Saturday, May 10, 2014
Detroit Lions draft wrap-up
By Michael Rothstein
» NFC wrap-ups:
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.