 now though, and the draft could also be used to help here.
Pick 1: TE TJ Hockenson (Round 1 – #8 overall)
They addressed their biggest need on the first pick, and did it with one of the drafts “safest players.” Hockenson is the consensus best player for both blocking and receiving, and he will become the first option on double tight end sets. Hockenson has been one of my favorite players over the last 4 months of draft season, but I think taking a tight end at eight overall is generally something I would avoid. Still, he’s a great player.
Pick 2: LB Jahlani Tavai (Round 2 – #43 overall)
This pick was a bit of a surprise for me. If they continue to follow the Patriot way of getting a big hard hitting middle linebacker, I can see what they are doing. But they do already have Christian Jones, and they just spent a first round pick on Jarrad Davis in 2017. Davis is a great athlete, and Tavai isn’t. They must feel really uneasy in their situation to take Tavai this early, and he probably would have been available later, perhaps on day 3.
Pick 3: S Will Harris (Round 3 – #81 overall)
There were a lot of different “types” of safeties in this draft and the Lions traded up to get this one. He is more of a strong safety type, and he’s athletic and fast. He won’t provide a lot in terms of coverage, but he’ll definitely hit you. For me, I thought of him as a day 3 prospect and I question trading up for him.
Pick 4: DE Austin Bryant (Round 4 #117 overall)
Clemson had a great defense and Bryant was a caption on that team. He was also a senior and earned third-team All-ACC honors with 44 tackles, 14.5 for loss, and 8 sacks. He progressed through his 4 years at Clemson, but he may not have a high ceiling in the NFL. He will likely add depth.
Pick 5: CB Amani Oruwariye (Round 5 – #146 overall)
This is my favorite pick for the Lions this year. He has good height, decent speed, is good in coverage, plays the run, has ball skills, and can play in multiple schemes. Getting him in the 5th round is EXCELLENT value.
Pick 6: WR Travis Fulgham (Round 6 – #184 overall)
He has height, but not speed or quickness. He has reasonable hands, but he will never be more than a depth receiver. Still, he can block and be used as a 4th receiver.
Pick 7: RB Ty Johnson (Round 6 – #186 overall)
Doesn’t have a lot of vision and good cuts, but has some power and speed. He likely best role will be as a returner.
Pick 8: TE Isaac Nauta (Round 7 – #224 overall)
I like this pick. Nauta can both block and catch, but isn’t outstanding at either. He’s not a speed guy or a tackle breaker, but he is still a threat for catching the ball. On a team trying to fix the tight end position, this is solid value at the end of the draft.
Pick 9: DT PJ Johnson (Round 7 – #229 overall)
He’s a big interior defender that left school early. He can still develop and it’s worth getting a rotational guy that can develop with the last pick.
Undrafted Free Agents
I might actually like what they did in free agency better than what this did in rounds 6 and 7. Picks of LB Tre Lamar, DL Matt Nelson, OT Ryan Pope, and OG Beau Benzschawel all have potential to make the roster. Solid work here.
TJ Hockenson is a very good player, and I really liked the Oruwariye value. Tavai had better be a starter quickly to be worth #43 overall. Harris and Bryant probably every be a major impact. Overall, the Lions got more value in expensive free agency than they did in this draft class.
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