- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Staff Writer
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Here are some day-after thoughts on how the Detroit Lions did in the 2014 draft, with some time to sleep, reflect and also see the entire board of what they were trying to do.
The best pick the Lions made is probably second-round linebacker Kyle Van Noy. He fills an absolute need and Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew all but said Saturday night that he’ll be a starter in the fall. That probably means Ashlee Palmer’s job is in definite trouble as the third linebacker. But Van Noy gives Detroit some defensive flexibility. In person, he is a lot bigger than I initially anticipated. He’s put together pretty well.
I panned the Eric Ebron pick throughout the draft -- not because Ebron won’t be a good player, but because of who the team passed on at the point. Detroit desperately needed secondary help entering the draft and still needs help leaving the draft. Frankly, they needed defensive help overall, but they took care of some of those other needs later on -- including Van Noy. But Ebron felt more like a luxury. That said, if he becomes more of a wide receiver, which is entirely possible, it could end up being a very strong pick.
Speaking of the secondary -- this was probably Mayhew’s biggest failing during the three-day period. Of the team’s eight picks, Detroit used only one on its back seven -- in the fourth round on cornerback Nevin Lawson. Mayhew lauded Lawson’s speed, but his height stands out. For months, defensive coordinator Teryl Austin explained how important tall cornerbacks were and in his history, he has often preferred players over 6-foot. Lawson is 5-foot-9. When asked about that, Mayhew said he was a short defensive back, so he can’t be prejudiced about that. Nine corners went off the board in the fourth round before Detroit picked Lawson -- and one wonders how many of those were higher up on the Lions' board.
Fourth-rounder Larry Webster could end up being a good one -- but it won’t be for a couple of years. He played at small-school Bloomsburg and has a good pedigree since his father played in the NFL. But even Mayhew acknowledged he is very raw at the position. He seems like an ideal candidate to learn for a year before being counted on for anything.
Drafting kicker Nate Freese in the seventh round likely means either John Potter or Giorgio Tavecchio probably won’t be long for Detroit. The other will compete with Freese for the Lions’ kicking duties.
Really like the addition of Caraun Reid. He is probably a bit of a developmental project as a defensive tackle coming from a small school, but he is an extremely intelligent and well-rounded person having gone to Princeton. As with many late-round guys, he’ll make the team because of special teams at first -- and that is where he might excel. He appears to have a knack for blocking kicks, as he did that seven times at Princeton.
T.J. Jones could end up being a surprise as well. He’s a receiver from Notre Dame who had 70 catches for 1,108 yards and nine touchdowns last season -- and was targeted 109 times by Irish quarterbacks. He will likely put pressure on Ryan Broyles and Jeremy Ross in the slot for a roster spot and playing time.
Good chance third-round pick Travis Swanson won’t play much this season on offense, but he was drafted to be the team’s starting center of the future -- unless he ends up as a starting guard. It’s a fair bet he replaces either current center Dominic Raiola or left guard Rob Sims by 2015.
If Detroit can get some production out of its third-day players like it did out of the 2013 draft, the Lions’ draft will likely look a lot better in retrospect than it does right now. But that’s the thing with all of this. Until teams get on the field, this will all be speculation at best. A bit more informed speculation than before the draft, but we’ll see how some of these players fit.
The Lions’ undrafted free agents and tryout camp players won’t be official until at least Monday and things can change quickly, so until it is official, be wary. But former Missouri quarterback James Franklin tweeted he will be joining the Lions -- and since the Lions did not draft a quarterback this weekend, that seems like a pretty safe bet. Among the other players who tweeted they will be a part of either the Lions’ roster or rookie camp are Nebraska cornerback Mohammed Seisay, Appalachian State wide receiver Andrew Peacock, Kansas State offensive tackle Cornelius Lucas, Tennessee offensive lineman Alex Bullard and Oklahoma cornerback Gabe Lynn. The Detroit Free Press is reporting William and Mary safety Jerome Couplin, Robert Morris offensive lineman A.J. Dalton and Louisiana-Lafayette tight end Jacob Maxwell will also be undrafted free agents.
14hDana Wakiji / Special to ESPN.com