Martin Mayhew didn’t know it at the time, but his selections for the Detroit Lions in the 2015 NFL Draft would end up being his last as their general manager. The draft started promising enough, with the Lions trading down five spots from the 23rd pick to the 28th while picking up guard Manny Ramirez and two additional late-round draft picks. However, the rest of the draft didn’t go as swimmingly, and two years later, this draft class is at risk of becoming completely irrelevant.
In his two years as general manager, Bob Quinn has shown he has no reservations overhauling a roster where it needs to be improved, even if it means moving on from former high draft picks. This offseason is the perfect example, as Quinn passed on re-signing Riley Reiff (2012 first-round pick) and Larry Warford (2013 third-round pick), in favor of picking up two top-tier free agents.
Now it appears Quinn is ready to turn the page on Detroit’s 2015 draft class, even though we’ve only seen two years from those players. Let’s review the picks and where they stand with the team right now.
Round 1, Pick 28 - G Laken Tomlinson
In a focused effort to improve the offensive line and Detroit’s failing run game, Mayhew added Tomlinson in the first round, which many saw as a reach. Two years later, he already appears to be out of the starting lineup with T.J. Lang and Graham Glasgow surpassing him on the depth chart. Tomlinson will still have a chance to fight for a starting role, but Bob Quinn has put a lot of capital into the offensive line position, and it seems upgrading Tomlinson’s spot was one of his goals. At this point, it looks very unlikely Detroit will pick up his fifth-year option next year.
Round 2, Pick 22 - RB Ameer Abdullah
Abdullah is the only player in this draft class that still has a future paved with this team. Quinn showed a lot of confidence in Abdullah by not taking a running back in the 2017 NFL Draft. However, Abdullah still has a lot to prove. His upcoming season is absolutely crucial in determining his future with the team. If he struggles or suffers another injury, the Lions could be looking elsewhere in 2018. If he returns to the form we briefly saw in 2016, he could be the Lions running back of the present and the future.
Round 3, Pick 16 - CB Alex Carter
As pointed out in our 3 winners and 3 losers from the NFL Draft article, Carter is among those most negatively affected by Detroit’s draft choices. Carter was already fighting an uphill battle to make the roster in 2017, but with two new rookies in the mix, it’s hard to see any place on the roster for the third-year player. He has still yet to see the field for a defensive snap, and it appears it will stay that way.
Round 4, Pick 14 - DT Gabe Wright
Bob Quinn cut Gabe Wright last year, after bringing in a load of competition at defensive tackle. He played limited snaps with the Browns in 2016 after moving on and off their practice squad.
Round 5, Pick 32 - FB Michael Burton
Eyebrows were raised when Mayhew chose a fullback in the fifth round, but Burton quickly silenced the doubters with an impressive rookie year. Since then, however, the Lions have been slowly phasing him out of the offense. While Burton doesn’t have any competition at the position, the question remains: “Why should the Lions bother keeping a fullback on the roster if they’re never going to use him?” The Lions haven’t bothered to cut him yet, which could mean there are plans in the works for him, but I wouldn’t bank on it.
Round 6, Pick 24 - CB Quandre Diggs
A year ago, we’d have been shocked to see the situation Diggs is now facing. In his rookie year, Diggs was the most pleasant surprise of the 2015 draft class. Not only did he contribute a lot more than expected (played in all 16 games, started four), but he was also the third-highest rated defender on the team according to Pro Football Focus (behind Ezekiel Ansah and Darius Slay).
But after a huge step back last year and a serious injury, Diggs is suddenly on the chopping block. The Lions added DJ Hayden to compete with him for the nickel corner job, then drafted both Teez Tabor and Jamal Agnew a month later. I have Diggs currently on the outside looking in on our first 53-man roster predictions.
Round 7, Pick 23 - OT Corey Robinson
As a seventh-round pick, there were never high expectations for Robinson, and to his credit, he’s managed to stick around on the roster since drafted. He’s even managed to start three games in his two years in Detroit, which is more than the majority of seventh-round picks can ever say.
Robinson is in a good spot to make the team again this year, because the Lions don’t have a ton of depth at offensive tackle. However, unless Robinson makes huge strides this year, he will ultimately be replaceable by the time his contract is up.
Aside from Abdullah, it’s hard to see any of these players reaching a second contract in Detroit. Obviously a change in general manager is going to lead to more roster turnover than usual, but it’s still shocking to see this draft class reduced to irrelevancy just two years after entering the league.