NFC North: Caraun Reid

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- LaAdrian Waddle shook his head when he heard the number. The topic was his teammate, Ezekiel Ansah, and while he has an appreciation for how much the Detroit Lions defensive end has grown, the number put it in perspective.

On Thursday against Chicago, Pro Football Focus credited Ansah with 10 quarterback hurries of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

"Damn," Waddle said. "That's insane."

It's also been coming and everyone on the Detroit Lions has been seeing it. Ansah was drafted as a potentially raw, possibly developmental project with the fifth pick of the 2013 draft. His talent was evident. His potential was immense. His actual time playing football was limited after he arrived at BYU a basketball player.

[+] EnlargeDetroit's Ezekiel Ansah
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesEzekiel Ansah sacks quarterback Jay Cutler on Thanksgiving. The second-year player was credited with 10 QB hurries in the game.
Waddle first realized the growth a month before Ansah's 10-hurry barrage. Typically, Waddle focuses on coaching adjustments between offensive series and occasionally glances up to see what is going on during a game. Against Minnesota, with Ansah lined up against Matt Kalil, every time Waddle looked up, Ansah was making yet another play.

"Minnesota, when he was giving Kalil the work," Waddle said. "That's when I saw the difference."

It's a difference showing up every week. That Minnesota game stood out to many, in part because Ansah recorded five tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. Every week, though, Ansah is making some sort of improvement his arsenal.

Last season, he was still raw and learning the game. This season, he is still learning, but it is a different type of learning. He's not learning how to play, he's learning the intricacies of the game as he understands different fronts and how different linemen will approach different strategies.

He's been incorporating that now with the physical things coaches can't teach. What other players can try all they want to replicate but have no real chance of doing so.

Longtime center Dominic Raiola couldn't pick a specific Ansah play that stood out, but laughed as he said Ansah appears to be physically growing throughout the season. Yet as he grows, defensive tackle Caraun Reid said, he hasn't lost his speed.

It's speed and size and strength Reid saw a year before he was teammates with Ansah. He watched the Senior Bowl for the first time in 2013 because he realized there was a chance he would be playing in it one day. He remembers not knowing much about Ansah and some of the other players he watched that day, but it made him glad he was returning to Princeton for his final season.

Then he started playing with Ansah and the appreciation level for what the 6-foot-6, 278-pound second-year pro does escalated even more.

"His effort is incredible," Reid said. "You look at the way he, you'll see plays where he's on the field and yeah, he gets sacks, TFLs and all that, but you see his hustle down the field, literally zoom past people, and you're like ‘Dang, he's quick.'

"He hustles and gives maximum effort on each play and that's the reason he stands out, regardless if he's getting off the ball or getting downfield."

Lions coach Jim Caldwell lauded Ansah's movement as he has made 40 tackles with 6.5 sacks this season. Reid recalled watching a play against Arizona on tape after the game and seeing Ansah go from off the screen past everyone on the screen to help make a tackle from the other side of the field.

To a guy like Reid, a rookie, it is inspiring and helps drive him because he has to line up next to him. Here, though, is the potentially scary part for opposing offensive lines in the future.

"I don't think he's scratched the surface of just how good he's going to be," Caldwell said. "He's some kind of player and he's developing by leaps and bounds."
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions return from their bye to face the Miami Dolphins, kicking off the second half of their season. Here are four things to watch.

Fairley
1. Defensive tackle rotation: The Lions and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin have been good about being able to mask season-ending injuries to Stephen Tulloch, Nevin Lawson and Bill Bentley using various packages with multiple players to amplify their strengths in his system. Trying to do this with Nick Fairley's injury will be a bigger challenge because Detroit gives up 4.29 yards a rush when Fairley isn’t in the game compared to 2.5 yards a rush when he is. That is a major difference, and the hole that will challenge Austin the most. Expect to see a combination of C.J. Mosley, Darryl Tapp, Caraun Reid and Jason Jones in the middle.

2. Calvin Johnson's return: Johnson has looked like his typical self in the portions of practice open to the media this week, but offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi is still going to keep an eye on Johnson’s conditioning and how that right ankle is holding up throughout Sunday’s game. Detroit had already been playing Johnson fewer snaps than last season before the ankle injury to keep their star receiver fresh, but figure Lombardi is going to be watching it heavily again this week. That said, Johnson is quite motivated to make some plays in his return, and a focused Calvin Johnson is an even more dangerous Johnson than normal. He could be in line for a big day.

3. The running back split: Before injuries knocked Joique Bell and Reggie Bush out of various games in October, the running backs were going at close to a 50-50 split of snaps while very rarely ending up on the field together. Expect that to change Sunday. Between Bush, Bell and Theo Riddick, the Lions now have three capable backs who can make big plays and run routes out of the backfield, an offset tight end spot and in the slot. That gives Detroit more flexibility with its personnel, especially while the team’s tight ends continue to battle back from injuries. Expect to see more personnel groupings with two running backs on the field, but don’t be surprised if at least one is lined up as a receiver in those sets.

4. Containing Ryan Tannehill: This is somewhat related to the first thing to watch. Detroit’s defensive line has faced quarterbacks who can run this season in Cam Newton and Geno Smith, but none run the zone-read with the efficiency Tannehill has the past three weeks. Tannehill’s ability there means the Detroit front seven has to stay disciplined in its rush lanes and can’t freelance much because Tannehill can take a small crease and turn it into a big gain -- similar to what many college teams now run. If the Lions do a good job on the zone-read, they can force Tannehill to pass, and Though he has been very good passing, they turn him into a more traditional quarterback that way. Doing so helps Detroit immensely.
It took almost a week, but the Detroit Lions have signed the first of their draft picks.

Defensive tackle Caraun Reid, a fifth-rounder out of Princeton, officially signed his deal according to his agent, Mike McCartney. Terms were not immediately disclosed.

Based off of the salary for last year's No. 158 selection -- Seattle tight end Luke Willson -- he received a signing bonus of $178,532 and that was the only guaranteed part of his salary in his four-year deal, which was worth a little over $2.33 million.

Reid had 168 tackles in his college career and 20 1/2 sacks. The Bronx, N.Y., native also had 41 tackles for loss and blocked seven kicks during his time with the Tigers. All this after picking up the game in high school at Mount St. Michael.

"I had good grades before I started playing," Reid said. "I didn't start playing until high school. One of those caveats was that I had to keep my grades up and I kept competing in the classroom, kept competing on the football field and Princeton liked me and I was able to get in, which was I would say the harder of the two."

Now, he has his first NFL contract.

The biggest issue for Detroit the rest of the way is fitting in the rookie salaries under the cap, but that should be achieved by filing contract restructures converting base salary into bonus money that can be spread out over a player's deal.
It was a draft that started with criticism on Thursday night and ended with the feeling of an average draft -- not an average draft for the Detroit Lions, which isn't always good, but an average draft for an average NFL team.

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who does this every year, feels similarly. He seemed impressed about what the Lions could present offensively at their skill positions and, like I wrote in this space, really liked the selection of Kyle Van Noy in the second round. But Kiper also sees the the same issues everyone else does.

The Lions went into the draft needing help in the secondary. They leave the draft not much better in the area. Overall, Kiper Jr. gave the Lions a B-minus grade, right in line with what an average draft would be.

To read the rest of Kiper's analysis, check out this linkInsider.

In tandem with Kiper's analysis, draft analyst Todd McShay listed his favorite pick by team and, somewhat in line with what I wrote Saturday, he believes in Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid. The fifth-round selection has nice size, extreme intelligence and won't be counted on right away. He can develop into a role and has talented people to learn from in Ndamukong Suh, C.J. Mosley and Nick Fairley.

Here's what I wrote about Reid on Saturday -- and what McShay wrote about him Sunday.
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.
NFC wrap-ups: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- A wrap-up of the Detroit Lions' draft.

Best move: Trading up five slots to take linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the second round Friday night. He was clearly one of the top players on Detroit's board after the first day and a player the Lions front office has theoretically targeted for over a year after first seeing him while scouting Ezekiel Ansah in 2012. The Lions needed linebacker depth and someone who could be versatile enough to start right away. In Van Noy, they have a linebacker who can play every down and is both adept at rushing the passer and dropping into coverage, as evidenced by the seven interceptions in his career.

Riskiest move: Waiting until the third day to take any secondary help. That the team ignored both cornerback and safety throughout the first three rounds was more shocking than surprising, considering two of the bigger needs entering the draft. That they focused two of those three picks over the first three days on offense is even more so. For a franchise that has placed a premium on winning now while Calvin Johnson is still in his prime, not bolstering an area where the team's cornerbacks have questions about ability, age or productivity is somewhat surprising. Detroit might have hoped a cornerback would fall to No. 133 in the fourth round, but none of the bigger ones did and the Lions ended up with Nevin Lawson, who is the opposite of the tall type of corner defensive coordinator Teryl Austin covets. Lawson was a three-year starter at Utah State but had more than one interception only once, when he had four picks as a senior.

Most surprising move: The Lions focusing on offense for two of the first three picks after the team spent a lot of their primary free-agent dollars on signing receiver Golden Tate and re-signing running back Joique Bell and tight end Brandon Pettigrew. Detroit general manager Martin Mayhew continued to say throughout the draft that the team's defense and offense were not that far apart. He used the stat that the Lions were 15th in points allowed last season -- except Detroit lost a defensive end off of that team, Willie Young, whom it has yet to adequately replace and are still thin at safety. The Lions could have used another playmaker in the back end out of this draft, especially after passing on the secondary in the first day.

File it away: Mayhew said before the draft that a successful one would have three starters, three contributors and three developmental players. With eight picks, Detroit won't get there exactly through the draft, but if you were to project out, those starters in the 2014 draft -- likely most beyond 2014 -- are tight end Eric Ebron, Van Noy and kicker Nate Freese from Boston College. The contributors would be defensive tackle Caraun Reid (fifth round), wide receiver TJ Jones (sixth round) and center/guard Travis Swanson (third round). As far as developmental picks go, those could be Lawson (fourth round), defensive end Larry Webster (fourth round) and a likely undrafted free agent. Of course, as is with every draft, the true barometer of how this class fares will be beyond this season, if not longer.
Timmy JerniganMelina Vastola/USA TODAY SportsFlorida State DT Timmy Jernigan was viewed as a first-round talent in early mock drafts.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears knocked out a need at cornerback on Thursday in Round 1 of the NFL draft with the selection of Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller, and on Friday the team will stick to the plan of replenishing the defense in Rounds 2 and 3.

Despite perhaps more pressing needs at safety and linebacker, the Bears took a versatile cornerback in the first round. What's encouraging for the next two rounds is that this year's draft class is so deep, the Bears could still find players in need areas capable of contributing significantly as rookies.

[+] EnlargeEd Reynolds
AP Photo/Tony AvelarStanford safety Ed Reynolds makes sense for the Bears in the third round.
The Bears pick 51st and 82nd overall in the next two rounds, and with options aplenty on Day 2, I'd use the second-round pick on the best defensive tackle available since that position represents the best value. I'm more partial to Florida State's Timmy Jernigan (I don't care about the alleged failed drug test) or Notre Dame's Louis Nix than a boom-or-bust prospect such as Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman.

Then, in the third round, I'd look to add competition safety with a long, rangy prospect such as Stanford's Ed Reynolds.

Looking at the players still on the board, the Bears have several options available at defensive tackle in Jernigan, Notre Dame's Nix and Stephon Tuitt, Hageman, and perhaps even later in the draft with players such as LSU's Ego Ferguson, South Carolina's Kelcy Quarles and Princeton's Caraun Reid.

At safety, the Bears should strongly consider Reynolds. He picked off seven passes over the past two years and has an NFL pedigree, from his father, Ed Sr., who played linebacker in the NFL for 10 years. Dion Bailey of Southern Cal could be another option for the Bears at safety, perhaps in the third round, and Wyoming's Marqueston Huff is a potential pick even later (six double-digit tackle games; 20 stops against Utah State).

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Linebacker options are abundant, too. Brigham Young's Kyle Van Noy racked up 62 tackles for lost yardage over four years in college; he projects as a Sam linebacker in Chicago's scheme. Florida State's Christian Jones and Telvin Smith are also athletic possibilities for perhaps later in the draft.

Keep an eye out for Connecticut's Yawin Smallwood, who posted 332 career tackles and 9.5 sacks in college and met with the Bears at the NFL combine. New Bears defensive line coach Paul Pasqualoni is familiar with Smallwood, having served as head coach at Connecticut from 2011 to '13. Pasqualoni told the Hartford Courant, "[What] I really like about [Smallwood], which I think is a strength, is that he doesn't process what he sees. He just goes. Some guys look at it and they hesitate, then they go. He's not a process guy. He's a read-and-react guy, which is a big part of that position."

Perhaps Chicago general manager Phil Emery will pull one of his usual surprise picks and grab an offensive player. That wouldn't be too much of a stretch, because the benefit of a class this deep is that the Bears can legitimately find ways to address needs throughout all seven rounds.

Emery has been high on Texas Tech tight end Jace Amaro, who runs a 4.6-second 40-yard dash and made 106 catches last season.

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