We all know that judging a draft class after just a single year in the NFL can be reckless. By making such quick evaluations, you could prematurely label such Detroit Lions draft picks as Darius Slay, DeAndre Levy and Tahir Whitehead to be complete busts. All three of those picks had unremarkable rookie seasons, and for all three players, they didn’t really show their true potential until their third year in the NFL.
But since we’re all addicted to NFL Draft grades and we want immediate gratification, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. took the 2017 draft class of all 32 teams and gave them a new draft grade and compared it to his immediate grades after the draft (ESPN Insider required).
Originally, Kiper gave the Lions a C+ grade, saying, “There just isn’t enough here to warrant a higher grade given the lack of a pass-rush addition outside a late bet on Jeremiah Ledbetter.” He also criticized the Lions’ choice to skip out on certain running backs, and thought Detroit reached on Teez Tabor.
So what does he think a year later? Pretty much exactly the same. Here’s what he had to say about his re-grade:
I questioned last year whether the Lions filled their needs here, and now in 2018 they still need a pass-rusher and running back. (Sorry, Lions fans, LeGarrette Blount isn’t the answer.) So while I liked linebacker Jarrad Davis, there were pass-rushers available at pick 20—Charles Harris, Takkarist McKinley and T. J. Watt—who could have helped. And there were running backs on Days 2 and 3 who definitely could have helped the worst rushing offense in the league.
Kiper has some fair points, and they are the same that many Lions fans have brought up themselves. Some of the Lions’ biggest needs from 2017 went unaddressed and it ended up hurting the team drastically during the season. Those same needs—mainly running backs and edge rushers—remain relatively unaddressed one week into free agency. It’s hard to look at Detroit’s decision to pass over guys like Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt as a mistake, even this early after the draft.
Kiper also looks to be on the right track with Tabor. While it’s way too soon to bury his career, Tabor has yet to show any clear signs of progress, and Detroit’s reported pursuit of both Richard Sherman and Malcolm Butler isn’t a promising sign that the team has a lot of trust in him.
That being said, Kiper is also using an unfair amount of hindsight here. He suggests the Lions could’ve and should’ve picked up a pass rusher instead of Jarrad Davis, but the three players he listed—Charles Harris, Takkarist McKinley, and T.J. Watt—weren’t exactly the best scheme fits for what the Lions were doing last year. Sure, they’d look good in a Lions uniform today, but it’s safe to say Bob Quinn wasn’t planning on firing Jim Caldwell and the rest of the defensive coaching staff back in April 2017.
It’s also worth noting that in Kiper’s re-grading, he originally forgot to include the accomplishments of Lions All-Pro punt returner Jamal Agnew. In an updated version of the article, he cops up to the mistake, but did not alter his overall grade of the draft class.
Detroit’s re-grade of C+ may still sound okay. After all, C+ is technically better than average, right? But if you’re grading on a curve, C+ is not so good. Though the Lions share that C+ grade with 10 other NFL teams, only two drafts (Broncos and Raiders) were given lower grades, and Kiper concludes his evaluation of the Lions’ draft class with one last twist of the knife. “This class has a lower ceiling than a few other C-pluses.”
How would you grade the Lions’ 2017 draft class after one year?
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