Michael Rothstein breaks down the Detroit Lions' 2017 draft class.
Round 1, No. 21 overall: Jarrad Davis, ILB, Florida
My take: Smart, smart pick by GM Bob Quinn. As long as Davis' ankle is healthy -- and there’s little reason to think the Lions would take him if they had any concerns about it -- then this is a quality selection by Detroit. Davis is an immediate starter at linebacker, either in the middle to kick Tahir Whitehead into a competition with Paul Worrilow outside, or at the Will, where he’d be the replacement for the released DeAndre Levy. Davis has the closing speed to be an effective run-stopper and the athleticism to cover running backs and tight ends. It’s the pick Quinn needed to make. Davis won’t be a headline-grabber, but he will be a good football player.
Defensive options: The Lions couldn’t have expected the draft board to fall the way it did Thursday night, with a massive run on wide receivers at the top of the draft and three quarterbacks going in the top half of the first round. That pushed a bunch of quality defensive players to Detroit’s pick, offering a plethora of potential selections. That they were able to choose from defensive ends Takkarist McKinley, Taco Charlton and Charles Harris along with linebackers Reuben Foster, T.J. Watt and Davis is better than the Lions could have hoped for. Add in a corner, Kevin King, and there really was no way Detroit would not increase its defensive speed. It did with Davis.
A rare Florida linebacker in first round: Davis is the first Florida linebacker to go in the first round since Huey Richardson in 1991 (No. 15 to the Steelers). Richardson didn’t work out in Pittsburgh, playing just 16 career games, but Davis has the potential to be a consistent player for a long time. He’s the first linebacker the Lions have taken in the first round since Ernie Sims in 2006. Davis had 60 tackles last season in nine starts, but showed as a junior what he could do with 98 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
Round 2, No. 53: Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
My take: Tabor is a surprising pick for the Lions at No. 53 considering some of the other options who were available. Two players in particular -- Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie and Connecticut’s Obi Melifonwu -- stood out as prospects who might have fit in well with the Lions. Tabor's 4.62-second 40-yard dash should be a worry as well. That said, with his NFL.com comp being Lions cornerback Darius Slay, Tabor clearly fits a slotted role for Detroit and should push Nevin Lawson for a starting spot right away on the outside. Even if he needs a year to develop, the Lions have the cornerback depth to allow that. His selection likely puts even more pressure on Alex Carter, Adairius Barnes and Quandre Diggs to prove something during camp.
How he fits: He’ll likely end up as an outside cornerback who has to play special teams early on in his career. Considering how Detroit uses its cornerbacks and the difficult transition from college to the pros for corners, the fact that he could be behind Lawson for a year to learn would be beneficial. But it’s clear the Lions are trying to put together a group of taller corners who can defend short routes, as the combination of Slay and Tabor in the future would give Detroit two corners taller than 6 feet. If Tabor comes in better than expected and wins the job opposite Slay on the outside, that could push Lawson into the nickel corner competition with D.J. Hayden and Diggs. Cornerback now becomes an intriguing competition during training camp for Detroit. Tabor is also reunited with his former Florida teammate, first-round pick Jarrad Davis.
Round 3, No. 96: Kenny Golladay, WR, Northern Illinois
My take: The Lions needed to add some depth at receiver, preferably with size, and Golladay is a player who fits both of those things. He’s not likely to be a Day 1 starter, but he doesn’t need to be with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate on Detroit’s roster. But the Lions don’t have a receiver like him at 6-foot-4, 218 pounds, and he can run at that speed, clocking a 4.5-second 40-yard dash. His 32-inch arm length also is a benefit, particularly in the red zone. The Lions had Golladay in for a visit and they clearly showed interest in him throughout the process. In two seasons at NIU, he had great production with 160 receptions for 2,285 yards and 18 touchdowns.
How he fits: At his size, he’s likely to be an outside-only receiver, and that will give Detroit position flexibility for Tate in three-receiver sets. This can allow Tate to move inside to the slot, where he’s at his most dangerous, and means Detroit theoretically could have Tate, Theo Riddick and Eric Ebron on the field in certain sets as over-the-middle options. That’s scary for opposing defenses. Golladay had good production, too, so he should be able to win the No. 3 receiver job over Jace Billingsley, TJ Jones and Keshawn Martin. Golladay is a different receiver than anyone else the Lions have. Tate is the short/intermediate dynamo, Jones is the speed threat on the outside and Billingsley, Jones and Martin all are best used in the slot. This pick also could mean Anquan Boldin doesn’t return to the Lions, as Detroit, in theory, has its top three receivers set.
Round 4, No. 124: Jalen Reeves-Maybin, OLB, Tennessee
My take: Reeves-Maybin is pretty much exactly what Bob Quinn was looking for in a Day 3 pick. He's a special teams dynamo with position flexibility in that he could play Mike or Will linebacker. Reeves-Maybin could be the type of player who ends up filling a role similar to what Josh Bynes had when he was with Detroit. The injuries he has had -- particularly a shoulder injury last year -- are concerning.
How he fits: He's going to be a depth linebacker who makes a difference on special teams at first. He could end up competing with last year's fifth-round draft pick, Antwione Williams, for a special teams role early on. He's likely Detroit's No. 4 or No. 5 linebacker this year behind Jarrad Davis, Tahir Whitehead and Paul Worrilow. If he can stay healthy, this could be a steal. That his Pro Football Focus player comparison is Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree should give an idea of what potential he has.
Round 4, No. 127: Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo
My take: This was a smart pick by Detroit. The Lions needed to pick up a tight end during the draft, and Michael Roberts was commonly linked with them on Day 3 in mock drafts. He's not going to provide the athleticism of Eric Ebron and he won't have the early blocking skills of Darren Fells, but he'll have at least a year to learn behind both. He's a red zone threat with 22 career touchdowns and a player who should be a legitimate threat for Cole Wick's place on the roster. He might even push Fells if he has a good camp.
How he fits: He'll find a role immediately. He can be a good in-line blocker and a red zone threat for quarterback Matthew Stafford, an area where Detroit struggled last year. He won't be an overwhelming athlete player like Ebron, but he's going to be a consistent player who can move on both sides of the line. He's clearly Detroit's No. 2 tight end of the future. The Lions have the ability to groom him, at least for now, with Fells as the No. 2 this year. That said, the Lions have had tight end injury issues throughout Jim Caldwell's tenure, so Roberts is a smart, safe pick.
Round 5, No. 165: Jamal Agnew, CB, San Diego
My take: Agnew is an intriguing pick because of what the Lions already have at slot corner -- and who they have already drafted this year. The addition of Agnew combined with the signing of D.J. Hayden could put Quandre Diggs in a tough spot to make the roster this year -- or at least create a heavy amount of competition on the inside. Agnew also gives Detroit flexibility again because he has the potential to be a returner after averaging 12.7 yards per punt return last season.
How he fits: He's likely to be a developmental player, coming from a smaller school, but his selection shows the Lions are serious about upgrading their secondary; two of the team's first six picks were in the defensive backfield: Agnew and Tabor. Agnew has great ball skills with 48 career pass breakups -- a University of San Diego record -- so he can make plays on receivers in short spaces. That's something Detroit has been missing. His size will probably keep him on the inside, where he'll compete with Diggs and Hayden, but like fourth-round pick Jalen Reeves-Maybin, he can make an impact on special teams early in his career.
Round 6, No. 205: Jeremiah Ledbetter, DE, Arkansas
My take: Finally, with pick No. 205 the Lions addressed their needs on the defensive line -- after spending the first five rounds focusing on skill positions and the back seven. In Ledbetter, they will get a mildly productive defensive lineman (7.5 sacks, 15 tackles for loss over the past two seasons) who will need a lot of development.
How he fits: He's a player who can probably move inside and outside in Detroit's defense -- an edge-setting defensive end on early downs and an inside rusher on passing downs. He started both of his seasons at Arkansas and was a productive tackler with 104 stops, but his size is a bit concerning at 6-foot-3, 280 pounds. This is a developmental pick who could push Anthony Zettel for time and a roster spot.
Round 6, No. 215: Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami
My take: Jake Rudock's job as Lions backup quarterback is no longer safe. The Lions' selection of Kaaya gives Rudock legitimate competition behind Matthew Stafford. This will end up being an intense competition -- Kaaya is the all-time leading passer in Miami history with 9,968 yards. He also threw for 69 touchdowns.
How he fits: Kaaya won't threaten Stafford's starting job, but he's going to push Rudock hard. It'll be one of the more anticipated battles in camp. Kaaya could have gone on Friday night but lasted all the way to the late sixth round. How fast he's able to pick up Detroit's offensive system will be the key to whether he's able to beat out Rudock. His NFL.com player comparison is Cleveland's Cody Kessler.
Round 7, No. 250: Pat O'Connor, DE, Eastern Michigan
My take: The Lions were determined to look for depth on the draft's third day, and O'Connor fills that need. He has the size, at 6-foot-4, 270 pounds, to be the closed end that the Lions last used primarily with another Eastern Michigan player, Jason Jones, but he has shown some pass-rush ability with 8.5 sacks in 2016 and 7.5 sacks in 2014.
How he fits: He'll fight for a rotational spot with Anthony Zettel, Armonty Bryant and others. How he fits into the roster remains to be seen because he's a late-round selection, but the Lions like to use a multitude of defensive linemen on Sundays and he's a player who seems to be around the ball a lot. Besides the sack and tackle-for-loss numbers, he forced five fumbles last season.