We can speculate all we want about the Detroit Lions’ 2018 draft class and why they made each pick. But there’s no need to guess when the team straight-out tells you. While general manager Bob Quinn remained pretty tight-lipped about the Lions’ 2018 strategy before the draft, he was uncharacteristically open and transparent during the entire draft weekend.
So here is why the Lions made all six of their selections, as explained by Bob Quinn himself.
Round 1: C Frank Ragnow
The most telling thing Bob Quinn said about this pick was in the War Room immediately after making the selection. While hugging Lions owner Martha Ford, he said aloud, “We’re going to protect our quarterback.”
Quinn expanded on those thoughts during Thursday night’s session with the media:
“He’s a run blocker and he’s a pass protector. Those are the two things that he’s paid to do and I think he does both of them equally as well. You watch him play in Arkansas’ offense in the SEC against the best defenses I would say in the country and he played his best games against the best defenses. And that goes both as a run blocker and pass protection.”
Round 2: RB Kerryon Johnson
The Lions made an aggressive move to grab Johnson, a move that some (myself included) thought was a bit much. Here’s what Quinn had to say about the decision:
“That’s something we thought long and hard about because, you know, I did want to acquire more picks, but I think we knew there was going to be a run on running backs in the second round and he was the one we wanted,” Quinn said.
As for his role in Detroit, he’ll obviously come in and be a key contributor right away. Quinn also dropped an interesting comment about how he’ll be used. “I think this guy’s very versatile that he can run inside, but I think we’ll use him more to run outside as well,” Quinn said on Friday.
That seems to suggest that maybe free agent pickup LeGarrette Blount may do the dirty work inside, but it’s also obvious that Quinn values Johnson’s versatility as both an inside and outside runner.
Round 3: S Tracy Walker
Perhaps the Lions’ most puzzling pick, it was also the choice that had the Lions’ war room the most excited (that we saw). So I’m just going to give you Quinn’s explanation here, completely unedited:
“Good size, very athletic, play-making ball skills, toughness, tackling, speed. When he played against the highest level of competition on his schedule, I’d say go watch the Texas A&M game. That’s a good game for him, as well his rest of his schedule. But when you’re evaluating players that might not be at an SEC school or a Big Ten school, you try to watch them against their best competition and those games were really important to us, as well as the East-West All-Star Game, which we go down there every year to look at players. He was one of the best players in that game that entire week when I was there personally.”
As for the role he’ll play in the defense, Quinn wasn’t very specific, but didn’t mention his versatility several times. “Tracy’s a versatile guy, like I talked about, that can play the deep part of the field,” Quinn said. “He can come down and cover man-to-man, so he’s got a lot of things going for him on top of special teams.”
Round 4: DL Da’Shawn Hand
The Lions got aggressive and finally addressed the front seven by trading their 2019 third-round pick to get Alabama defensive lineman Da’Shawn Hand. Here’s Quinn on why they made the trade:
“Thought it was a really good value pick. Big, strong, guy, position versatility, can play inside, can play outside. Good scheme fit for us. Good knowledge of our defensive line coach, that helped. Knows our technique, met with him at the pro day. Matt (Patricia) and I went down there to the pro day and met with all those guys. Had a good meeting with Da’Shawn, so felt that was a really good pick for us there.”
As for his fit in Detroit, that’s where Quinn got very specific and, finally, spoke some details on the Lions’ defensive scheme:
“I think once you guys see us line up in OTA’s, you’re going to see that you’re going to have to really pay close attention to where guys line up. We’re not going to have a base 3-4, a base 4-3. So, he’s a defensive lineman that can play really anywhere, from I’d say seven technique, all the way down to nose, depending on the different fronts we’re going to use. So, that was one of things we really liked about him.”
Although Hand is certainly a versatile piece, he isn’t the prototypical pass-rushing edge that many Lions fans desired. Quinn went on to explain that that may not be the kind of defensive end they’ll be looking for in the future.
“Our old defensive front was very much one gap and very much get-up-the-field, and I’d say very much less in terms of gap responsibility. So, we are much more, I’d say, conscious of technique, holding our gaps, playing sound fundamentals, rather than just getting up the field. We’re not really a two-gap team right now.”
In other words, pure pass rushers may not be a huge priority for this team, as we wrote about back in February. Hand fits what Patricia wants, not what fans want.
Round 5: T Tyrell Crosby
After selecting Frank Ragnow in the first, offensive line was no longer a huge need for the Lions in the draft. Quinn admitted as much, saying that Crosby simply provided too much value in the fifth round to pass up.
“You know, obviously we wanted to add an offensive lineman early in the draft and we did that. We wanted to add a running back, and I think the Crosby pick was just the value,” Quinn said. “Like honestly, if you asked me last night if I thought he was going to be there in the fifth round I probably would have said no chance. We talked about it this morning, I thought he was going to be probably one of the first five or 10 guys off the board in round four, so it was a long wait.”
Many believe that Crosby projects to be a guard at the next level, and although Quinn left that option open, it’s pretty clear he views him as a tackle right now. “I think he’s a tackle first and foremost,” Quinn said. “Once we get him in here, he’s never played guard. So, we’re going to have to see how it goes. But I think in terms of his size, his skillset, that he has a chance to kind of give us some depth at both spots.”
Round 7: FB Nick Bawden
The Lions have essentially gone without a fullback ever since Jim Bob Cooter took over the offense, but Quinn said that they have had conversations to bring back the position since Matt Patricia stepped into the building.
“Just some of the conversations we’ve had in the offseason since Matt’s gotten here with some of the new staff members,” Quinn said. “Just something we kind of wanted to add to the mix to kind of give our offense a little bit more of, I’d say, a physical presence. Listen, it’s a seventh-round pick, so I mean, it is what it is. But he’s a guy that we liked. We wanted to add a fullback this offseason and he was a good value at that pick.”