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Detroit Lions: Reviewing Their 2012 NFL Draft

Dan HopeContributor IIIMay 23, 2012

Detroit Lions: Reviewing Their 2012 NFL Draft

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    After 10 consecutive losing seasons and 11 consecutive years ending prior to the postseason, the Detroit Lions finally turned the corner and made it back to the playoffs last year with a 10-6 record.

    Going forward, the Lions should be in good position to remain a contender in the NFC. The Lions have one of the NFL’s most talented young quarterbacks in Matt Stafford, the NFL’s most dynamic wide receiver in Calvin Johnson and a young stud defensive tackle in Ndamukong Suh. That said, while the Lions’ personnel is stronger than it had been in many years, they came into the 2012 NFL Draft with holes they needed to fill.

    Did the Lions add enough players who will fill the gaps in their roster and put them in position to become serious Super Bowl contenders? Read through the following slides to find out.

Evaluating the Picks

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    Round 1, Pick 23: Riley Reiff, OT, Iowa

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 12

    Reiff is a physical run-blocker and consistent pass-protector with good feet. He is a former tight end who brings athleticism and upside to the position with the potential to play on either side on the line.

    Reiff’s game needs some development for him to be a starting left tackle, but he has the versatility to start at right tackle or at guard right away. That makes him a perfect fit for the Lions, for he can fill a need by starting at right tackle or guard as a rookie while being developed as the successor to Jeff Backus at left tackle.

    Round 2, Pick 54: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 66

    Ryan Broyles was a tremendously productive receiver at Oklahoma. He is a well-rounded receiver who has natural hands and is a fantastic route-runner. Broyles is not a burner, but he has good all-around athleticism. He is coming off of a torn ACL, but he has the skill set to be a very solid third receiver.

    Round 3, Pick 85: Dwight Bentley, CB, Louisiana-Lafayette

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 101

    Bentley is an instinctive, athletic cornerback with good ball skills. He is an inconsistent tackler who is sometimes overly aggressive, and he has a very thin frame, but he is an effective cover corner. He would be a good fit as a nickel cornerback, although he will likely be called upon to start as a No. 2 cornerback for the Lions.

    Round 4, Pick 125: Ronnell Lewis, DE/OLB, Oklahoma

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 116

    Ronnell Lewis is a very intriguing prospect who was well worth taking a chance on late in Round 4. He is a gifted athlete and talented pass-rusher, but he has questionable maturity and work ethic while staying healthy has also been a problem for him.

    When Lewis is on the field, he is a difference-maker and hard-hitting tackler. Lewis is undersized for a defensive end and needs to become more consistent as a run defender, but if he can stay on the field, he should be an effective situational pass rusher who also has the versatility to drop back and play linebacker.

    Round 5, Pick 138: Tahir Whitehead, OLB, Temple

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 302

    Whitehead’s game does not necessarily stand out in any one area, but he has a solid all-around game. He is a good athlete and solid tackler who can get into the backfield. He should be able to stick with the Lions as a rotational linebacker and special teams contributor.

    Round 5, Pick 148: Chris Greenwood, CB, Albion

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 378

    Coming from the Division III level, Greenwood is a complete project to the National Football League whose game is raw. That said, he was a big playmaker at the D3 level, and he has a rare combination of size (6’1’’, 193) and athletic ability (4.41 40-yard dash, 43” vertical jump) that make him a very intriguing prospect.

    Greenwood is a difficult player to evaluate, but he shows solid ball skills and tackling ability on tape. He will need to make a big adjustment to the NFL, but he has developmental potential and should at least be able to contribute on special teams.

    Round 6, Pick 196: Jonte Green, CB, New Mexico State

    Overall Prospect Rank: Not in Top 400

    Green is a solid cover corner, and was overlooked in my pre-draft evaluations. He has good speed and plays with physicality, but tends to give too much cushion and needs to become a more consistent tackler. Green has potential to be a solid fourth or fifth cornerback and a special teams contributor.

    Round 7, Pick 223: Travis Lewis, OLB, Oklahoma

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 93

    Lewis is a highly talented linebacker, but his college career was derailed by injuries. Durability is a serious concern, and he appeared to lose a step over his career as he battled injuries. That said, he is an instinctive playmaker, a solid tackler and is skilled in coverage. He once looked like a first-round talent, and he could be end up being starting-caliber if he can stay healthy and return to form.

Evaluating the Trades

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    The Lions traded Round 4, Pick 117 to the San Francisco 49ers for Round 4, Pick 126 and Round 6, Pick 196.

    The Lions traded down nine spots with the 49ers, but still managed to get a great late fourth-round value in Ronnell Lewis while picking up an extra sixth-round selection. A very solid trade.

    The Lions traded Round 7, Pick 219 and a 2013 fourth-round selection to the Minnesota Vikings for Round 5, Pick 138 and Round 7, Pick 223. The Lions originally acquired Round 7, Pick 219 from the Seattle Seahawks in August 2010 for offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus.

    The Lions moved down with both of these picks traded, and did so in order to get back into Round 5 to reach on selecting Tahir Whitehead. The Lions gave up an unnecessary price to get Whitehead, so this was not a great trade.

    The Lions traded Round 5, Pick 158 and Round 7, Pick 230 to the Oakland Raiders for Round 5, Pick 148.

    While Chris Greenwood has a very intriguing combination of size and athleticism, trading up for him in Round 5 was a questionable and likely unnecessary move.

    The Lions forfeited their sixth-round selection due to tampering.

    As reported in 2010 by Arrowhead Pride, the Kansas City Chiefs levied tampering charges against the Lions for comments made by Gunther Cunningham about Chiefs players. The Lions were originally slated to lose their 2011 seventh-round pick, but an appeal delayed the punishment, which then became their sixth-round pick this season after the Lions made the playoffs.

    This was obviously not a trade, but it did not warrant its own slide. Cunningham made a mistake which cost the Lions this selection, and they probably wish they would have kept the original punishment since it became a higher draft selection.

Assessing Value

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    The Lions got tremendous value in the first round in Riley Reiff, who was a steal as a late first-round pick. The Lions continued to get solid value throughout the first four rounds with the selections of Broyles, Bentley and Ronnell Lewis.

    The Lions also got a tremendous sleeper value in Round 7 with Travis Lewis, whose stock fell sharply over the past two years, but was once graded a first-round talent and could end up being a steal.

    Whitehead was a reach in Round 5, and there were many better linebackers still available including TCU’s Tank Carder and Texas’s Emmanuel Acho. Greenwood was also a reach in Round 5, especially ahead of a proven and polished cornerback in Shaun Prater, but he is an intriguing sleeper.

    Overall, the Lions got solid value over the course of their draft class.

Addressing Needs

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    The Lions needed to upgrade on their offensive line and find a player they can develop to be Jeff Backus’ eventual successor at left tackle. The Lions found the perfect fit in Reiff, who has potential to play four different positions on the Lions’ offensive line, but is likely to start out as an upgrade over Gosder Cherilus at right tackle. The Lions could have benefitted by drafting an interior offensive lineman, but at least they added one potential standout in Round 1.

    The Lions’ other major need was at cornerback, and they addressed that need by selecting three of them. The Lions may not quite have found the No. 2 starting cornerback they need across from Chris Houston, but they added talent at the position.

    The Lions also put a big emphasis on drafting outside linebackers, another area where they needed talent, by selecting Whitehead and Travis Lewis. Ronnell Lewis can also play linebacker, while he adds another pass-rusher, which can really help the Lions in a situational role.

    Wide receiver was not a need area, but Ryan Broyles is a solid player who adds another playmaker to the Lions’ offense.

    The Lions addressed the areas of need that they most needed to address.

Conclusion

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    The Lions balanced need and value well, and had a very solid draft. Riley Reiff was an ideal first-round selection for the Lions, and they had a solid draft from there on out.

    Ryan Broyles adds another receiving playmaker to the passing game, while the Lions added playmakers on defense in Dwight Bentley and Ronnell Lewis. Chris Greenwood is an intriguing sleeper who should be a big special teams contributor, while Travis Lewis has the skill set to be a real steal.

    The Lions’ draft was heavy on Oklahoma players with injury concerns, as three of the Lions’ 8 selections were devoted to former Sooners, but it was a well-rounded draft for the Lions that should bring them some quality talent on both sides of the ball.

    Grade: B+

    Thanks for reading!

    Throughout the month of May, I am reviewing one team’s draft each day, following the original 2012 NFL draft order.

    Follow me on Twitter @Dan_Hope.

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