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Lions Roundtable: Did Detroit make a mistake in their approach to the 2018 NFL Draft?

Detroit decided to improve their running game in the 2018 draft, but was that the right decision?

NFL: Detroit Lions at San Francisco 49ers Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

First things first, if you’re unfamiliar with our roundtable or how it works, check out our archive and some of our most recent discussions from this season:

Last week, if it wasn’t for Kerryon Johnson finding paydirt twice, the Detroit Lions would have scored 10 points. 10 is officially the number for this season. 10.0 sacks surrendered against the Minnesota Vikings, 10 points against the Chicago Bears if not for Kerryon, 10 wins if the Lions had not traded Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles.

I kid.

With their first two picks in last year’s NFL Draft, the Lions addressed their abhorrent running game by selecting interior offensive lineman Frank Ragnow and the aforementioned Kerryon Johnson, the dynamic runner from Auburn. For an offense that had been so limited in year’s past by its lack of a rushing attack, it seemed like the icing on the cake. Bob Quinn had finally fit the last piece of the puzzle into his revamped offensive line, a project three seasons in the making, and he even moved up in the second round to get the running back they so coveted.

Sitting at 3-6, the Lions 2018 season has been anything but successful, so it begs the question in the here and now...

Did Detroit make a mistake in their approach to the 2018 NFL Draft?

Jeremy Reisman: No.

While I would have loved to see the Lions go a little defense-heavy in the 2018 draft, I don’t fault them at all for the players they got. Drafting is for the long-term, and though many of their short-term problems remain from last year (DEAR GOD, THE DEFENSE IS BAD), the team’s future does look brighter. Frank Ragnow is going through some ups and downs, but is a net positive. Kerryon Johnson is the truth, and Da’Shawn Hand was an absolute steal in the fourth round.

It’s early, but I’m not sure how you can view this draft class as anything but a success right now.

Kent Lee Platte: Based on the individual results we've seen so far, it's hard to argue with Jeremy here. Looking at some of the guys the Lions targeted, but failed to acquire, or guys they didn't seem to target but probably should have, there are plenty of misses to quibble over. Just like every other season. But there is no Teez Tabor in this draft class, who has sat on the bench through the first half of the season. There's no Jarrad Davis, first rounder who's noticeably struggling. The picks in 2018 have looked in a range from good to great and those are hard facts to be displeased by.

Andrew Kato: Did we even need to do this roundtable? Sounds like everyone agrees. Let’s just call it a day and go get a pizza.

Mansur Shaheen: Not so fast, Kato! While I would not grade any of the individual picks that badly, trading up in the second round to select a running back is not a move I am very happy with. Johnson has been great, sure, but one could argue that the addition of Ragnow and the health that our offensive line had early in the year was mainly responsible for Johnson’s success. We dealt a valuable asset (a 2019 third—when combined with the Hand trade up) for a player that I still believe is replaceable. Are we sure Ameer Abdullah would not have been productive behind this line? Are we sure Johnson is even a better running back then Nyheim Hines, Royce Freeman or Ito Smith?

Drafting a running back in the second round, especially one you traded up for, is a very win-now move. Are we okay with the Lions giving up future assets to cash in on the 2018 season?

Kent: Therein lies the rub. Quinn made great picks, few would argue, but did he get the best value out of the picks he had? I would argue that he got Johnson a little earlier than he needed to, and the pick he gave up was probably steep even for a player of that caliber. While few were high on Hand, and he's been great, did they need to trade up to get him?

Jeremy: I gave my thoughts on the trade up the day they selected Kerryon Johnson and I was not a fan. I felt a little better after the Lions traded up to get Da’Shawn Hand, but I’m still generally against trading up, and I agree that history shows high investment in a running back typically isn’t worth it.

That being said, I want to push back on two points. First, I think Kerryon is a special talent, far better than the players Mansur listed above. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg with Johnson and it’s so clear how good he is when you compare his output to his own teammates. *stares angrily at LeGarrette Blount*

Secondly, I want to talk about the “value” in the Lions’ picks. Let’s not forget there were reports out there that Detroit grabbed their first three picks right before they were going to be drafted by someone else. You could argue Da’Shawn Hand may have been early, but that seems petty to complain about considering how much value they’ve already gotten from a fourth-round pick.

Ryan Mathews: You could argue that, Jeremy, but when you have the chance to move up to make sure you select the best interior defensive lineman in the draft in the fourth round, you just have to do it, yeah?

In the moment, I was perplexed when the Lions chose to pass over defense to add an offensive lineman on Day 1, but when the Lions moved up to select Kerryon in the second round, the first two selections made sense.

It’s hard to believe the Lions would be in much better shape had they selected Harold Landry or Darius Leonard instead of Ragnow because neither of those guys could be making enough of an impact individually to mask the deficiencies all over the backend of Detroit’s defense.

I’m not gonna say I’ll start throwing stuff around whatever hotel conference room we rent out this time if the Lions pass over improving their defense with this upcoming draft, but if they pass over a defensive lineman or a defensive back for a tight end, or a wide receiver, yeah, I’m gonna start throwing stuff.

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