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Detroit Lions draft analysis: First 2 days filled with hits, misses

Following the draft as a fan is exciting, but reacting to picks can be nuanced.

NCAA Football: Hawaii at UNLV Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

After two days of research, I found something interesting to pass on to you, our Pride of Detroit readers. Apparently, there’s nothing in “The Rules” that states you have to like every pick the Detroit Lions make in the draft. There’s also nothing that states you’re required to hate every pick because the “Same Old Lions” clause was actually a write-in by a satirist and not part of “The Rules” official publications.

In fact, after a very close review, it turns out there’s layers of nuance to every selection in the NFL Draft, so sometimes you can even like a player but not like that they were selected as early as they were. You can even like a player, but not like the fit with the team that selected him, or you don’t see the value of selecting them due to the current roster make-up.

I don’t want to bore you all with legal jargon, but apparently it’s perfectly reasonable to have a complex emotional reaction to draft picks, and it doesn’t have to be a binary “love it” or “hate it” approach. So after this review, I’m going to give my opinion thus far.

Round 1: T.J. Hockenson

*Exaggerated yawn*

So like... T.J. Hockenson is good at playing tight end. He’s a strong blocker, though that part of his game has been blown up to present him as someone who buries opponents on every play and that’s not fair to set expectations so high. He has very good hands and doesn’t suffer from concentration drops, so if the ball is in his vicinity, it’s usually going to be hauled in.

The routes he runs are mostly alright, which is as glowing of a review I can give for a tight end that doesn’t run a super diverse tree. I think the media has blown T.J. Hockenson way out of proportion as the “Next Gronk,” which isn’t fair to him as a player or to fans who just want a player drafted that is going to be great.

He’s a perfectly boring selection who helps the Detroit Lions in an area they desperately needed help. The addition of Jesse James should never have been viewed as an end to upgrading the tight end position when the rest of the corps consisted of a converted quarterback in Logan Thomas and a disappointing mid rounder in Michael Roberts.

Round 2: Jahlani Tavai

The immediate reaction from fans to the selection of Jahlani Tavai was... generally not very positive. He isn’t a guy many of you had heard about, isn’t a plus athlete, and is playing a position that wasn’t a supreme need coming into Day 2. He’s also playing a position that wasn’t very strong coming into the second round.

The secondary reaction, for me, was people pointing out that he didn’t work out at the Combine or his pro day due to injury, so how could I possibly have his workout numbers! YOU’RE JUST MAKING THINGS UP TO BE CONTRARIAN, MATHBOMB!

Yes, the grand conspiracy is that I, knowing he would be drafted by the Lions, changed his numbers to be below average to generate outrage, MWAHAHAHAHAH! Actually that part is quite boring. Tavai didn’t measure at his pro day, but Hawaii’s pro day was quite early and he simply measured later in the process. While I wouldn’t say this is common practice, it happens to a dozen or so players every year.

On to what I thought about the pick.

So I really like Jahlani Tavai. Good news!

Only I really like him as a late-round flyer pick. Less than good news.

Tavai, along with Te’von Coney out of Notre Dame and Josiah Tauaefa out of UTSA, falls into a very specific type of player for me. This isn’t a RAS thing, either, for those who are inevitably going to jump on that train right away. I finalized my linebacker tape grades before the Combine and didn’t get a chance to go back to it afterwards. This is a guy that can come onto your team and provide immediate value as a special teamer and rotational player, and in Tavai’s case, at multiple positions. You may even get a starter.

My issue with the selection is that Tavai falls into a type that I refer to lovingly as a “Josh Bynes.” This is a guy who can provide value by not being particularly bad, but you’re always looking to replace him because his very best isn’t so good he’s irreplaceable. Obviously, he has yet to don a Lions uniform, like any of the draft picks, so we’ll see. But I view this selection as taking someone you could have gotten two or three rounds later in the second round. Now I know some people like him and argue he would have been gone a few picks later, and to that I say, “Who cares?” Taking a guy who projects as a replaceable starter in the second round won’t be cheered by me even if I like the player.

I’m sure I’m going to get lit up just like I was for the Teez Tabor selection in 2017, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

Round 3: Will Harris

Is Will Harris the guy I would have taken in the third round with how the board fell? No, he is not. The corners I felt would benefit the team were still there and there were a couple of guards still on the board that could have started right away.


Will Harris is an awesome pick. He’s an awesome player. His selection tells us a lot of what the team really wants in their secondary, and paves the way to projecting future picks by giving us a bigger piece of the roadmap. Harris, like Tracy Walker, is a speedster at safety who can and does fly all over the field. He can drop to the slot and cover receivers in man coverage when needed, he can tackle, and he can cover the deep portion of the field like a boss.

Unlike Walker, Harris isn’t likely to need the period of learning behind a veteran before he’s comfortable taking snaps in the defense. I wouldn’t be surprised if Harris is the Day 1 starter at safety, because this is a defense he’s already played in. The Lions now have multiple players who can cover the deep part of the field and drop into the slot, and we’re at a point where “starting Nickelback” doesn’t really mean much. That’s weird. The NFL has been trending to the point where Nickel is a starting position on defense, but the team we love is going in a direction where it’s a committee job, and I’m totally here for it.


I’m excited to hear what you guys thought of Detroit’s Day 1 and Day 2 picks. Did you love them? Did you hate them? Do you have a reaction that is less binary and need to vent your positive/negative frustrations/excitements in a public forum? Let me know. I’m dying to dig into this stuff with you.

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