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ESPN: Lions earn top-10 grade, made 'biggest jump' in NFC North this offseason

Detroit earned a sensible mark for their work this offseason, and one executive called it “Patriots-esque.”

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Oakland Raiders Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Still without hitting the field for even a joint-scrimmage, the worldwide leader in sports is handing out grades.

When it comes to player movement, the important happenings of the offseason are done and over with. ESPN’s Mike Sando tapped “15 NFL executives, coaches and evaluators” to put together report cards for how all 32 teams in the NFL fared during this offseason. (E$PN In$ider $ub$cription required).

Detroit earned a B-, a popular grade amongst the group of talent evaluators who gave out seven such grades in total. The Lions mark placed them in the top 10 among all teams in the NFL, but the still ranked behind another NFC North team—the Green Bay Packers.

Check out how the group arrived at a B- for the Lions’ 2017 offseason:

The Lions spent big on their offensive line and should realize a significant upgrade. They will need T.J. Lang to stay healthy, but between Lang and tackle Rick Wagner, the right side of the line can become a strength.

"Everyone in the division has made some strides and Detroit has probably made the biggest jump," an evaluator from another NFC North team said. "They got guys who will fit their scheme defensively. Wagner is not an elite player, but he is a good player and will be a solid starter for them. They improved the overall tone of their front. I think their running game is always going to be a question, but they have some skill guys and should be able to protect the quarterback."

There was some feeling the Lions' focus on scheme fits led to them sacrificing talent, causing one evaluator to call their draft class the NFL's worst if considered in a vacuum. Of course, the players Detroit drafted will not play in a vacuum. They will play for the Lions.

"It was kind of a Patriots-esque draft that way," this evaluator said.

Detroit wasn’t afraid to open up the checkbook this offseason to spend for offensive linemen. The contracts for Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang total over $76 million spent to upgrade the right side of their offensive line, but it was a necessary move considering the departure of both Larry Warford and Riley Reiff. Both Wagner and Lang figure to be upgrades, but it did come at a significant price.

It isn’t surprising to hear the Lions decisions on draft day put into question yet again by another media outlet, but the quote that evaluator dropped is enough for my eyeballs to do gymnastics in my eye sockets. The Lions drafted players that fit their vision and scheme—a novel idea for teams only from New England apparently—but passed over more talented players according to whom? This evaluator’s own draft board?

Also, most of Detroit’s lesser-publicized moves like D.J. Hayden and Cornelius Washington are completely ignored even though they figure to get some serious playing time at two positions where the Lions have some serious question marks—slot cornerback and defensive end.

There isn’t much to be seen here in this analysis that hasn’t already been covered ad nauseam. It would have been slightly more insightful had Sando or the evaluators included some specifics when it came to explaining Detroit’s decisions in the draft, but instead we’re left with easy, lazy dots being drawn from general manager Bob Quinn back to Bill Belichick.

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