Column: A decent draft from the Lions can lead to another playoff berth
After several offensive selections and zero splashy moves, what can be expected of the new-look Lions?
Every fan of any NFL team dreams of their squad one day making the Super Bowl. Many fan bases would do anything to make it to the big game just once, and Detroit Lions faithful are no different.
Motor City fans dream just as big, if not bigger, about their team finally succeeding. But alas, the lovable losers of football have been the laughingstock of the league for the past half century.
Because of this fact, we Lions fans look forward to our version of the Super Bowl every year; the one event that gives us a chance to improve our team every year for free, and that is the NFL Draft.
It doesn’t take a football historian to know that drafting valuable players hasn’t exactly been an area of expertise for the Detroit regime. With the clown disguised as Matt Millen running the team, the team couldn’t stop drafting NFL busts like Charles Rogers, Mike Williams and Gosder Cherlius.
However, the days of Matt Millen are long gone, and thank goodness for that. With Bob Quinn at the helm, the Detroit Lions have managed to draft formidable players who have already made an impact on the team, with names like Taylor Decker, A’Shawn Robinson and Kenny Golladay looking to be franchise players within a few years.
Bob Quinn did well in his first two drafts, and this one was no different. Not only was he able to improve the running game, he was also able to draft athletic guys with high character and made the most of his six picks.
Detroit fans know there is one statistic that we are sick of hearing: the last time the Lions had a running back rush for 100 yards, it was Reggie Bush... on Thanksgiving... in 2013.
That pathetic run is the longest active streak of its kind, which isn’t something to be proud of. Combine that with the fact that the Lions finished dead last in rushing yards in the 2017 season, and it's easy to see that the run game needs to be improved.
Improving that running game was a main priority for Bob Quinn and company, as they used half of their draft picks to draft two skilled offensive linemen and one versatile running back.
Kerryon Johnson might finally be the 3-down back that this team has been searching for. Totaling almost 2,500 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns in his time as an Auburn Tiger, the man is a magician with the football in his hands.
At 215 pounds and able to run a 4.55 40-yard dash, Johnson has the speed and size to contribute right away at an NFL level. He also proved he can catch the ball out of the backfield at Auburn, which has been a key part of Detroit’s offense in the past five years. Pairing him with Theo Riddick and LeGarrette Blount can finally give the Lions a decent backfield.
Those running backs now have some good linemen to run behind, too. Quinn has shown a huge commitment to building the offensive line here in his young tenure with Detroit, and drafting Frank Ragnow with their first round pick gives the Lions the fifth and final piece to their impressive starting core.
Many Lions fans were shocked to hear his name on draft night, as he was rarely seen in mock drafts and many high profile defensive players like Harold Landry and Taven Bryan were still on the board. But the more research one does on Ragnow, the more there is to love.
Ragnow was one of the best interior linemen prospects in this draft. Excelling in both run blocking and pass protection, Ragnow eaned Pro Football Focus’ second highest grade of all time for collegiate centers (93.7), with advanced statistics saying he can make it in the NFL. Add that to great off-field character and optimistic leadership qualities, and the Lions may have their starting center for the next decade.
Ragnow wasn’t the only potential stud offensive linemen that Detroit drafted, as they were able to get a steal in the fifth round in offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby.
Seen by many draft gurus as a second or third round pick, Crosby has great size at the position and can add depth to a unit that is in need of it, and just like Ragnow, Crosby didn’t allow a sack in the previous season, proving that he can keep Matthew Stafford upright in the pocket when called upon.
I loved the aggressive approach that Bob Quinn and his staff took to heart in the war room on draft weekend. When they wanted a player, they didn’t sit back and pray he’d fall to them. Instead, they traded up and took players that many teams were fond of.
The Lions traded up in the second round to take versatile running back Kerryon Johnson. They also traded up in the fourth round to take Alabama pass rusher Da’Shawn Hand, an aggressive baller that can play anywhere from a nose tackle to an outside linebacker in Matt Patricia’s new defensive scheme.
Despite all the great things the Lions did in this draft, many of the so-called draft experts gave the team an average grade. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. gave them a B-, and most local reports from the likes of Pride of Detroit and The Detroit Free Press gave grades of a C or worse.
But at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what grades these gurus give, as we won’t know how the Lions truly did in this draft until all their rookies finally step onto the field. Bob Quinn managed to balance value with needs yet again, picking more than a few players who look to instantly contribute next season, and could be starters a few years from now.
With a 9-7 record last season, a top quarterback in Matthew Stafford and a deep roster filled with talented young players, it’s safe to say expectations for this team may be a little high heading into this offseason. Through the draft, Bob Quinn has provided new coach Matt Patricia with the pieces he needs to succeed. Its up to the bearded genius to put all the pieces together and lead Detroit back to the postseason.