Detroit Lions 2012 NFL Draft Report Card: Grades for Every Pick
After months of anticipation, the 2012 NFL draft is complete.
Finally, we can stop arguing about who the Detroit Lions did draft, and start arguing about who they should have drafted.
Generally speaking, I don't expect a lot of people to be thrilled with this draft class. Most fans tend to judge the draft based on immediate impact, and there might not be a single guy in this draft class who meets that criteria. It basically reads like a who's who of Lions 2014 starters.
But that's okay. This is what the draft is supposed to be for. Only teams like the Packers, Steelers and Patriots build their teams well enough to draft like this, and the Lions want to be a team considered on those grounds.
Overall, if I had to give one overall positive and negative for the draft as a whole, it would be these:
Positive: Lots of depth and long-term potential. Lions weren't drafting to scramble and fill current needs, they were drafting to have less needs down the road. That's how the big boys do it.
Negative: Absolutely no help for the running game. One of those positions that is a need now AND later is interior lineman, and it was ignored entirely. I know they don't draft for need, but, they could have invested in the future, too.
Anyway, enough of that. You came here for player grades, right? Then click ahead, and let the debate begin.
1st Round (23rd Overall): Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
I did eight mock drafts this year and still missed the pick. But who would have expected the second-best offensive tackle to remain on the board this long?
This is an unsexy pick, and there is a lot of angst about the Lions passing on David DeCastro, who was widely considered one of the top 10 overall talents on the board. And I can understand that. DeCastro would have been a home run pick, without question.
But here's the thing. The Lions need to get used to drafting after the 20th pick. And franchise-level left tackles are rarely, if ever, available in the 20s, much less the second-best tackle on the board.
Sure, Jeff Backus re-signed for two years, but he's wearing down, and the Lions had no heir-apparent. Reiff is now that guy, and they got him at a position he really shouldn't have been available given his position. He won't replace Backus immediately, but he will push Gosder Cherilus at right tackle.
DeCastro shouldn't have been available either, but guard is not a premium position. Left tackle is, and if Reiff is the guy he was projected to be, he fixes a long-term Lions need before it even arises.
Top-level guards fall to the latter half of the first round every single year. Top-level left tackles rarely ever do. This time around, the Lions made the better pick by keeping an eye to the future and taking the better value.
2nd Round (54th Overall): Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
I'm not going to lie to you. I did a double-take at the selection of Ryan Broyles, and was part of an explosion of indignant outrage on Twitter.
And for about the next hour, I was fuming. How could they make this pick? Peter Konz was available, a round later than he was expected to be (Atlanta took him with the very next pick), and there was a veritable treasure trove of talent available (I would have liked Lavonte David) without springing for a fourth wide receiver.
But then reality started to set in. The Lions lack a true receiving threat over the middle. Nate Burleson is approaching his mid-30s. And Broyles was a first-round talent before tearing his ACL, which he is ahead of schedule in healing from.
I know, I know. I spent months trying to convince everyone that the Lions would betray our expectations and wouldn't draft the position we expected, only to be a total hypocrite when the Lions betray my expectations and draft a different position than I expected.
This is why I sleep before writing draft grades. The only real resistance to this pick is his position, but put that aside and think about what the Lions offense can do with a first-round-caliber slot receiver. That's a lot of third-down conversions, is all I'm saying.
I still don't love this pick, but the more I think about it, the more sense it makes. Broyles could be the missing piece we never knew was missing.
3rd Round (85th Overall): Dwight Bentley, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette
So the position everyone was clamoring for isn't filled until the third round. That's okay.
The need at cornerback, while very real, was completely overblown because of the way the Lions ended the season, and this is a good spot for them to address it.
Dwight "Bill" Bentley is perhaps the only player frequently sent to Detroit in mock drafts who actually ended up in Detroit, though I'm relatively certain it wasn't in one of my mock drafts.
Bentley is a bit undersized, and comes after four years of playing against Sun Belt Conference competition, but he had a great Senior Bowl and combine, showing off 4.4 speed to go with great athleticism and ball skills.
It's unlikely that Bentley is a starter right out of training camp, but then, what corner would be in Gunther Cunningham's defense? He has work to do, but his athleticism gives him a high ceiling.
Jim Schwartz has made it work before with small school prospects (Sammie Hill, Willie Young, Louis Delmas), and he has made it work with undersized corners (Cortland Finnegan with the Titans), so you have to assume he has big things in mind for Bentley.
4th Round (125th Overall from 49ers): Ronnell Lewis, DE/OLB, Oklahoma
Detroit makes a solid pick after trading down with San Francisco and picking up an extra sixth-round pick.
Ronnell Lewis is a tweener prospect who fits at either OLB or DE, and I generally dislike drafting guys without a clear position. But the Lions reportedly view Lewis as a DE, and his size makes him reminiscent of Willie Young, but minus speed and plus power. He also brings a Vanden Bosch-like motor to his pass rushing.
In the short term, Lewis makes for a hard-hitting special-teamer and needed defensive depth. In the long term, he could step into the D-line rotation, but he needs lots of time to grow into it. A good fourth-round pick, and it's hard not to like a guy who earned the nickname "The Hammer" after one game at Oklahoma.
Getting an extra sixth-rounder out of this drives the grade up, too.
5th Round (138th Overall from Vikings): Tahir Whitehead, OLB, Temple
Not a huge fan of this pick. A project OLB with athleticism? Isn't this just Doug Hogue again?
No, it isn't, because the Lions traded away a 2013 fourth-round pick and swapped with Minnesota (to move down four spots) in the seventh to get him.
Now, I'll freely admit that Jim Schwartz and Martin Mayhew are better evaluators of talent than I am. Those two liking Tahir Whitehead means a lot more than me not liking him.
But I don't know about taking a project like Whitehead, who may not have long-term skills as a defensive starter. On the other hand, the Lions do need depth at outside linebacker, and this is the first pick they've made to that end if they plan on putting Lewis at DE. He's another guy likely relegated to special teams for now.
5th Round (148th Overall from Raiders): Chris Greenwood, CB, Albion
Another small-school corner for the Lions here, Chris Greenwood is a local kid coming to the Lions via Albion College.
This pick is intriguing for sure. Greenwood seems to have all the physical skills to succeed, but coming from a school as tiny as Albion means he's the very definition of a project player.
This pick is right in line with the Lions recent draft philosophy: Find physically impressive players in the late rounds, then mold the raw clay into good football players.
The Lions current coaching staff has shown the ability to coach up guys like this in the class, and it seems they're loading up on projects for the positional coaches. I have no objection with this pick, but it's one we won't be able to gauge accurately for at least a couple years.
The Lions traded up with the Raiders, giving up a seventh-round pick for Greenwood, which is where the "minus" comes from. Ultimately a small price to pay, but a price nonetheless.
6th Round (196th Overall from NO Via MIA, SF): Jonte Green, CB, New Mexico St.
Those are the guys on the Lions coaching staff who work with the secondary. So if this draft turns out to be wildly successful, you know exactly who to thank alongside Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz.
Jonte Green isn't going to step in and take half the field away from Aaron Rodgers next season or anything, but he's exactly like the other corners the Lions drafted this year: small school, big physical skills, lots of question marks.
But that's okay. Lots of today's top corners were late-round, small-school prospects (like Brandon Carr, fifth-round pick out of Grand Valley State). That's what makes the corner position so difficult to project.
That's also why the Lions taking a buckshot approach to corner makes perfect sense. If they get even one corner on a Carr-like level, it will just about justify every pick they spent on a corner.
Another thing to keep in mind: both Green and Greenwood stand over 6' tall and 180 pounds. The Lions could look to convert one of them to safety, a la Amari Spievey. Just a thought.
7th Round (223rd Overall from PHI Via NE, MIN): Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma
Yes! I got one right! Eight mock drafts, and I was successfully able to predict a single player the Lions picked.
About two weeks ago, I mocked Travis Lewis to the Lions in the fifth round, saying "There is an elevated risk of him being a bust, but if he isn't, he's probably second- or third-round value."
So this guy in the seventh round? Quality. The Lions may have just snuck in a long-term starter in the seventh round, if he turns out to be more like his 2010 self than his 2011 self in the NFL.
This is by far my favorite Day 3 pick for the Lions, if not their biggest steal of the draft. I would expect Lewis to be a better player, in the long term, than Whitehead, the Lions fifth-round selection at OLB.
Bonus: UDFA Kellen Moore, QB, Boise St.
I'm not going to go through the entire UDFA class (yet), but this happened within moments of the conclusion of the seventh round, and it seemed worth mentioning.
The Lions went into the draft with only two quarterbacks on the roster, and the expectation was that the Lions would spend a late-round pick on a developmental quarterback.
Instead, they saved their pick and got a late-round developmental quarterback for nothing. Kellen Moore is a good fit for the Lions, and vice-versa. He should pick up the Lions offense in a relatively short time and could be groomed to take over Shaun Hill's backup role in a couple years.
In the meantime, Matthew Stafford's presence takes any potential pressure off of Moore, and Moore's mind for the game could help the Lions in the film-room-and-clipboard department. This is a perfect match in every way, and I haven't even mentioned Moore reuniting with former college teammate Titus Young.
Follow Dean on Twitter: @Dean_Holden