Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Detroit Lions 2013 Draft Results


The 2013 Detroit Lions draft strategy this year appeared to be all about upside. Not so much on what they already did but what they can do for the Detroit Lions in the NFL.

The players selected were all, to a man, your prototypical size, height, weight, speed or whatever measurable you care to use, correct for their position in the Lions schemes used. Failure of a draft pick this year will not be due to a player not having the measurables to do the job.

Every player also appears to have sound mental faculties. None of their profiles even hints at this being all about the paycheck. In fact, it would appear that they are all a little hungry to excel in the sport. Failure of a draft pick this year will not be due to a player not having his mind on football.

Every player appears to be more or less physically fit. Oh sure they may have suffered some bumps or bruises playing football but nothing to suggest any ailment will keep them from competing in training camp.

Every player appears to be lacking the reputation of being a party animal. Something could still come up, they are all 21 to 24 years old after all, but perhaps this draft class will be more or less law abiding citizens.

The Lions drafted 9 players in 2013, their individual measurables are in the post immediately below this one. Many reports have already been written, most of you reading this have read or heard multiple things about each player and everyone who is reading this will either be for, against or neutral on each prospect. I'm not going to try to change your mind, nor am I going to just rehash the same old stuff, but perhaps I can throw a new twist in on each player as I present my own beliefs as it pertains to them being a Detroit Lion.

DE Ezekiel (Ziggy) Ansah will be tried at both the left and right side to determine where he best fits at and so that he is exposed to playing both positions. Ziggy doesn't have a lifetime of football to fall back on so he's got to develop his style as he's being coached and find for himself what works and what does not. His coaches including his present one state he has the best instincts of any player they've seen. I've read that in his scouting profiles quite often as well. This will go a long ways in him seeing snaps this year. A typical drafted DE can take until his 3rd year before he is able to really excel in the NFL. They display an upwards trending curve in results as they learn the NFL version of being a defensive end. Many readers are concerned that Ansah because of his lack of experience will not progress like others do, some are quite adamant that he will fail completely. It is my belief that Ansah will succeed even though he is starting from a lower point in the arc. I believe his upward learning curve will within the same 3 years that others top out be quite extraordinary, passing many of them somewhere in year 2. There really isn't anything to stop him other then experience and that he is about to receive, in large doses. He'll make mistakes, especially early in his career, but if you are waiting for him to fail you may be waiting for a very long time. I wasn't adamant that the Lions draft Ansah, but I really hated the thought of them losing out on his abilities to change the game, and that is exactly what the coaching staff, front office, and even little ole me is looking for, game changers. Should you chose to read only 1 profile on Ansah then I would suggest this one, it pretty much covers everything good and bad. If I'm wrong? If he does in fact fail? Then the Lions will be in need of a new DE, and probably a new front office and a new coaching staff. But no pressure aye Ansah? Just do your thing, you'll fine.

CB Darius Slay was not my favorite draft pick. In fact, there were many who I would rather the Lions had drafted instead. Every scouting report I have ranked him as a 3rd rounder. To me he was a reach. But. He is the exact type of cornerback the Lions covet. Tall, strong, fast (very fast) and capable. He too is green and will require time to be all he can be and I have no reason to suspect he won't achieve becoming a very good corner. Drew Boylhart at the Huddle Report gave him a 2nd round grade and suggested strongly that playing Slay at free Safety would play to his strengths the best and that he could become an all pro safety. That would be fine, the Lions need another top quality safety, but it would appear Drew is the only one who believes that as I could find no one else that says it. Even the NFL must believe that Slay was going to be a top of the 2nd round guy as they had him in the green room during the draft. I was 99% certain the Lions would not draft a cornerback in the 2013 draft so it only took them until the 4th pick in round 2 to make me out a liar. If I'm going to be wrong then please ole football gods let me be so dead wrong that Slay becomes one of the best corners in the NFL. Really, I won't mind. Slay will play special teams and be worked into the defensive backs corp and once he achieves enough points with the coaching staff will likely start opposite Houston (which could easily be by game 1 this year). One or two of the other corners will also see a lot of time as the Lions are in nickel and dime packages (meaning more corners and fewer linebackers) nearly half the time on defense on average. For another look at Slay here's the link to his profile from the same site that I posted on Ansah above:

OG Larry Warford also needs time with the coaching staff and with the guys in the gym. Both of which he'll get. Most of the scouts I know believe that Warford would get drafted in round 2 which is where I had him ranked as well. He's as much a value as Clay was a reach (according to what I researched and to various scouts). He'll win the starting job this year and after the initial errors should grow into a very good to great starting guard for the Lions. I've read conflicting reports as to his ability to stunt and in screens, but I think part of that is due to his conserving energy to finish the game. Once the Lions training staff has his stamina up to par his ability to move around should also increase. He's going to be one tired pup for awhile, but if the training staff is able to do their jobs with him the sky is the limit on what this guy can achieve (as far as what any guard can in fact achieve). He definitely promises to improve the Lions run and passing game by solidifying the middle right of the Lions offensive line. It was the right pick in the right round filling a definite need for the Lions. Most fans would give this single selection an A+ grade even if they disliked one or both of the previous players taken. Warford's scouting report from the same site as above can be found here:

DE Devin Taylor needs good coaching. He was projected to be drafted in round 4 and he was, barely. Physically he can play the position although he's so tall he actually needs to gain another 10 pounds or so of muscle, thus the trainers for the Lions have work to do with this pick as well. I do not believe he'll be starting any time soon but he will be rotated in to create what havoc he can and to gain experience with what snaps he can earn. Once he has had the NFL coaching he needs and the training room time he needs (along with a proper NFL diet) he should begin to show more at defensive end than he has so far. In other words, Devin exemplifies the word "project". But he is a worthy project and he will actually be able to earn snaps during games to help the team and to gain experience, so he's in a pretty good spot to learn. Being he's a 4th round pick there are no expectations for him, thus no pressure, and that will allow him to learn the job at a proper speed. I look forward to watching him improve his game. His profile is found here:

P Sam Martin was selected by the Lions in round 5. I'm sorry, I'm not a proponent of taking punters (or kickers) early in a draft (I apologize to Jason Hanson and his fans and yeah, round 5 isn't all that early, but). He obviously was not the best player available or even in a group of them. He was targeted, plain and simple. But, he may (or should I say most likely will) win the starting punter job so it gives the front office the means to say they drafted 3 (or more) starters in the 2013 draft. Most scouting material doesn't include kickers and punters so providing a link here won't happen. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed with this pick either but who knows, maybe the Lions are now set at punter for the next 15 years, and perhaps he is just slightly better at punting then the next guy. Stay tuned (on the edge of your seat) for more on this as the season progresses.

This was also the round that the Lions traded down in for an extra pick, apparently they had no projects they wanted to draft earlier in round 5 and felt the best way to get value was to trade down, get that extra 6th round pick, and to draft a punter. While I can argue about whether there were any projects to pick from I can't argue with getting value for the pick in whatever way you can.

WR Corey Fuller is in the same boat as the rest of the Lions draft. He fits the part he was drafted to play but is in need of an NFL training staff and NFL coaching. His size and speed suggest the Lions hope he will develop into what they are looking for as their #2 wide receiver opposite Calvin Johnson. That's a tall order for a 6th round pick. As a rule, rookie wide receivers do not produce all that well in the NFL and take a year or more to learn the task. Fuller is a little greener then most but he might be on the same learning curve as other draft picks at this position are, it depends on how hard he works at it. How much playing time he sees this year will depend on his speed of development and how desperate the Lions are for help at wide receiver. I suspect we will see him more and more as the year goes on. His profile can be read here:

RB Theo Riddick was probably at the low end of the scale as far as the measurables go for his position. His height and weight is fine (for what the Lions want) but his speed is not quite there and his hands are a quarter inch too small for me to consider drafting him (and may be why he is noted to have a slight issue with ball security). His time playing wide receiver though will help him to make the team (being versatile) and he may end up winning the job of kick returner (if he can do the job properly). The Lions were looking for a RB to backup Bush if anything goes wrong and despite Riddick's slower speed he can probably handle the duties required given time... if just barely. Perhaps his desire to play will raise his floor and ceiling and provide him (and the Lions) with a good running back to have on the roster. While I won't say that Theo will ever be said to be worth his weight in gold (pause for the old timers to chuckle or roll their eyes) his utility man status should provide him with a comfortable living. But hold on, an utility man such as Theo is should be allowed a 2nd profile link, so here it is:

TE Michael Williams will be filling the Will Heller role on the team. In fact, he's nearly a Will Heller clone, but he'll be playing for a little less then half the money that Heller would get based on his veteran status. This pick is the Lions getting younger at a specific role, the blocking tight end slash full back role who can leak out from time to time to catch a first down pass. Hard to argue the need or the pick, as he was ranked to go nearly a round earlier. His profile is found here:

LB Brandon Hepburn was not predicted to be drafted. Most sites have no profile on him. He was what you would call a "flyer"... that is, a draft pick a team makes near the end of the 7th round when everyone you wanted is pretty much gone. Perhaps there was interest in Brandon from other teams as an undrafted free agent so the Lions chose to draft him instead of waiting, or perhaps he was the top man on their board remaining, or perhaps he was targeted to fill a special teams role. He definitely fits this year's draft motif, that is a raw (read as green) project. Perhaps the best link to put here is one from his local paper I think I shall call him the Professor, Professor Hepburn has a nice ring to it, maybe the nickname will stick.

So there you have it, a tidbit or two on each of the 9 draft picks. Six of which were on the Lions LH List, one they coached at the Sr Bowl and so did not need contact, one they may perhaps have been trying to hide their interest in so didn't make the list (WR Fuller), and then the flyer pick at the end who wasn't on the list either.

The Lions also signed or invited 14 undrafted free agents to the team, 3 of whom were on the LH list and several that I had ranked, 2 with draftable grades. I don't think the Lions are quite done trying to improve their roster so look for some deals in free agency to come (not high priced deals, perhaps some vets with a year or two left in the tank) and perhaps other moves as well. Who knows, they could even try to talk Jeff Backus to come out of retirement for one more go.

The team (Lions front office) has already tried to improve by drafting 9 players with upside, and signing some undrafted guys who also have upside, after selecting and signing a few key players in free agency. Their draft strategy appeared to be more focused (for good or bad we will have to wait to find out) as was their signings in free agency, so perhaps their self-evaluation this off season will produce desirable results. I can neither say I loved this draft nor can I say I hate it, but in analyzing it I can't say I disagree with the direction attempted. I wouldn't necessarily call it a swing for the fences so much as a strategy, to draft guys with the proper measurables for their respective positions with the proper upside for their draft slot. The higher the draft pick, the higher their upside. I can't say for sure, but isn't that what the draft is supposed to be about?

Good luck to the Lions drafted and to those trying out, make us fans proud and we'll make you kings.


spacecataz said...

Good breakdown, any thoughts on the "Almost Denard" pick? Also, how are you feeling about the LT/RT positions?

NetRat's Lions Blog said...

If there was someone they wanted in the 5th they'd have not traded down. That doesn't mean if Denard fell to round 7 they wouldn't have taken him, just not that high up in 5.

Everyone wants the Lions to draft better in the late rounds, yet many/most don't give those late rounders any chance to become starters then complains the Lions don't develop talent. I say, give the young guys a chance.

If everyone on the roster flops at LT then beg Backus to come out of retirement for one more year.