NFC North – 2014 Draft Recap

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Detroit Lions

I really like the Lions draft, except for the fact that they didn’t address the cornerback position with an early pick. I understand the logic behind the TE Eric Ebron pick at 10 overall. They just resigned TE Brandon Pettigrew, but he’s not a weapon in the passing game and has been dropping passes in key situations for the last few years. TE Joseph Fauria had a nice rookie season but I don’t see him as anything more than a red zone threat. The Lions chose to improve a strength (passing game) instead of trying to correct a major flaw (secondary). I don’t necessarily agree with that strategy, but I don’t hate it either. Their offense is going to be a handful for the Bears and the rest of the league to deal with.

They passed on cornerback again in the 2nd round, but I can’t blame them for this one either, LB Kyle Van Noy was one of my favorite players in the draft and I had a late 1st round grade on him. The Lions have two strong LBs already in Stephen Tullock and DeAndre Levy, but are weak at the other OLB position. Van Noy should be able to step in and start as a rookie giving the Lions potentially the best LB group in the league if he plays up to his talent.

Current Lions center Dominic Raiola is 35 years old and is nearing the end of his career. The Lions re-signed him for the 2014 season, but now have a replacement on the roster in 3rd round pick C Travis Swanson. He was anywhere from the #1 to #3 center on most draft boards and his biggest weakness is a lack of functional strength. Swanson will have a year to get stronger and also learn from Raiola. Solid pick and one I had pegged from my first mock, but I definitely would have gone with a corner here. Corners Bashaud Breeland, Phillip Gaines, and Jaylen Watkins were all available at this pick and would have filled a more immediate need.

Analysts seem mixed on the Lions first 4th rounder, CB Nevin Lawson. I like him, but he plays an ultra physical style that won’t fly in the pros. I think eventually he can develop into a decent starter but it will take him a year or two to adjust to the stricter NFL coverage rules. Long-term this is a solid value pick, but it doesn’t do anything for the Lions immediate need at CB. Their second 4th rounder, DE/TE Larry Webster, is a guy I had the Bears taking in a couple of my mock drafts so I’m clearly a fan. The Lions already have two young TEs in Ebron and Fauria, so I think they will use Webster as a DE. He’s an exciting prospect at either position. Webster is an elite athlete for his size and has some natural pass rush instincts but this is another development pick. Webster is so thin that it is going to take him a year or two before he has the strength to be anything more than a 3rd down pass rusher in the pros.

In the 5th round the Lions took yet another guy that I had going to the Bears in multiple mock drafts. DT Caraun Reid is one of my favorite mid-round players and I think he has starter potential. He’s smart, a hard-worker, and more importantly is explosive off the ball with a variety of slick pass rush moves. Reid gives the Lions some insurance if DT Nick Fairley doesn’t re-sign with the team in 2015.

6th round pick WR TJ Jones is a slot receiver with potential and gives the Lions another option if Kris Durham doesn’t improve or if Ryan Broyles can’t stay healthy. Jones needs to get stronger, but he was productive in college despite poor QB play and could blossom as an ancillary receiver in a good offense.

The Lions had one of the NFL’s least accurate kickers last season in David Akers, so they used their 7th round pick on the most accurate kicker in college football last year. K Nate Freese doesn’t have a huge leg but he didn’t miss a FG attempt all last season (20-20) including 6 from over 40 yards.


T Cornelius Lucas is enormous (6’9, 316) but is coming off a leg injury that kept him from working out and dropped him out of the draft. I had a 7th round grade on Lucas and I think he could eventually develop into at least a swing tackle. He has very good feet for his size, but his technique needs work and he needs to get stronger. Good practice squad player with upside.

Grade: B

I think the Lions drafted 4 players who could be solid starters as soon as 2015 and a possible 5th in Lawson. I was tempted to give them an A because I liked most of the Lions picks, but ignoring the immediate need at corner was a serious mistake. They play in a division with two of the best offenses in the NFL and they need at least one more competent corner if not 2-3. I can’t fault them for taking the players they did, but sometimes you have to sacrifice your board for a glaring need. Corner was one of the deepest positions in the draft and all they came away with was a good developmental prospect. I also thought the Lions whiffed in the UDFA round. There were 46 players available that I had given a draftable grade and they only came away with one of them and Lucas was near the bottom of that list.