May 3, 2013

2013 NFL Draft Review & Season Outlook: Detroit Lions

#81 Calvin Johnson, WR, Lions

*Click on a team's logo to go to their draft recap and season outlook page. A few will be posted each day in alphabetical order.

Detroit Lions
Division: NFC North | Last Season Record: 4-12

What Needed to be addressed in the Draft: Just one season after making the playoffs, the Lions won just for games in 2012. Hitting on a few draft picks could help them get back in playoff contention.

The left tackle position is the biggest area of concern. Last year's first round pick Riley Reiff is best suited at guard or right tackle. If someone like Eric Fisher or Lane Johnson falls to them, they have to take one of them.

The Lions lost two starting defensive ends in Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch. They have to replace both, and should spend one of their first three picks on a pass rusher.

Cornerback has been a need for several years now. They have some talented young corners, but none of them looks like a relaible number one guy.

2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:

Round 1

5. Ezekiel Ansah, DE
Experience: Senior | School: Brigham Young
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 272 lbs.

Analysis: Ezekiel Ansah was a reach here. His upside guy is tremendous, but he is very raw. The Lions coached him at the Senior Bowl and believe they can develop him. With the offensive tackles off the board, they had to fill another need.

Grade: B-

Round 2

36. Darius Slay, CB
Experience: Senior | School: Mississippi State
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 192 lbs.

Analysis: The Lions drafted a defensive end and a corner in the wrong order IMO. Darius Slay is a good prospect, but he is a slight reach. However, they did address a huge need and Slay has the potential to be a very good starter.

Grade: B-

Round 3

65. Larry Warford, OG
Experience: Senior | School: Kentucky
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 329 lbs.

Analysis: Larry Warford is not a huge drop-off from Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper. He should be an immediate starter, and gives the Lions a much needed upgrade at guard.

Grade: A

Round 4

132. Devin Taylor, DE
Experience: Senior | School: South Carolina
Height: 6-7 | Weight: 266 lbs.

Analysis: This was about the right range for Devin Taylor to come off the board. He has great size and length, and could be a starter in the near future. The Lions needed to draft another defensive end.

Grade: A-

Round 5

165. Sam Martin, P
Experience: Senior | School: Appalachian State
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 205 lbs.

Analysis: The only way I can try to justify this is that the Lions desperately needed a punter. However, you can easily sign a punter as an undrafted free agent, and you don't draft one before the 6th or 7th round. Plus, there were better punters on the board.

Grade: D-

Round 6

171. Corey Fuller, WR
Experience: Senior | School: Virginia Tech
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 204 lbs.

Analysis: Decent pick by the Lions, as they could use another receiver. I had fuller as a 7th round pick, but it's not a big reach.

Grade: C+

199. Theo Riddick, RB
Experience: Senior | School: Notre Dame
Height: 5-10 | Weight: 201 lbs.

Analysis: Theo Riddick is pretty talented, and worth a late round pick. Riddick played both receiver and running back at Notre Dame, so he may do a little of both in Detroit.

Grade: B-

Round 7

211. Michael Williams, TE
Experience: Senior | School: Alabama
Height: 6-6 | Weight: 278 lbs.

Analysis: Michael Williams is a really good value pick in the 7th round. They needed depth at tight end. Williams is a much better blocker than he is a receiver.

Grade: A-

245. Brandon Hepburn, ILB
Experience: Senior | School: Florida A&M
Height: 6-2 | Weight: 240 lbs.

Analysis: The Lions need linebacker depth, so this is a nice pick in the 7th round. Brandon Hepburn should be a special teams contributor as a rookie.

Grade: C+

2013 NFL Draft Overall Review:

Analysis: The Lions had an average draft IMO. They didn't have a pick that made me go "Wow!" They did fill some needs though, so that's always good.

Ezekiel Ansah is a boom or bust prospect. Although I'm not very high on him, he filled a huge need at defensive end. Larry Warford was a steal in the third round, and was by far their best pick.

The left tackle position was not addressed, and that could be an issue. If they feel comfortable with Riley Reiff at left tackle, then right tackle becomes an issue.

Overall Grade: C+

Undrafted Free Agent Signings:

Most Notable

Joseph Fauria, TE
Experience: Senior | School: UCLA
Height: 6-7 | Weight: 243 lbs.

Analysis: Joseph Fauria is not much of a blocker, but he is a pretty good receiving tight end. He could make the roster and be used in redzone situations.

Other Free Agent Signings

Skyler Allen, OL, Ohio
Michael Brooks, DT, East Carolina
Alex Carder, QB, Western Michigan
Austin Holtz, OT, Ball State
Steven Miller, RB, Appalachian State
Jon Morgan, LB, Albany
Martavius Neloms, CB, Kentucky
Travis Tarpley, WR, Delaware State
LaAdrian Waddle, OT, Texas Tech
Cody Wilson, WR, Central Michigan

2013 Season Outlook:

Analysis: The Lions surprised everyone last year... in the wrong way. Everyone in their division has improved, but have the Lions improved enough to be more competitive?

Matthew Stafford turns the ball over a lot. He needs to cut down on the mistakes and improve his accuracy. With Jeff Backus retiring, the Lions may have to rely on Jason Fox or Corey Hilliard at left tackle. With Larry Warford at guard, Riley Reiff will likely stay at right tackle.

Luckily for Stafford, he has the best receiver in the NFL to throw the ball two. He doesn't have a true number two receiver to throw too, and their receiver depth is average at best. He needs more weapons.

Reggie Bush and Mikel Leshoure should be an excellent one-two punch at running back. The Lions need to run the ball more successfully to take pressure off the passing game.

Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh combined for 13.5 sacks last season. They form one of the best interior defensive lines in the league. Ezekiel Ansah won't have Cliff Avril type of production in year one, and Devin Taylor probably won't have much of an immediate impact. You have to wonder how much pressure they can actually put on teams.

Other than Middle Linebacker Stephen Tulloch, the linebacker, the Lions linebackers are probably the main weakness on defense. DeAndre Levy isn't very good, and Ashlee Palmer is unproven.

Louis Delmas must stay healthy, but he and free agent acquisition Glover Quin look like a solid safety tandem. Darius Slay could start across from Chris Houston early on, and their young corners could step up this season.

2013 Season Projection:

Analysis: Denver is currently picking 6th overall in my 2014 NFL Mock Draft. They chose 5th in this year's draft. The Lions didn't get much better, but filled some needs in the draft. Matthew Stafford has Calvin Johnson, and I like Ryan Broyles, but he may not have the weapons or the protection to get this team back to the playoffs.

Projected Record: 5-11 (Worst Case) | 7-9 (Best Case)

Projected Finish: 4th in the NFC North; Result: Miss the playoffs