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Detroit Lions draft grades: Full 7-round report card

General manager Bob Quinn has now completed his second NFL Draft for the Lions. Let’s give out some way-too-early grades and determine each player’s role moving forward.

NCAA Football: Outback Bowl-Florida vs Iowa Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

1st round (21): LB Jarrad Davis (Florida)

For the second year in a row, I managed to correctly guess who the Detroit Lions would take in the first round. Humble brag aside, I’m a big fan of Davis and feel that he was one of the top players that fit the top need for the Lions. Many fans will compare Reuben Foster’s career to that of Davis’ for the next several years because of the Lions passing up on Foster, but I feel that Davis is more athletic and the safer pick here.

It’s up in the air right now, but I’d expect Davis to play either on the weak side, or as an inside linebacker for Teryl Austin’s defense. At Florida, Davis played both positions, but eventually took over as the leader for the Gators defense in the middle.

Role: Starter (WILL or MIKE linebacker)
Grade: A

2nd round (53): CB Teez Tabor (Florida)

Look, I’m probably a lot happier with this pick than most Lions fans right now. His testing didn’t go well, but as Bob Quinn has already said play speed and reactionary speed is more important than timed speed. I encourage those who aren’t happy with the pick to at least go ahead and watch the tape before arriving at any conclusions about Tabor. If you already have and still don’t like him, well, I think he’s going to prove the haters wrong.

Where Teez wins is with his foot speed, instincts and ball skills. He’s a playmaker through and through, and that’s exactly what the Lions need—and what the front office has made clear their focus was this offseason. There are a couple of corners and a few edge rushers that I’d have rather taken over Tabor at 53rd overall, but we can’t have all the players we want. Quinn clearly sees something in Tabor and we have to trust it for now. Tabor, like all rookie corners, is going to have to earn his job. I’d expect him to eventually win a starting job, maybe as early as halfway through his rookie year.

One concern I have with Tabor is his ceiling; how much better can he really get? He’s clearly not a superior athlete, and his technique is already sound. I think he’ll get acclimated to the NFL fairly quickly and once he learns Austin’s defense, he’ll be able to step in right away when called upon. Tabor is a nice fit with Austin’s defense that calls for their defensive backs to leave a decent amount of cushion between themselves and opposing receivers.

Role: Eventual starter (No. 2 corner, possible slot role)
Grade: B+

3rd round (96): WR Kenny Golladay (Northern Illinois)

I’m not as excited about this pick. I thought the Lions were better off taking one of the top safeties or top running backs available here for better value, but there is no denying that wide receiver was a position they needed to upgrade. Golladay is a good athlete with some positive traits, but has a long way to go as a route runner—he only ran a few routes for NIU—and becomes yet another receiver that struggles to create separation on the Lions’ roster.

If he reaches his potential, Golladay can develop into a nice deep threat and a nice red zone target for Jim Bob Cooter’s offense. He could certainly earn the No. 3 receiver role a few years down the road.

Role: Developmental (Will likely earn some reps in 2017)
Grade: C

4th round (124): LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Tennessee)

Clearly, Bob Quinn is on a mission to get faster and younger at the linebacker position. Reeves-Maybin has been cleared to play, but probably isn’t going to see the field as soon as Jarrad Davis, and he comes with medical concerns—a season-ending shoulder injury that cause him to miss the majority of last year.

Jalen’s best fit is going to be as DeAndre Levy’s replacement at WILL linebacker. He offers good coverage ability, elite sideline-to-sideline speed and range, and good production over his first two full seasons with the Vols.

Role: Developmental (future starting WILL)
Grade: B

4th round (127): TE Michael Roberts (Toledo)

Roberts is an alien.

His hands are the largest of any tight end ever. Roberts is a fantastic red zone threat, accumulating 16 touchdowns in 2016, including this monster play:

Flex on ‘em, Mike.

Roberts is a solid blocker, but still could use some technique work. I like that he shows flashes as a blocker, and his large hands allow him to control defenders at the point of attack and toss them to the side. Roberts is an absolutely perfect fit as a TE2 and I can’t find a single thing wrong with this pick other than maybe George Kittle being on the board, who I like even more than Michael Roberts.

Role: Role player (third-string TE right away that can come in as an extra blocker/red zone threat)
Grade: A-

5th round (165): CB Jamal Agnew (San Diego)

There isn’t a ton of tape out there on Agnew, but here’s what we know: He’s small, which means he’s likely going to add some depth in Detroit’s ability to cover the slot. He’s fast and he returned punts for San Diego, so this could mean the Lions have found their future punt returner.

Agnew is a special teams star, but this leaves the Lions with a tough decision at CB. They’ll likely have to cut either Quandre Diggs or Johnson Bademosi just to keep six corners, and that’s assuming Alex Carter is gone.

This is a solid pick, but I’m not in love with it. I would have liked to see Detroit address the defensive line instead, or maybe take a home-run threat in the backfield like UNC’s T.J. Logan.

Role: Role player (special teams ace)
Grade: C+

Sixth round (205): DT Jeremiah Ledbetter (Arkansas)

Coming into the day, I had Ledbetter as my No. 3 edge rusher available, but after playing both end and DT in 2016, he’ll likely end up playing the latter in the NFL. His athleticism is considered to be elite and he led the Razorbacks in sacks in 2016 (5.5), along with 49 tackles (7.5 for a loss). Here’s what CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler had to say about Ledbetter:

SUMMARY: A two-year starter at Arkansas, Ledbetter played mostly left and right defensive end where he was most effective, also seeing snaps inside as the coaches tried to get the best four linemen on the field together. He shows consistent effort as a pass rusher, using his body control and reach to extend into blockers and bully them into the pocket. Ledbetter doesn’t have a great feel in the run game and can be out-matched vs. interior blockers, but hustle isn’t an issue for him in this area either. His tweener traits could be his biggest obstacle as he isn’t a true under tackle or a natural edge presence, but he can do a little bit of both. Most teams will identify him as a tweener prospect, but all Ledbetter needs is one team to see a versatile player who can help in several areas.

There isn’t much not to like about taking a high upside player with great measurables. There also weren’t many players available that I would have liked in this spot other than Houston RB/CB Brandon Wilson.

Role: Developmental (raw defensive tackle prospect with elite athleticism, future rotational pass rusher)
Grade: B+

Sixth round (215): QB Brad Kaaya (Miami FL)

This pick makes a lot of sense whether some are willing to admit it or not. I see some who loved the Lions taking a QB last year with only two on the roster, and now with Orlovsky gone, those same people don’t want a QB? I don’t get it. The Lions still need a third quarterback, and Kaaya is even more talented than Jake Rudock, but might not be as smart in the film room. It might not happen right away, but I expect Kaaya to wrestle the No. 2 QB job away from Rudock at some point.

Kaaya threw 69 touchdowns in college (nice).

Role: Developmental (3rd string QB for now, possible backup in the future)
Grade: A-

Seventh round (250): DE Pat O’Connor (Eastern Michigan)

From Hustle Belt:

Flashback to 2015 and life was golden for O’Connor. Preseason All-MAC attention from Athlon and Phil Steele, along with watch list nods for the Lombardi Trophy and the Nagurski Trophy. What warranted the attention? His 2014 performance, of course.

Leading the MAC in sacks (47th nationally) and 4th-highest tackles-for-loss numbers in the conference all while being double teamed (if not triple teamed) on most plays was an impressive feat. Being a statistical beast and an impact player is one thing, but being one of the few on your squad and having the opposing team gameplan specifically for you and pulling it off anyway is even more impressive.

Detroit Free Press:

Steady improvement led to the 6-4, 270-pounder becoming a full-time starter at defensive end as a sophomore. During his junior season (2014), O’Connor, who runs a 4.9-second 40-yard dash, became one of the Mid-American Conference’s most feared pass rushers with 7.5 sacks and 14 tackles for loss. He was named first-team All-MAC.

Sitting out last season with a shoulder injury did nothing to slow O’Connor's progress. In fact, he has been more dominant than ever during the Eagles’ most memorable season in nearly three decades.

Role: Body (possible practice squad addition)
Grade: C-

Overall Grade: B

Overall, I like this draft a lot. Quinn got his starting caliber linebacker, a playmaking cornerback and several other depth picks. I’d call his sophomore year a major success, especially when you include the additions in free agency.


What grade do you give the Detroit Lions’ 2017 draft class?

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