The Detroit Lions 2017 draft class received mix reviews when Bob Quinn finalized his picks back in April. Some players like Jarrad Davis are carrying the world of expectations on his shoulder, while other like Teez Tabor has been afforded time to develop into an NFL-level player.
Nearly four months later, we know a lot more about all nine of Quinn’s picks. Interestingly enough, while several Lions players are battling through injuries, all nine of the Lions draft picks have played in both preseason games, giving us an early look at what these players may have in store for 2017 and beyond.
So let’s take a quick look at where each of them are halfway through the preseason.
LB Jarrad Davis
Stats: 2 games, 3 tackles (30 snaps)
While Jarrad Davis’ statline is modest, he hasn’t received a ton of playing time, and he’s shown flashes of what he can do. Take, for example, the opening play of the second preseason game against the New York Jets.
Jarrad Davis: See ball, get ball. From his field-side LB spot, flying through the B gap and meeting Ngata at the ball carrier. pic.twitter.com/pvdIWaSGmH— Derek (@steeztabor) August 20, 2017
Davis shows speed and recognition here that stopped Bilal Powell in his tracks before breaking to the second level.
At times, Davis has also displayed his coverage skills and likely would have earned his first interception against the Jets had Christian Hackenberg not pulled the ball back on this throw:
Christian Hackenberg is exactly the example of why the NFL needs NFL EUROPE. He "pulls the string" to avoid throwing the int to Jarrad Davis pic.twitter.com/sKf2DIw7Z3— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) August 20, 2017
It hasn’t all been great for Davis, though. He’s been roughed up a little by offensive lineman, and even got blasted by a running back.
Verdict: Met expectations
CB Teez Tabor
Stats: 2 games, 4 tackles (51 snaps)
Tabor has been the goat of training camp, and not the good kind of goat. Early reports out of camp plastered Tabor, saying he was constantly getting beat by speedier receivers.
This only exacerbated early worries that Tabor’s much maligned 40-yard dash times were a sign that he couldn’t hang with the speed of the game in the NFL.
Since the first few weeks of camp, Tabor has slowly turned the narrative. He practiced well against the Colts during a few joint sessions, and followed it up with an adequate preseason game. He has yet to make a play on a ball during his action with the second and third teams, but he hasn’t made any egregious errors, either.
Verdict: Slightly below expectations
WR Kenny Golladay
Stats: 2 games, 4 catches, 59 yards, 2 TDs (56 snaps)
No player has been more hyped this offseason than Kenny Golladay. Originally, the pick was met with a lot of skepticism, especially after the Lions traded down instead of selecting one of the perceived better options at running back.
But Golladay has been the absolute start of training camp. On a near daily basis, Golladay had one or two plays that distanced himself from the rest of Detroit’s crowded receiver depth. Then, after catching two touchdowns in his preseason debut, the Golladay Hype Train was officially off the tracks.
Expectations were sky high, and although he couldn’t follow up his performance last Saturday, Golladay has already won over much of the fanbase.
Verdict: Way above expectations
LB Jalen Reeves-Maybin
Stats: 2 games, 8 tackles (52 snaps)
Reeves-Maybin isn’t expected to make any sort of big contributions on defense in his rookie year, but his skillset lends to special teams skills.
Two weeks into the preseason and Reeves-Maybin has stood out on special teams, making several tackles already. However, he has also done a pretty solid job while out there with the second and third team defenses.
In his very first game, Reeves-Maybin blew up a screen play, showing tremendous closing speed and play recognition.
His play in that first preseason game even landed him on Pro Football Focus’ Team of the Week.
Verdict: Above expectations
TE Michael Roberts
Stats: 2 games, 6 receptions, 63 yards (59 snaps)
Being a local-ish player out of Toledo, a lot of Lions fans were excited about the addition of Michael Roberts in the fourth round. Throw in the fact that Roberts pulled in an impressive 16 touchdowns in his final year at college, and Lions fans were salivating at the thought of Roberts in the red zone.
But expectations have tempered off a bit after reports from camp noted that Roberts was struggling with drops and fumbles in practice. Lions fans got to see that for themselves against the Colts, when Roberts dropped a pass and fumbled twice, but was bailed out by both poor officiating and the sideline.
That being said, Roberts had a rebound game against the Jets, hauling in an impressive 22-yard pass from Jake Rudock.
Verdict: Below expectations
CB Jamal Agnew
Stats: 2 games, 8 tackles, 1 pass defended (72 snaps)
1 kickoff return, 17 yards; 2 punt returns, 13 yards
Agnew was thought of simply as a speedy defender that could possibly take Andre Roberts’ role as the team’s kick and/or punt returner. Coming from a small school—University of San Diego—Agnew wasn’t (and isn’t) expected to make any defensive contributions in his rookie year.
Agnew put himself on the map during the Lions’ Mock Game at Ford Field. That’s when all of his special teams potential was first on display:
Agnew has yet to distance himself from the other returners in competition for the job, but he has surprisingly shown something on defense.
His coverage skills are better than expected, and although he gave up five receptions against the Jets (according to PFF), he was in good position for almost all six passes thrown his way. He still has a long ways to go to compete for a spot against Detroit’s deep secondary, but he has shown some early promise.
Verdict: Above expectations
DT Jeremiah Ledbetter
Stats: 2 games, 3 tackles, 1 pass defended (50 snaps)
The Lions first sixth-round pick came in with little expectations. Though Detroit’s defensive line wasn’t exactly a strength, Ledbetter only really had two years of success at Arkansas to build upon.
His impressive athletic profile and breakout senior year gave him some promise for a future spot in Detroit’s rotation, but probably not in his rookie year.
So far, Ledbetter has been understandably quiet. He hasn’t played much until deep into the second half of each preseason game, and was basically invisible during training camp. That being said, Ledbetter started to come on a bit towards the end of the Jets game.
Lions reserve DL are feasting. Alex Barrett, Jordan Hill, Jeremiah Ledbetter to name some.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) August 20, 2017
Verdict: At (low) expectations
QB Brad Kaaya
Stats: 2 games, 12-18, 109 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 101.4 passer rating (44 snaps)
Kaaya was one of the more interesting draft picks from the Lions. Bob Quinn admitted he wasn’t searching for a quarterback in this year’s draft, but believe Kaaya proved to be too valuable to pass up late in the sixth round.
If you were expecting an intense backup battle between Kaaya and Jake Rudock, Kaaya has probably been a big disappointment. Early in camp, Rudock was reportedly “pretty far ahead” of Kaaya, and there hasn’t really been a change in status quo since.
Kaaya’s preseason stats are pretty impressive, but the Lions haven’t really thrown anything too challenging his way. The fact that he wasn’t even in the second preseason game until late in the third is probably a pretty good sign he’s cemented as the team’s third-string quarterback.
At this point, Kaaya is not looking like he’ll make it on the 53-man roster, but a lot can change in two weeks.
Verdict: Slightly below expectations
DE Pat O’Connor
Stats: 2 games, 2 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble (46 snaps)
Pat O’Connor was considered a longshot to make the roster from the get-go. Seventh-round picks have a tough path to make the team, and O’Connor was clearly a developmental project.
However, considering the massive amount of injuries the Lions have incurred at defensive end, O’Connor has suddenly been given a rare opportunity for seventh-round rookies: first-team reps. It hasn’t been often, but occasionally in practice O’Connor has seen time with the first team, and the Lions have gotten a long look at the former Eastern Michigan Eagle.
His play has been up and down, but he has managed to shine on occasion. He’s by no means a lock to make this roster, but he’s certainly moved the bar from when he was originally drafted.
Verdict: Slightly above expectations