Last year, Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew explained that he wanted three starters, three role players and three developmental players from each draft. That's a difficult task when you only have seven picks, but let's give it a shot anyway. Here are my grades for each of the seven picks, along with "Mayhew's role."
1st round (28): Laken Tomlinson (Duke), Offensive Guard
This pick looks so much sexier when you include the fact that the Lions were able to trade down and add a couple of extra picks, along with veteran guard and former Lion Manny Ramirez. At first, I thought this was a bit early for Tomlinson, but the more I read about it, the more I believe that he wasn't making it past Tampa Bay's pick at No. 34 overall. Tomlinson is a great character guy and a student of the game.
Tomlinson was the most efficient pass blocker among all offensive guards last year, per Pro Football Focus. I see him winning a starting job from Day 1, whether it's on the left or right side.
Mayhew's role: Starter (left or right guard)
2nd round (54): Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska), Running Back
Abdullah isn't the running back I was hoping for, but he's a great fit for Joe Lombardi's scheme and fits the Darren Sproles role to a T. The fumble concerns are overblown, and his ball security improved every year at Nebraska. He may not start right away for the Lions, but he'll be the most talented RB on the roster the day he steps foot into training camp.
Abdullah is an explosive back and had the top SPARQ score among all RBs this year. I fully expect Lombardi to heavily incorporate Abdullah into his system as a rookie, although he may not be the starter right away. Abdullah brings a home-run threat that this offense desperately needed. Did I mention he can return kicks, too?
Mayhew's role: Role player (Lions will use him heavily; possible starter down the road)
3rd round (80): Alex Carter (Stanford), Cornerback
The pick makes sense, but the trade was a bit of a head-scratcher for me. Still, you never know where other teams have your targets on their draft boards, so if Mayhew really wanted this kid, then I can get behind it. Carter is a versatile prospect and can play either safety or cornerback; however, Jim Caldwell has made it clear that they want him to play on the outside.
Carter has stiff hips and struggles in man coverage, and many believe he's much better suited in zone coverage. He looks unimpressive on tape, but give him a year to learn behind Rashean Mathis, and let Teryl Austin coach him up for a year (hopefully longer), and I trust that this staff can turn Carter into a solid No. 2 CB.
Mayhew's role: Developmental (eventual Mathis replacement)
4th round (113): Gabe Wright (Auburn), Defensive Tackle
I'm probably in the minority here, but I absolutely love the trade, and it makes a ton of sense. The Lions had already been guaranteed two third-round picks with Ndamukong Suh's departure, so trading a future third to move up and grab a defensive tackle was a great move by Mayhew.
Wright is raw, but he fits the profile of what the Lions are looking for in a DT. He's lengthy (6-foot-3, 300 pounds) and explosive off the snap, but his biggest weakness is maintaining leverage. He tends to get too upright in his stance and exposes his chest, which explains the lack of production at Auburn. If defensive line coach Kris Kocurek can work on his technique, I think Wright can be a solid rotational DT behind Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker.
Mayhew's role: Role player (rotational DT)
5th round (168): Michael Burton (Rutgers), Fullback
The Lions needed a fullback and only had Emil Igwenagu on the roster prior to this pick. I am all for taking a fullback; I just had no idea who Michael Burton was before the pick. After doing a little bit of digging, I've come to admire the player, but I'm still a bit skeptical of the pick.
New Lion FB Michael Burton was our highest graded run blocking FB among draft eligible FBs— Nathan Jahnke (@PFF_NateJahnke) May 2, 2015
Burton is a guy who is going to help revamp this offense and give them the power run game that they desire. He has connections with current tight ends coach/assistant head coach Ron Prince from their Rutgers days, so they definitely did their research on this kid. It appears that he's yet another high-character guy and another former captain.
My only knock on this pick is that there are several players I would have rather taken, like WR Tre McBride or DT Michael Bennett, but in the end the Lions got their starting FB.
Mayhew's role: Starter (will likely win starting FB spot)
6th round (200): Quandre Diggs (Texas), Cornerback
I mentioned a few months ago that I thought the Lions should take two CBs this year (one outside and one nickelback). Diggs is an intelligent and instinctual corner who will battle it out with Bill Bentley, Nevin Lawson and Josh Wilson for the starting nickelback spot. That's a lot of guys to compete for one spot, but after dealing with two season-ending injuries and getting absolutely burned all year by slot receivers, it's a necessary problem to have.
Look out for Quandre Diggs to give everyone a run for their money in the 2016 Detroit Lions Name Tournament.
Mayhew's role: Role player (insurance at nickelback)
7th round (240): Corey Robinson (South Carolina), Offensive Tackle
Looks like I ended the draft with three of four correct bold predictions relating to the Lions. This was a great get for the Lions, as Robinson will likely serve as a swing tackle and add some more competition to the starting RT job. Robinson fits the profile of long-armed OTs that the Lions have coveted since 2013.
Here is what NFL.com's Lance Zierlein had to say about Robinson:
Hulking tackle, but needs to do more with it. Doesn't have the kick-slide to consistently get out to meet speed off the edge, and when faced with inside moves, he struggles to move feet and secure the gap. Foot quickness could benefit if he trimmed down, but a move inside could be considered if teams feel like he can play with enough bend.
Mayhew's role: Role player (swing tackle; better suited at RT)
Overall Grade: B+
All in all, I'd say this draft was a success. The Lions added some players at positions of need and will head into next season with plenty of camp battles to look forward to. By my count, Mayhew ended the draft with two starters, four role players and one developmental pick. You can make a case that Abdullah will likely be the starting running back at some point in his career, and maybe even some point next season, but as of right now I see him as more of a role player.