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2019 NFL Draft grades: Analyzing all 9 Detroit Lions picks

Serving out grades for the Detroit Lions 2019 NFL Draft class.

NFL: NFL Draft Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

First round (8): TE T.J. Hockenson (Iowa)

I’ve long maintained the belief that the Lions could do a lot worse than Hockenson at eighth overall, and that I’d be fine with the selection. With reports that the Lions had the opportunity to move back and with Devin Bush (one of my top players in the draft) on the board still, the pill was slightly tougher to swallow.

I like to give my immediate grade after the pick on Twitter just to compare how I felt then and how I felt now. I immediately gave the pick a C with the information we had and how I felt about Hockenson and now I’m slightly more content with the pick.

It’s tough to get an elite tight end in this league, as our own Jeremy Reisman and Mansur Shaheen have pointed out. Hockenson was undoubtedly a top tight end in this class and there wasn’t many to choose from. So you either take an elite tight end or you wait another year to address the position. Bob Quinn decided to get one now and the need for a TE is now gone. Plain and simple.

Hockenson is likely the Day 1 starter and will immediately help in both the passing game and the running game. Whether you like the value of the pick or not, Hockenson is a great talent and a perfect fit for this offense.

Role: Starter (No. 1 tight end)
Grade: B-

Second round (43): LB Jahlani Tavai (Hawaii)


Most Lions fans and plenty of draft guys like myself knew very little of Tavai when the Lions made this selection. I had watched just one game of his and wrote him off as a later round guy due to questions about athleticism and limited tape out there.

Tavai did not test at the combine or at his pro day, but did put up the above numbers a couple weeks after his pro day. The numbers certainly do not look good, but you have to wonder what they would look like if Tavai were fully healthy. Would the jump be significant? Who knows, but running a 40 and doing all of these drills require you to use your entire body, and having a bum shoulder also prevents you from training and practicing for these drills like every other prospect.

When you go to the tape, Tavai looks much better athletically than the numbers indicate. He’s quick, explosive and his hips are extremely smooth. I still have some questions about his long speed, but I think with his quickness and instincts, you can live with that. I don’t love the pick, but I absolutely feel much better after watching the kid play football and I think he fits well in the Dont’a Hightower role for Patricia.

Role: Starter (Dont’a Hightower role at linebacker)
Grade: C+

Third round (81): S Will Harris (Boston College)

I’m a pretty big fan of this pick for a few reasons.

1) Harris tested extremely well and I’m all about drafting athletic defenders, especially in the secondary.
2) I don’t think there is anything Harris likes to do more on the football field than hitting other players. It doesn’t always look pretty or efficient, but I love his willingness to deliver big hits.
3) Versatility, versatility, versatility. I love me some defensive backs that can play all over the secondary, and Patricia loves them even more.

In a perfect world, Harris would have some better tape to go along with his athletic profile, but we’ve seen Patricia work wonders in a short amount of time already with raw and athletic defenders. I’m excited to see what he can do with Harris.

Role: Developmental (another versatile safety that can play the “Devin McCourty” role for Patricia’s defense)
Grade: B+

Fourth round (117): DE Austin Bryant (Clemson)

Bryant has pretty decent production over the years at Clemson, but the tape leaves much to be desired for me. As a pass rusher, Bryant is prone to sitting on blocks and didn’t generate much pressure according to Pro Football Focus’ metrics (only a 6.1 Pass Rush Productivity, which is not very good).

To no one’s surprise, however, Bryant shows up more on film in the run game and made some nice plays in that phase of the game. He’s very disciplined and effective when moving laterally on wide runs.

Though I’m not a fan of this pick, we’ve seen what the coaching staff did with Da’Shawn Hand last year, who was drafted just three spots higher last year. I’ll put all my hope and optimism for this pick in my faith in Patricia and the rest of his staff.

Oh, and Bryant is apparently a tough SOB and I absolutely recommend giving this article a read.

Role: Developmental (rotational D-lineman with mostly outside duties)
Grade: C-

Fifth round (146): CB Amani Oruwariye (Penn State)

After listing Oruwariye as my top remaining corner for two days straight, I guess you could say that I’m pretty excited about this pick. I had Oruwariye as my No. 1 corner in the class slightly above both Greedy Williams and Byron Murphy, and as a top-20 player. Why did he slide so far? We may never know, but the fact that he’s not a very good tackler could be a pretty good reason as to why he wasn’t that high on the Lions’ board, specifically.

Oruwariye offers great size and elite athleticism at the CB position and has experience in both man- and zone-coverage. He’s sticky in man-coverage with great click-and-close ability in zone. You can check out my profile on Oruwariye back in late-January to read a little more about him.

With the addition of Justin Coleman and Rashaan Melvin, Oruwariye might have to battle it out if he wants to play right away, but even if it takes him some time, the Lions have done a fantastic job of improving the CB unit, and at worst, Oruwariye provides great depth as a rookie corner.

Role: Role Player (Potential No. 2 CB)
Grade: A

Sixth round (184): WR Travis Fulgham (Old Dominion)

Though I would have preferred to take a slot receiver in this draft and earlier on, Fulgham is a very good player and great value in the sixth round. When watching Fulgham, you can see exactly why Bob Quinn and the coaching staff targeted him. Quinn has expressed his desire to get bigger across the board, and Fulgham is a big dude. He’s also very willing and tenacious as a blocker, and posted a respectable run blocking grade in each of his last three years in college, via PFF.

Fulgham has the opportunity to make the starting roster right away and compete for reps as an outside receiver. Multiple draft outlets had him as an early Day 3 talent.

Role: Developmental (depth at wide receiver)
Grade: B+

Sixth round (186): RB Ty Johnson (Maryland)

I’ve been asking for an offensive weapon with elite speed for a long time now and the Lions finally add one. Johnson’s production at Maryland is extremely intriguing, averaging over 7.0 yards per carry in three of his four years in college. Johnson also adds value as a kick-return specialist and had two kick-return touchdowns in college.

Role: Role player (special teams and possible Theo Riddick successor)
Grade: B+

Seventh round (224): TE Isaac Nauta (Georgia)

Though I’d like to have seen a more athletic player with better upside in these later spots, I don’t think I could ever realistically get actually mad or upset over a seventh-round pick. Nauta is a player with pretty solid tape and I like the idea of doubling down and grabbing another tight end here for extra competition.

I believe that Nauta can immediately step in and challenge Michael Roberts for the third tight end spot and I do like that Nauta is very willing as a blocker and graded well as a run blocker per PFF.

Role: Role player (tight end that provides depth and will likely serve as an inline TE)
Grade: B

Seventh round (229): DT P.J. Johnson (Arizona)

Again, can’t really hate that hard on a seventh round pick, but not sure I like grabbing a player who tested as poorly as PJ Johnson. The good news is Johnson was extremely productive as a run-stuffing nose tackle for Arizona and the Lions must really like him as a potential backup to Snacks Harrison.

Role: Role player (run stuffing specialist; nose tackle)
Grade: B-

Overall Grade: B

We may not agree on value, but the fact of the matter is the Lions addressed some key needs and improved their roster from top to bottom. I don’t see many glaring needs, other than some extra help on the interior offensive line. The Lions were able to add a No. 1 tight end, starting middle linebacker, a potential No. 2 cornerback and plenty of developmental prospects and players that can fill immediate roles.


What grade do you give the Lions’ entire 2019 draft class?

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