It’s time to check back in with the Detroit Lions’ 2019 rookie class. Earlier in the week, we asked readers to predict how many of the Lions’ draft picks will make the final roster, and the majority of you said either six or seven of the Lions’ nine picks will land on the 53-man roster.
That’s high expectations for general manager Bob Quinn’s fourth draft class. Are they living up to the hype thus far? Let’s take a look:
Round 1. TE T.J. Hockenson
Game 2 stats: 15 snaps, 1 catch, 22 yards
Hockenson finally caught his first NFL pass during Saturday night’s game, and it was a perfect example of how the Lions plan on using him.
West coasting with the Lions and TJ Hockenson pic.twitter.com/t6NyulBb5d— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) August 18, 2019
The former Hawkeye has been a fantastic run blocker his entire college career, so the Lions show run, and Hockenson sells a nice down block on the left edge. This allows him to sneak out towards the left sideline with no one around him, giving the Lions a big 22-yard gain and some room out of their shadow of their own goal post.
Round 2. LB Jahlani Tavai
Preseason stats: 21 snaps, 4 tackles (2 solo)
After barely playing in the preseason opener, Tavai got a quarter’s worth of playing time against the Texans. The results were fairly mixed. Bob Quinn’s big linebacker selection looked aggressive and disciplined when it comes to the running game, but there are still valid concerns about his coverage abilities.
Still, I think Tavai is maintaining much higher expectations than there were on draft day, and it looks like he’s headed for a significant role on defense.
Round 3. S Will Harris
Preseason stats: 50 snaps, 6 tackles (5 solo), 1 pass defended, 1 fumble recovery, 1 TD
Trending: WAY up
Harris has had an undeniably disappointing training camp. He looked like he was at least a year away from earning himself any playing time, and that should be concerning for any third-round pick.
But Saturday night’s game against the Texans was a revelation for Harris. Sure, he’ll get most of his attention for the scoop-and-score, but his performance was about much more than that. He was fantastic as a run defender, and even made a couple plays in coverage.
His ability to stick with receivers—especially tight ends—remains a big concern, but if he can show this kind of growth consistently, we may see Harris on the field sooner than expected.
Round 4. DE Austin Bryant
Preseason stats: N/A
Bryant remains sidelined with an upper-body injury. At this point, one has to wonder if he’s headed for injured reserve once the season starts.
Round 5. CB Amani Oruwariye
Preseason stats: 29 snaps, 3 tackles
After receiving some first-team reps earlier in camp, it seems the Oruwariye hype has died down a little. He’s been a little too prone to give up big plays, and he gave up another big one on Saturday.
In pretty good coverage on Steven Mitchell Jr., Oruwariye stumbled, then hauled down Mitchell before the ball got there. The pass interference penalty was for 36 yards and set up the Texans first-and-goal from the 5-yard line.
He also missed a tackle against the Texans.
Round 6. WR Travis Fulgham
Preseason stats: 29 snaps, 3 catches, 52 yards
LOOK AT THIS CATCH
Fulgham has displayed throughout camp the ability to make tough, contested catches like this. The key for Fulgham, if he plans on making a serious run at the Lions’ fourth or fifth (or sixth?) wide receiver roster spot, is getting everything else together. He needs to be a little sharper on his route running and he needs to learn to create a little more separation at the top of routes. Still, I currently have him on the 53-man roster.
Round 6. RB Ty Johnson
Preseason stats: 17 snaps, 4 rushes, 11 yards; 1 catch, 9 yards
Last week, the Ty Johnson hype was a little out of control. This week, Johnson took a back seat to other offensive skill players.
Johnson didn’t play much, and didn’t turn his opportunities into anything significant. Meanwhile, Mark Thompson was very efficient with his eight snaps, turning five carries into 25 yards.
Additionally, Johnson continues to get overlooked in the kick return game, despite the fact that no one else seems to be doing that job particularly well.
Round 7. TE Isaac Nauta
Preseason stats: 16 snaps, 1 catch, 17 yards
Isaac Nauta’s uncharacteristic problem with drops continued this week. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that head coach Matt Patricia even made note of them during a press conference last week.
“He caught the ball early in camp, obviously he has to do a better job more recently with some of the catches that he has not had the opportunity to complete,” Patricia said.
He had another drop in the preseason game, so he’ll need to right the ship quickly if he’s going to convince the Lions to carry four tight ends on this roster.
Round 7. DT P.J. Johnson
Preseason stats: 33 snaps, 1 tackle
I was a little hard on Johnson when I named him one of my three losers from last week. In reality, he played a lot better earlier in the game than later. Still, there is probably only one spot for a backup defensive tackle/nose tackle, and Johnson seems like he’s third at best behind the likes of Kevin Strong, John Atkins, and possibly even Fred Jones.