Re-Drafting Detroit Lions' 2013 Draft
The 2014 NFL draft is next week! Really, it is!
But I've already written about every possible player and move the Lions could make. Twice.
So let's break up the monotony before we dig into next week's final mock draft (how nice is that to read?). How? Glad you asked.
I'm going to look at each pick the Lions made last year and see if it can't be improved. The only rule is I can't pick anyone who was taken prior to the Lions' pick.
Click through to enjoy a much-needed break from the way-too-long media cycle prior to this year's late draft.
All stats, rankings and grades are courtesy of Pro Football Focus and require a subscription.
Round 1, Pick 5: DE Ezekiel Ansah
I have a serious man-crush on Ezekiel Ansah. Part of it was picking the right guy in my mock draft last year; part of it was his solid-and-occasionally-stellar play.
The fourth-year football player from Ghana is a physical revelation who is transitioning well to the league. He notched nine sacks but left quite a few others on the field that will be earned through improved technique and coaching.
His most impressive quality was his play against the run. He graded out at positive 5.5, meaning he'll be more than just a physical freak chasing quarterbacks. He'll be a complete football player.
The only other guys who would have come close to warranting this spot would be either Sheldon Richardson (who might not completely fit) or Ansah's teammate Larry Warford.
Round 2, Pick 36: LB Kiko Alonso
The second round brings another no-brainer. Unfortunately, this time it didn't go the Lions' way.
Kiko Alonso jumped on the New England Patriots for nine tackles and a forced fumble in Week 1 and never looked back. In fact, he finished the season with the third-most tackles with 159.
Or, as it's known in Buffalo, three* more than celebrated tackling machine Luke Kuechly. Not bad for the second Oregon linebacker taken in the draft.
Detroit didn't have nearly as much luck with cornerback Darius Slay. He was limited to just 13 games thanks to a balky knee and had to endure a baptism by fire when he did see playing time.
On more than one occasion, he was pulled in favor of veteran Rashean Mathis. There were some stretches where Slay looked like he might belong, but he'll need to build on that slight foundation and make enough plays to consistently stay on the field before this pick isn't labeled a bust.
*Based on ESPN.com's stats.
Round 3, Pick 65: OG Larry Warford
Surprisingly, the Lions' best pick and possibly the steal of the draft isn't a sure-fire winner. That's what happens when you spend a couple decades trying to find a cornerback and the Arizona Cardinals pluck one out of the third round just four picks after your spot.
There's no denying that Larry Warford was a stud. I have before—and will continue to—argue that Warford was the true Offensive Rookie of the Year last year. It wasn't that close either. No other rookie consistently did his job as well as Warford.
But that doesn't mean you can easily overlook Tyrann Matheiu. Injuries cut short a promising debut campaign that would have made the defensive ROY honor a heated debate between him and Alonso.
It all boils down to would you rather have a premier defensive back or one of the best interior offensive linemen for the next 10 years. It's a toss-up, but the bruiser from Kentucky gets the slight nod thanks to his consistency and durability.
Round 4, Pick 132: CB Micah Hyde
Defensive end Devin Taylor was a nice surprise last year. For a fourth-round compensatory pick (No. 132 overall), he did quite well with his two sacks and 15 quarterback hurries.
However, Taylor isn't a cornerback and this is a re-draft that centers solely on the Lions. So naturally the conversation has to turn to Michah Hyde of the Green Bay Packers.
Hyde slowly built upon nice performance after nice performance until he was steadily getting 30-50 snaps a game down the stretch. He posted a very respectable 3.2 grade and has a nice foundation as corners usually take a lot of time to develop.
Taylor may end up being a solid rotational player for years to come, but Hyde would have filled a huge need for the struggling Lions secondary.
Round 5, Pick 165: P Sam Martin
Very few people were fans of the Lions grabbing a punter in the fifth round.
OK. I wasn't pleased with it and am projecting that onto all of you.
But it turned out—aside from one game-turning botched punt—that Sam Martin was pretty darn good. He averaged 47.1 yards per punt and pinned the opponent inside its own 20 on 23 separate occasions.
Considering there were only five picks between him and Corey Fuller, Martin pretty much wins by default since Caleb Sturgis of the Miami Dolphins only connected on 76.5 percent of his field goals to tie for the 30th "best" such conversion rate.
Round 6, Pick 171: RB Andre Ellington
Granted, the Lions didn't have much need for a running back with Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. But would you rather have taken wide receiver Corey Fuller over Andre Ellington?
Fuller failed to log a single snap last season. Ellington looks like the Arizona Cardinals' running back of the future.
The Cardinals kept his workload light, but Ellington posted 5.5 yards per carry and had an electrifying 154-yard performance against the Falcons.
Throw in his 39 receptions for 371 yards, and this is an easy choice.
Round 6, Pick 199: TE Ryan Griffin
Theo Riddick is an OK prospect. Ryan Griffin of the Houston Texans is just a bit more of OK.
That's all this comes down to. There were few picks between Riddick and Michael Williams in the seventh round.
Griffin finished the season with 19 catches for 244 yards and a score. This late in the draft, that's all it takes.
Round 7, Picks 211 and 245: Incomplete
You know what last year's NFL season was missing? Anything of substance from someone taken in the last round.
There's nothing there. Anywhere.
Tight end Michael Williams is a big tight end who will presumably provide depth and was brought in for his blocking ability. He broke his hand, ending his season before it started.
And linebacker Brandon Hepburn is a linebacking developmental project who has a chance to contribute on special teams.
That last pick of Ryan Griffin doesn't look so crazy now, does it?