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Detroit Lions' 2019 draft: Analysis for every pick

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Hockenson: Chemistry with Stafford will come with time (2:01)

New Lions tight end T.J. Hockenson is ready to get to work with Detroit and start learning the playbook. (2:01)

Breaking down the Detroit Lions' 2019 draft class.

Round 1, No. 8 overall: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

My take: I would have thought this was a smart selection and the Lions were doing exactly what Bob Quinn was expected to do -- select a player at a position of need with a high floor and high character -- except that was before Ed Oliver slipped down to No. 8. Oliver is a potential game-changing defensive talent who could play multiple spots in Matt Patricia's defense and seemed like a smart fit. Instead, the Lions brought in a player who makes sense on a lot of levels but will have to be one of the best at his position to make it a strong pick down the road.

What about Ed Oliver? That is going to be the question for at least a little while, in part because of what happened the last time Detroit took a tight end in the top 10. That was Eric Ebron, who ended up becoming a Pro Bowler in Indianapolis. In Detroit, though, he was often known as the player selected ahead of Aaron Donald, Taylor Lewan, Zack Martin and Odell Beckham Jr. Who knows whether that happens again, but the comparisons are certainly there. Hockenson, though, is a stronger overall prospect than Ebron and fills a need, where Ebron was largely viewed as a luxury pick.

Tight ends will get opportunities: Between the signing of Jesse James in free agency and the drafting of Hockenson early, don't be surprised if the Lions run a lot of two-tight-end sets in Darrell Bevell's new offense. Bevell and Matt Patricia clearly want to focus on the run and Hockenson is a strong blocker, which makes him an every-down type of player for Detroit. Considering all of Quinn's first-round picks have started immediately for the Lions, figure Hockenson to do the same this year -- and be on the field a lot for Matthew Stafford, who lacked a consistent tight end to throw to last year. He'll also give Stafford another red-zone option, which can only help a new offense.


Round 2, No. 43 overall: Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii

My take: Honestly -- he's not a player I know all that much about and is a complete surprise at pick No. 43. If it feels like the Tracy Walker selection Quinn made in the third round a year ago all over again, that's pretty fair. Walker turned out strong for Detroit. Tough to say at all on Tavai. He had 82 tackles and two sacks as a senior. He has good size at 6-foot-2, 250 pounds and was better as a junior and sophomore when he had over 100 tackles in each season. He's from California originally and fits the athleticism mold well as he was named to the United States U-18 rugby team growing up. But considering some other, more well-established, options on the board this feels like a reach of a pick.

Tavai was suspended for the first game of his senior season for breaking team rules. The suspension stemmed from an altercation at a bar in June 2018. Tavai said in a conference call with reporters Friday night that he considers the incident “in the past” and that he has “learned from my mistake and I’m trying to move on right now and show the Lions I’m ready to go and that I’m not allowing anything off the field to ever affect me again from missing time or anything like that.”


Round 3, No. 81 overall: Will Harris , DB, Boston College

My take: This is a strong pick by Detroit -- the second consecutive year the Lions went with a safety in the third round of the draft. Last year was Tracy Walker. In Harris, they have a big hitter with coverage skills. He's also big at 6-foot-2, which could make him an optimal fit when the Lions go to three safeties. With five career interceptions and 12 passes defended, he can play deep but he won't shy away from hitting with 225 career tackles. He also fills the leadership quotient Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia look for as he was a team captain.

Round 4, No. 117 overall: Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson

My take: It took a couple of days, but the Lions found a potential edge-rusher in Bryant, who has good size at 6-foot-4, 271 pounds. He's long, but he's likely situational as a pass-rusher to start his career while he refines his ability to become a run-stopper. Think of this as a backup to Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara, a third edge-rusher who can be developed behind two players who know and fit the system well. Bryant made a name for himself this year during the College Football Playoff by having three tackles for loss (two sacks) against Notre Dame and then three tackles in the title game against Alabama. This feels somewhat similar to the Da'Shawn Hand pick last year -- while maybe not as talented as Hand, a player from a big-time program with a history of producing playmakers at the position.

Round 5, No. 146 overall: Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State

My take: Oruwariye is Detroit's fourth straight defensive selection. He has some speed with a 4.47-second 40-yard dash time and a 6.82-second 3-cone drill. He's also the tall type of corner the Lions covet at 6-foot-2. More of a man corner, he could pair well with Darius Slay once he gets a hang of the defense. Have to think he'll spend most of 2019 on special teams unless injuries force him into a larger role. That's the right way to handle mid-round corners. He could also fit in well in the Lions' defensive backs room because of his love of playing video games -- something Quandre Diggs and Slay are also into. Don't be surprised if he pushes for playing time by the end of training camp.

Round 6, No. 184 overall: Travis Fulgham, WR, Old Dominion

My take: The second ODU player ever to be drafted, he has the size the Lions would like at 6-2, 215 pounds with OK speed for a larger receiver at 4.58 seconds. He will clearly be a developmental receiver, but he has good in-air skills and can find the high-point quickly -- much like the Lions' current receivers. He had a good final year with 63 catches for 1,083 yards and nine touchdowns.

Round 6, No. 186 overall: Ty Johnson, RB, Maryland

My take: The Lions upgraded their speed in the backfield with this pick. Johnson ran an unofficial 4.26-second 40-yard dash at Maryland's pro day after not attending the combine. In high school, he had a 4.28-second timed 40-yard dash time. He's perhaps going to play his biggest role on special teams. He ranks fourth all-time in kick return yards for the Terps with 1,194. He's going to be a burner and could be a good change-of-pace back down the road for the Lions, potentially as a Theo Riddick replacement. That suddenly becomes a position battle to watch this summer.

Round 7, No. 224 overall: Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia

My take: The 6-foot-3, 244-pound Georgia product ran a 4.91-second 40-yard dash and has the ability to be a strong pass-catcher. He's not likely to overtake T.J. Hockenson as the biggest tight end the Lions have on the roster, but he could be good complement to Hockenson as a primary pass-catcher/route-runner. He also finally gives Bob Quinn the SEC player he covets as he's often said he likes players from the conference and has now drafted one in every draft he's run in Detroit. He has never had a game better than his 5-catch, 86-yard performance against Tennessee in 2016, though. Clearly, the Lions are trying to remake the tight end position in this year's draft between the signing of Jesse James and drafting of Hockenson and Nauta.


Round 7, No. 229 overall: PJ Johnson, DT, Arizona

My take: Johnson is a big man (6 feet 4, 335 pounds) who might fill in as a player to give Damon "Snacks" Harrison a break occasionally as a rotational tackle. In one season with the Wildcats, he had 31 tackles and three sacks. He doesn't have a ton of high-level experience but the size he possesses makes him worth a late-round shot for Detroit, which won't have much need for him to play right away. Worst case, he doesn't make the roster. Best case, the Lions find a gem who can learn from Harrison and eventually pair with Da’Shawn Hand, Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers on the defensive line.