Detroit Lions 2012 Draft: Grades for Rounds 1-3 and Predictions for 4-7
They added three talented players with a real chance to contribute on the field every Sunday. There are no developmental projects here. The Lions were looking for, and got, players that are NFL ready right out the gate.
While selecting this talented trio, they also addressed the team's biggest needs: adding a cornerback and upgrading the offensive line.
In this article I'll give my grades for the Lions' draft that was—Rounds 1-3—and my predictions for their draft that that will be—Rounds 4-7.
Round 1: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa
In Round 1, Martin Mayhew and his team of Honolulu Blue and Silver draft experts benefited from all the wheeling and dealing that went on early in the draft.
Teams traded up and targeted specific players, while others traded down and were able to still get the players they had their eyes on.
As a result, a few players fell further down the draft board than was expected. Former Iowa Hawkeye Reiff was one of those players.
ESPN ranks him the second-best tackle in the draft and he was predicted by almost everyone to be selected within the first 15 picks.
The Lions gladly took advantage of everyone else's oversight.
Reiff was certainly the best player available when the Lions took the podium at No. 23. He also satisfied one of their biggest needs: upgrading the offensive line and finding a future replacement for Jeff Backus.
The only knock on Reiff is that he lacks several franchise left tackle characteristics such as big feet and long arms.
But the guy can play. Reiff will come into training camp NFL-ready and he'll challenge Detroit's veterans for playing time. Gosder Cherilus and Stephen Peterman better come in ready to compete because this rookie has the versatility to play either guard or tackle position.
He'll learn from Backus and then take over for him in one or two years.
Round 2: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
The theme song for the Detroit Lions' second-round draft strategy actually may have been "Things That Make You Go Hmmm....." by C+C Music Factory.
With a bevy of talented receivers already in place, Round 2 was a stretch to add another one. Even for a talent like Oklahoma's Ryan Broyles.
The Lions could have waited until Rounds 5 or 7 and had their pick of high-value, low-risk receivers.
What makes the pick even more puzzling is that running back LaMichael James, defensive end Vinny Curry, linebacker Lavonte David and cornerbacks Josh Robinson and Trumain Johnson were all still on the board.
In my opinion those are all more talented prospects and they definitely fill a greater need for Detroit.
Here are some things the pick tells us about Martin Mayhew and the Lions:
- When Mayhew says he drafts best player available, he means it. There are no exceptions. He does not draft on a per-need basis.
- In a pass-happy league, the Lions are the most pass-happy team. And they embrace it. For the second year in a row they drafted a receiver in Round 2. Mayhew is stocking his cupboard with targets for Matthew Stafford to throw to for the next decade.
- The Lions were not as high on Robinson and Johnson as everyone else seemed to be. Interesting that both players were selected at the start of the Round 3 though.
While I respect Mayhew and Co. for their desire to keep their high-powered offense firing on all cylinders, I can't agree completely with the pick.
Broyles has great hands, good speed and is highly competitive. However, he is coming off a knee injury which prevented him from taking part in the combine. He is also undersized and has his own off-field issues.
I would have liked to see the Lions select either of the cornerbacks I mentioned instead.
Then they could have waited and grabbed a receiver like Keshawn Martin from Michigan State or Jarius Wright from Arkansas in the later rounds.
Round 3: Dwight "Bill" Bentley, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette
A giant sigh of relieve was heard across the state of Michigan when the Lions third-round selection was announced.
Their most glaring need was at cornerback and they got a pretty good one in Dwight Bentley. I reviewed many mocks prior to the draft that predicted he would go in Round 2.
According to ESPN, he is a bit undersized and will need to add bulk to be a full-time contributor. His talent is undeniable, though. He's aggressive enough to take on the bigger receivers and fast enough—he ran a 4.4 second 40-yard dash at the combine—to cover the slot.
In fact, Bentley has a good chance to start as the Lions' nickelback.
With this selection, the Lions have stabilized their cornerback situation for the 2012-13 season.
Round 4 Prediction: Chris Polk, RB, Washington
The Lions proved last season that consistent production from a rusher is not needed for them to win games. However, it sure would be nice.
Unfortunately, due to injuries, their running back situation has been anything but consistent.
No one knows if Detroit's projected starter, Mikel Leshoure, can be consistent. He's coming off an Achilles' injury and there are real questions about how he'll return.
Two marijuana arrests during the offseason did not help matters either.
The Lions need to address the running back position in either Round 4 or 5. Given that this is a relatively weak draft class for running backs, I'd prefer four.
Chris Polk has the bulk and speed to be an every-down type of rusher. He would give the Lions the depth they need at the position if Leshoure fizzles.
According to ESPN, Polk lacks great burst to the hole, but they rate him above average in all other categories. He is particularly skilled at catching passes out of the backfield.
Polk is one of the highest-rated rushers left on the board. Given the lingering injury concerns with Leshoure and Jahvid Best, this pick makes the most sense.
Round 5 Prediction: Jonathan Massaquoi, DE, Troy
The Detroit Lions' defensive scheme is predicated on penetration and attacking the quarterback. Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch provide that pressure for Detroit.
When you consider Vanden Bosch's age and Avril's contract situation, it makes sense that the Lions would want to add a defensive end at some point in this draft.
In Round 5 there will be a handful of good prospects available that might interest the Lions. Trevor Guyton, Cam Johnson and Jared Crick are just a few.
I think the Lions should go with Jonathan Massaquoi though. He might not be as polished as some of those other guys, but he has the potential to be elite.
His speciality is the pass rush and he's at his best when turned loose to attack the quarterback. According to ESPN, he also has the characteristics that most elite pass rushers have: long arms, giant hands and excellent body control.
He would be a developmental project and might not see much playing time except for special teams in 2012, but that's okay. With Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson waiting in the wings, the Lions have adequate depth at the position to await Massaquoi's development.
His potential is what makes him so attractive.
Round 7 Prediction: Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan State
The Lions already added a receiver in Round 2, Ryan Broyles. So, why add another in Round 7? Two reasons:
- Given how much their offense relies on Matthew Stafford's arm, they can't have too many quality receivers on their roster. In all honesty, beyond their starting three (Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Titus Young) the cupboard is bare.
- The Lions need to upgrade their return game. Stefan Logan was a disappointment last year. His return numbers went down and he didn't have the impact he did in 2010. Plus he is a non-factor in the passing game.
Keshawn Martin would fit in perfectly with Detroit. He was a bit inconsistent at East Lansing, but his talent—and more importantly, his speed—is undeniable.
He ran a 4.4 40-yard dash at the combine.
Martin would immediately step in and challenge Stefan Logan for the return job. He's also a more capable receiver than Logan.
Give him a year or two and he could eventually take over for Burleson as the slot receiver.
Round 7: Chandler Harnish, QB, Northern Illinois
Third-string quarterback is not a pressing need for Jim Schwartz, but it is a need nonetheless. The seventh round is a good time to address it because value can be had.
This late in the draft there is little risk associated with the pick.
The Lions lost Drew Stanton, their former third-stringer, to free agency this offseason. He had evolved into quite an effective backup quarterback over the course of his career. So it is appropriate that the Lions target Chandler Harnish.
He is the closest they're going to get to Stanton in this draft.
ESPN's analysis also says that he has great accuracy, both in short and long yardage, and his arm strength is adequate.
He has a number of limitations, which you'd expect from a seventh-rounder, but he'll have plenty of time to correct them and learn the NFL game while watching Matthew Stafford.