Those were the nine names called by the Detroit Lions on the weekend of the 2017 NFL Draft. An exciting weekend for Lions fans—just as it is for every other fan base around the NFL—as a group of new young faces had arrived to fill the team’s need and potentially build this team into a contender.
Davis was the Ray Lewis-esque presence that would anchor a struggling defense. Tabor was the instinctive corner that could start across Darius Slay. Golladay was a third receiver who could potentially replace Calvin Johnson’s presence. Reeves-Maybin was supposed to add more talent to a struggling linebacking corps. Roberts was supposed to form a fearsome tight end duo with Eric Ebron. Kaaya was supposed to replace Jake Rudock as the team’s backup quarterback.
Two years later, Golladay is the only one of that group who have come close to proving themselves as a regular contributor to this team, and even he has been marred with consistency issues. Agnew earned himself an All-Pro selection as punt returner in 2017, but suffered a significant knee injury in 2018, and the additions of the likes of Brandon Powell and Ty Johnson puts his job in jeopardy.
Davis proved to be a liability at the second level of the defense, and while he has shown a few flashes over the years, he has not justified his first-round draft status to date.
Tabor has barely even seen the field through two years of his NFL career and has been one of the worst corners in the league when he has.
Kaaya and O’Connor never played a snap for the Detroit Lions.
Reeves-Maybin will be on the roster bubble this summer, and even if he does make the roster, he is not set to play a meaningful role on the defense this upcoming season. If he misses the roster he will join Ledbetter, who missed the 53-man roster last year.
And finally, Roberts. The tight end was released by the Lions Friday after a trade for a conditional draft pick to the New England Patriots fell through. The tight end caught 13 passes for 146 yards through two seasons, including a 2018 season where the team’s tight end position was void of talent.
After only two seasons, four of the nine players selected are no longer on the team. Unless Reeves-Maybin and Tabor have a stand-out camp, that number might increase to six.
The failures of this draft class has had long-term effects upon the team’s roster construction as a whole. Both of the Lions first two draft picks in 2019 — tight end T.J. Hockenson and linebacker Jahlani Tavai — were spent on positions that could have been addressed two years ago. This meant that the team’s biggest need on the roster—cornerback—was left unaddressed until Day 3. The need at cornerback should not have even existed, though, as Tabor should have been the guy to fill that need.
Years later, Bob Quinn is still focusing his offseason plans around filling holes that should have been filled years ago. The issues that haunted the team in an abysmal 2018 season—poor run defense early in year, no reliable corners beyond Slay, lack of receiving options at tight end—all stem from the failures of the 2017 class.
No draft will ever be perfect. It is rare that a team can land more than a few valuable starters in one class. The Lions 2017 class is a special type of disaster, though. Golladay looks like the only long-term success, and a team that was coming off of a playoff appearance in 2016 quickly fell entirely out of contention.