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Lions GM Bob Quinn is continuing the Patriots’ tradition of drafting SEC players

The SEC to New England pipeline has been rerouted to Detroit.

Alabama v Tennessee Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Three of the Detroit Lions’ first four 2018 draft picks played their college days in the Southeastern Conference (SEC). This is nothing new for Lions general manager Bob Quinn. Exactly 46.7 percent of his draft picks have come from the SEC in the past two years. Don’t believe me? Here’s a full list of Quinn’s draft picks over that time period, with the SEC picks in bold.

2017

  • Jarrad Davis (Florida)
  • Teez Tabor (Florida)
  • Kenny Golladay (Northern Illinois)
  • Jalen Reeves-Maybin (Tennessee)
  • Michael Roberts (Toledo)
  • Jamal Agnew (San Diego)
  • Jeremiah Ledbetter (Arkansas)
  • Brad Kaaya (Miami)
  • Pat O’Connor (Eastern Michigan)

2018

  • Frank Ragnow (Arkansas)
  • Kerryon Johnson (Auburn)
  • Tracy Walker (Louisiana-Lafayette)
  • Da’Shawn Hand (Alabama)
  • Tyrell Crosby (Oregon)
  • Nick Bawden (San Diego State)

Quinn was asked about his affinity for SEC teams at the conclusion of the 2018 NFL Draft, and his answer was simple. “The SEC has a great brand of football. I think when you watch SEC football, it’s probably the closest thing in terms of scheme to the NFL,” Quinn said.

Lions fourth-round pick Da’Shawn Hand mentioned scheme fit as part of the reason he expects to succeed in Detroit. “I know they’ve got a kind of similar scheme like Alabama did,” Hand said during his introductory press conference. “It’s just a whole bunch of dogs, so I’m just ready to be a part of that unit.”

But this isn’t a new revelation for Quinn. His former employer, the New England Patriots, have a similar affinity for SEC players, as pointed out by our friends at Pats Pulpit this week.

It is therefore unsurprising to see the Patriots also regularly go to this well to add talent to their team. 2018 is no exception as four of the team’s nine elections in this year’s draft came out of an SEC school

Five of the Patriots’ former first-round selections came out of the conference: Defensive captains Dont’a Hightower (Alabama) and Jerod Mayo (Tennessee) spent their college days in the SEC, just like defensive tackles Richard Seymour (Georgia) and Dominique Easley (Florida) and tight end Ben Watson (Georgia). Later-round picks like defensive ends Jarvis Green (LSU) and Trey Flowers (Arkansas) also turned into contributors.

The Patriots could have had one more player from the SEC this year. New England tried to trade up for Frank Ragnow, but the Lions nabbed him instead.

Detroit got themselves a competitor, who is used to playing at a high level. That intense competition week in and week out is just another reason Quinn believes drafting from the SEC, along with some of the better Big Ten schools, is good business.

“It’s just really the level of competition to see guys against better players on a consistent, day by day, week by week,” Quinn said. “If we go out to practice today at Alabama, or at LSU, or Tennessee, or Michigan, Michigan State, all those, these guys are practicing against good players every day. And on Saturdays they’re playing against good competition, so that just helps the evaluation process when you’re trying to project a guy to play at our level.”

Back in February, Lions president Rod Wood insisted that the Lions are “not trying to replicate the Patriots.” Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not, but they are certainly borrowing some of their practices.