Whether you think the Detroit Lions had a successful 2017 NFL Draft or not, they undoubtedly shook up their roster. In the upcoming days, we’ll look at where the roster stands and some upcoming training camp battles, but for now, let’s take a look at the players most affected by the Lions’ nine draft picks.
Here are the winners and losers from the Detroit Lions 2017 draft:
Winner - Matthew Stafford
For those worried about Stafford having fewer weapons in 2017 with Anquan Boldin and his eight touchdown possibly gone next year, worry no more. The Lions added two huge targets in the draft: 6-foot-4 receiver Kenny Golladay and 6-foot-4 tight end Michael Roberts.
Both players come from smaller schools, so they will need some polishing up before coming into their own in the NFL, but both have a huge catch radius and both have above-average hands.
With two new toys on offense and an upgraded offensive line, there isn’t a Detroit Lion who is having a better offseason than Matthew Stafford. Becoming a dad is pretty cool, too.
Loser - Alex Carter
It appears the Lions have run out of patience with Alex Carter. The Lions drafted two cornerback over the weekend, and while fifth rounder Jamal Agnew is no lock to make the roster, the cornerback depth chart is looking way overcrowded at this point. Take a look:
- Darius Slay
- Teez Tabor
- Nevin Lawson
- Quandre Diggs
- DJ Hayden
- Johnson Bademosi
- Jamal Agnew
- Alex Carter
- Ian Wells
- Adairius Barnes
Last year, only five cornerbacks made it past the Lions’ 53-man roster cuts. Even if Detroit keeps six this year, it’s hard to see any room for Carter.
Winner - Ameer Abdullah
Many thought the Lions were sure to add a significant contributor in the backfield during the draft—except for our own Ryan Mathews, who nailed his “bold” predictions.
But Detroit went all nine picks without adding a single back, despite some decent options falling to them deep into the draft. Saturday night, Bob Quinn expressed his full confidence in the Lions’ running back. Without hesitation, Quinn declared Abdullah the clear starting running back in 2017 and dismissed the notion of him being injury prone. “It’s a tough balance, but I think Ameer’s injury last year was sort of a fluke thing and he’s back 100 percent,” Quinn said.
So the job appears to be his and his alone. The Lions don’t have a ton of depth behind Abdullah, so not only does he have the starting job, but it appears he could be getting over 20 carries a game with this current roster. The Lions could always add another back in free agency—LeGarrette Blount is a popular option—but for now, Abdullah is looking to be a huge contributor in 2017.
Loser - Tahir Whitehead
Tahir’s wife may be thrilled about Detroit’s new linebacker corps, but there’s major concern about what his long-term role with the team is now. In an interview with Tori Petry, Quinn announced that first-round pick Jarrad Davis will likely be playing middle linebacker for the Lions—Whitehead’s role last year. “We’ll play him at middle linebacker and we hope, for many years, with him calling our defense,” Quinn said.
That means Whitehead will likely immediately shift to the outside, where he’s definitely capable. But this will be the last year of his contract, and now the Lions are very young and much deeper at the position of outside linebacker. There has been plenty of hype around second-year linebacker Antwione Williams and with the addition of fourth rounder Jalen Reeves-Maybin, one has to wonder if Whitehead will be on this roster at all in 2018. He’ll have to show a ton of improvement this year.
Winner - Kerry Hyder and just about every defensive lineman
Who will win the starting left defensive end job in 2017? Your guess is as good as mine, but I would think the leader in the clubhouse right now is Kerry Hyder. As noted by just about everyone, the Lions decided not to go with a defensive lineman until the sixth round of the draft. That’s not all that surprising with interior defenders, as this was a weak draft at that position, particularly the 3-techs Detroit was likely looking for.
But it is downright shocking the Lions didn’t add an edge rusher in a draft full of them. That means Hyder, Cornelius Washington, Armonty Bryant, Anthony Zettel and even Brandon Copeland are all winners this Sunday. Bob Quinn expressed his confidence in those players after the draft. “I feel good. Ziggy Ansah, Kerry Hyder, Cornelius Washington. Guys on the inside, A’Shawn (Robinson), Armonty Bryant, (Anthony) Zettel. I feel good.”
Loser - Jake Rudock
It appeared Jake Rudock had an easy path to the backup quarterback job after Detroit announced they were moving on from veteran Dan Orlovsky. But that path just got a lot harder after the Lions drafted Brad Kaaya in the sixth round of the draft.
Bob Quinn himself acted a little surprised that the Lions took quarterback on Saturday. “Didn’t really go into this draft saying I had to draft a quarterback,” Quinn said. “He was a guy that was like sticking out on the board for most of the day and he kept falling and falling.”
Rudock is still the clear favorite to win the job in 2017—and by a large margin, in my opinion—but to forge out a long career as the Lions’ backup, Rudock is going to have to work for it. Because, as Quinn said, “[Kaaya] is going to come in and compete with Jake and see how it goes.“