Detroit Lions 2014 Draft: The Good, the Bad and the Baffling
The revamped coaching staff led by Jim Caldwell appears to be a better fit for Detroit's collection of talent, and general manager Martin Mayhew made a few savvy moves in free agency to help fill in obvious holes.
Now, we'll see if Mayhew's work over the last three days of picking players pays off next season.
In the following slides, we'll analyze the good, the bad and the baffling from the Lions' 2014 draft.
List of All 2014 Draft Selections
Complete list of Detroit's 2014 picks:
- 1.10: TE Eric Ebron, UNC
- 2.40: LB Kyle Van Noy, BYU
- 3.76: C Travis Swanson, Arkansas
- 4.133: CB Nevin Lawson, Utah State
- 4.136: DE Larry Webster, Bloomsburg
- 5.158: DT Caraun Reid, Princeton
- 6.189: WR T.J. Jones, Notre Dame
- 7.229: K Nate Freese, BC
The best of the Lions draft...
1.10: TE Eric Ebron, UNC
The Lions bypassed obvious needs in the defensive backfield, but continued their offseason-long task of rebuilding the support group around Matthew Stafford. Ebron was the consensus No. 1 tight end and a potentially dominant player in new coordinator Joe Lombardi's offense. He might not be Jimmy Graham, but he'll play a similar role for the Lions. And with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, plus two good tight ends already in Detroit, the Lions now have a diverse set of receiving weapons that will cause matchup problems for defenses. Stafford should be a happy quarterback.
2.40: LB Kyle Van Noy, BYU
Detroit skipped defense in the first round but struck gold in the second, taking maybe the best of the draft's second-tier of linebackers. Van Noy reunites with Ziggy Ansah, his former teammate at BYU. The two combined for 17.5 sacks and 35.0 tackles for losses in 2012, their last season together. Detroit will plug in Van Noy at strong- or weak-side linebacker and let him wreck havoc. He can rush the passer off the edge or drop in coverage, and he's slippery against the run. He'll be a Day 1 starter at a position that was a weakness for the Lions. Really good pick.
3.76: C Travis Swanson, Arkansas
Center isn't an immediate need, but it's a long-term one with Dominic Raiola's career slowly winding down. Swanson was a step below Colorado State's Weston Richburg and USC's Marcus Martin among centers, but he projects as an NFL starter, especially given that the Lions will give him time to develop behind Raiola. Swanson started 50 games in the SEC, where he saw the best of the best in terms of opposing defensive tackles. Florida State safety Terrence Brooks was another attractive option (he came off the board at No. 79), but Swanson makes sense as a long-term solution at a still important position.
4.136: DE Larry Webster, Bloomsburg
Webster is a big projection, and there are actually some evaluators who believe he might be better at tight end. He has athletic origins as a basketball player, and he lacks the physicality of an NFL defensive player. But how do you pass up on a defensive end who stands 6'6" and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.58 seconds? That size and speed are very attractive, especially for a defensive line that just lost Willie Young. If he fails at end, move him to tight end and find out if he can be an asset catching passes with his frame and speed. Low risk, potentially big reward.
4.158: DT Caraun Reid, Princeton
The Lions get great value toward the end of the fifth round with Reid, regarded by some as a second-day talent. He's over 300 pounds but he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.91 seconds, an impressive time for a man his size. That speed shows up on tape. As an interior rusher, he produced 20.5 collegiate sacks. His explosion off the snap will be a nice addition early on to the Lions' line rotation, and he has the raw skills and physical traits to develop into a starter at defensive tackle. The Lions stay dominant along the defensive line because of picks like this one.
6.189: WR T.J. Jones, Notre Dame
Jones is only an average-sized receiver, and he didn't blow away any one measurable at the combine. But the Lions are getting a confident slot receiver who brings crisp route-running, reliable hands and return potential to the next level. He became Notre Dame's go-to receiver in 2013, when he caught 70 passes for 1,108 yards. He was especially good on third down, when his situational awareness and run-after-the-catch ability proved to be valuable assets. The Lions will project him as a future No. 3 receiver.
The questionable of the Lions draft...
4.133: CB Nevin Lawson, Utah State
The Lions needed to an add a cornerback, but Lawson in the fourth round was an interesting choice. The value is there, as Lawson has nice movement skills and better-than-advertising ability in man-to-man coverage. However, he's also just 5'9", and his production dropped off against better competition. He had problems handling USC's Marqise Lee early last season, and Fresno State threw all over Lawson and the Utah State secondary in the regular-season finale.
The worst from the Lions draft...
Did the Lions Get Enough Help in the Secondary?
I find it hard to knock Detroit's first three picks. Eric Ebron could be a special talent, Kyle Van Noy is a perfect fit at outside linebacker and Travis Swanson is the future at center. But did the Lions do enough to shore up a suspect secondary?
General manager Martin Mayhew waited until the fourth round to get a cornerback, and he drafted a short one that might struggle to handle the receivers inside the division. No safety was selected, despite there being a glaring long-term need at the position.
The Lions had a nice draft, but the lack of immediate help in the secondary is concerning moving forward. Not investing in a deep cornerback class early, and totally bypassing the safety position, could end up haunting the Lions in coming years. A dominant defensive line will need to continue ruling the roost for the Detroit defense.