Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn said Monday that he didn’t regret passing on rookie standout running backs Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt in last year’s draft. It was a somewhat bold decision at the time because the Lions needed help in their run game.
How did the picks he made turn out? Let’s take a look.
Best rookie: Jarrad Davis had a decent season, but Detroit’s best rookie was fifth-round cornerback/returner Jamal Agnew, and it isn’t close. Agnew won the punt returner job out of training camp and became one of the top returners in the league immediately. He led all punt returners in yards per return (15.41) and was almost 3 yards better than the No. 2 returner in the league, Pro Bowler Pharoh Cooper. Agnew's 447 yards were more than any other punt returner recorded, and he was the only returner with two touchdowns this season. He also was used by Jim Bob Cooter as an offensive piece, playing 14 snaps with two rushes for 9 yards and two receptions for 18 yards. He ended up even getting some defensive work in the last two weeks of the season, making five tackles. Quinn found a potential steal with pick No. 165 last year.
Most improved rookie: First-rounder Jarrad Davis. He had an admittedly inconsistent year, but by the end of the season he was having more good games than bad, and he finished with 96 tackles, two sacks and an interception. More importantly, after losing his role as the team’s every-down linebacker midway through the season, he regained it for the season finale and had one of his better games. The Lions asked a lot of Davis in his first season, from both leadership and on-field playing perspectives, and he finished the season looking like a potential breakout player for 2018.
Most disappointing rookie: Just based on where he was drafted, Teez Tabor would have to be the selection -- and he didn’t have a bad season, considering what he was expected to do. But Tabor started the season as a healthy scratch, and most teams hope to get more out of their second-round picks. He ended up playing in 10 games, making 11 tackles and finding a role for himself defensively by the end of the season before injuring his arm. He said during the Lions' locker clean-out session that he’ll be fine, but his arm was in a sling.
Jury is still out on: The plan for Tabor was always a long-term one, with 2018 the reasonable time when he could be expected to make an impact because of who was in front of him. Detroit had three cornerbacks with experience ahead of him: Nevin Lawson and D.J. Hayden on the outside and Quandre Diggs in the middle. Tavon Wilson's season-ending shoulder injury opened up some room for him because Diggs moved to safety, and Tabor incrementally got more work the last month of the season. It’s still unknown what he is able to do, but depending how the Lions handle Lawson's and Hayden’s contract situations, Tabor might have a potential starting role either outside or in the slot in 2018 if he’s ready for it.
Undrafted rookie evaluation: Detroit might have found a good one in Tion Green out of Cincinnati. The Lions kept five running backs out of training camp -- a sign that they thought they had something in Green -- but didn’t give him a shot until December against Baltimore. He ended up with 42 carries for 165 yards and a team-best 3.93 yards per carry in the final five games. He likely did enough to give himself a role in 2018 in a running back room that underachieved in 2017 and could see some major changes. Quinn himself said he plans to add a back to the room this offseason, and there’s a reasonable thought that he could add two or three. Defensive end Jeremiah Valoaga was an interesting project who made the initial roster out of UNLV but ended up on the practice squad by the end of the season. Depending on the defensive scheme run by the new head coach, Valoaga could have a chance to be a depth roster player next season, or he might not fit the defense at all.