Draft review: Detroit Lions


After analyzing the draft needs of all 32 teams, PFT will review how well each team addressed those needs. Up next: The Detroit Lions.

What they needed: Offensive line, cornerback, defensive end, wide receiver.

Who they got:
Round 1: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, Brigham Young
Round 2: Darius Slay, CB, Mississippi State
Round 3: Larry Warford, G, Kentucky
Round 4: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina
Round 5: Sam Martin, P, Appalachian State
Round 6: Corey Fuller, WR, Virginia Tech; Theo Riddick, RB, Notre Dame
Round 7: Michael Williams, TE, Alabama; Brandon Hepburn, LB, Florida A&M

Where they hit: The Lions hit on every one of the needs we identified, and they made a particular point of addressing defensive end, taking Ansah in the first round and Taylor in the fourth. After losing both of last year’s starters, Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, that was a high priority.

Where they missed: Although they drafted one offensive lineman, a third-round guard, tackle remains a need for the Lions: They lost last year’s starting left tackle, Jeff Backus, to retirement and lost last year’s starting right tackle, Gosder Cherilus, to the Colts in free agency. It was a surprise that the Lions didn’t draft an offensive tackle, and it appears that they’ll rely on some combination of Riley Reiff, Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox to give them their two starters. Matthew Stafford can’t feel great about that.

Impact rookies: It sounds strange to say this about a punter, but Martin might be the rookie who’s most ready to provide an immediate upgrade for the Lions. Last year’s punter, Nick Harris, struggled through a tough season and won’t be back this year, and Martin should be able to improve the Lions’ punting in 2013.

Slay will enter training camp as the favorite to start at cornerback opposite incumbent starter Chris Houston, although he’ll need to prove in camp that he’s better than the three corners they drafted last year: Bill Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green. Slay may also end up handling returns, which is another area where Detroit needs to get better.

Long-term prospects: Ansah has the kind of freakish athletic talent that could make him one of the best pass-rushers in the league some day, but he only took up American football three years ago and started all of nine games in his college career. He’s going to need some time to get accustomed to the NFL. And after last year’s 4-12 record, Lions G.M. Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz may not have time.

34 responses to “Draft review: Detroit Lions

  1. Hey guys, have a Twitter account and are a Lions fan? Give @RoarOfMotown a follow. We’re a fan run, unbiased Twitter account for all things Lions. No spamming, just a great place for Lions discussion, rumors, idea and whatnot.

  2. Worse on the offensive line, worse on the defensive line. I’m not sure how Mayhew thinks we will improve on 4 wins. At this point I’m convinced he has his eye on Clowney. Good Luck to Reggie and Matt trying to stay healthy this year. They’ll be lucky if they can play in 2014

  3. I might have been more worried about the ansah pick if they hadn’t coached him at senior bowl. But they did, for a week, and they saw firsthand how he responded. DE isn’t exactly rocket science, either. I love the pick.

  4. Thought it was a good draft, not an excellent one. They addressed their current needs, could of been a lot worse. It will take a year or two before you really know the outcome of the draft. Still don’t know how good the guys we drafted in 2012 are yet. One year of experience means a lot in the NFL.

  5. I never bought the whole “need a LT’ talk that was going on….the lions invested a 1st rd pick on the 2nd best tackle available last year. Naturally he should transition over to LT. They will easily get a RT at the right price in the offseason.

  6. I like this draft a lot. Ansah will start and there may be growing pains but he can’t be an worse than Vander Bosch t the end of his career. I think the knee injury on Slay is way over played. The guy out preformed everyone at the combine and my understanding is the meniscus injury is not uncommon. They had him in and doctors checked him out. If they hadn’t picked Warford in the third I may have questioned the Slay pick but they got the guard too. Not many teams can say they picked four starters if you add the punter.

  7. We drafted a lot of need, which is good. I preferred Millner, but if Ansah pans out, it will be fine. Boy, we have holes at OL, might need to sign some guys.

  8. As a Packers fan I think the Lions had a good solid draft. They are much better team than their 4-12 record of last year. The NFC North schedule is tough this season but I think Det will be right there in closely contested division race.

  9. All the draft experts had me thinking Fischer would be there at #5. Got my hopes up. After 3 OTs get picked in the first 4 picks, I knew Mayhew would have to take a chance on Ansah.

  10. When gill Brandt tells u ziggy is the most freakish athlete he’s ever seen in 50 years u don’t pass him up. They coached him for a whole week at senior bowl they know what he can do and cant. Great pick up and so is Larry out UK will finally give us running game….don’t matter what back u have if he gets hit 3 yards deep. Go lions

  11. Reiff will be fine at LT, he played there last year when Backus was hurt & no one missed Backus even though it was against a good d-line. fox was solid at Univ. of miami & was a 4th round pick that has some development under his belt is it really any better to get a 4th rounder this yr?? hillard has also taken gosders spot on more than one occasion without noticable drop off except in less penalties. warford will take care of the biggest area of need on the line which was RG, Nagy will push for a chance to start at center which means competition to make both better. Slay’s injury is nothing I have had tears like that & not that bad don’t see him missing time, so great pickup. The Ansah will be a beast & DE is not like corner, safety or LB in terms of complexity. He is going to go in & disrupt that is his job. Very good overall draft & can’t wait to see them on the field.

  12. I’ve seen several comparisons on various sites between Ziggy and Jason Pierre-Paul. But looking at the combine results, Ziggy beats JPP in every single measurable. I think Ansah’s ceiling is off the charts. And I don’t see potential for him being a bust. At absolute worst he will be an above average pass rush specialist on 3rd downs. I think he’s gonna go WAY beyond that though, and in 2 years will be one of the leagues most disruptive DE’s.

  13. This is a typical Lions draft with some “reachy” picks and a failure to find the sweet spots for strategic trade downs. They could have done tremendously better with a few well timed trades but they just cannot figure out how to spot trade opportunities.

    Warford was the smartest pick, and that’s a bad sign when you can’t say your best moves happened in Rounds 1 and 2.

  14. This was a good draft. I’m impressed that with Mayhew and Schwartz the Lions have exhibited an actual draft vision in terms of talent. Big, fast and intellectually curious. Now, let’s see them put it together on the field.

  15. should have gotten denard or tried to trade up for him in the 5th rd. shoelaces with bush are 2 game breakers, especially with calvin on the outside. mayhew still doesnt impress me. drafting a punter in the 5th round when we could of signed the lsu punter who wasnt even drafted. I do like the kentucky gaurd though. draft was a C but could have easily been an A

  16. Ansah wasn’t a reach. He was considered the top 1 or 2 defensive end in the draft based on scouting and performance. With the top three OT’s off the board, he was an obvious pick and will be dominant in the NFL.
    Slay is “injured” but is expected to take part in all off season activities and will almost certainly be a day one starter. He was a 1st round talent. It was a great pickup.
    Warford is a giant and could blast open doors big enough for Stafford to lead the league in rushing, if he wants. 🙂 The OL didn’t suffer on the edges last year. It suffered up the middle.
    All the other guys are also great fits and seem like high character guys. This was a great draft. 2013 will be exciting.

  17. Slay, slight meniscus tear. Doctors say it won’t even require surgery. So there’s that issue—no ding for damaged goods. If you liked him before the draft, you still like him.

  18. The best thing about Ansah is you know he goes 100 percent. The story of mendenhall making him not miss a class or be late to practice for 6 weeks to even have a shot to stick was telling.

  19. With the wide 9, Ansah’s athletic abilities will help him be very productive. He’ll be fine this year. He’s smart and sharp – watch the interviews with him. (He went to BYU on an academic scholarship and got a degree in probability & statistics.)

    And yup – I’m confident with Reiff as LT. Jason Fox is the now the starter at RT. In some ways, we’re looking at a total overhaul of the offensive line, and that’s a good thing.

  20. As a Lions fan, I’m not convinced that Tackle is a need (like everyone else seems to think). Since they drafted Warford, it’s pretty safe to assume that Reiff will be their LT, and Jason Fox will end up starting at RT. Fox is a guy that would have been drafted in the 1st-2nd round if he hadn’t been injured at the time. He’s no slouch, and he knows their offense well since he’s been with the team for a few years now. Hilliard is not bad as a backup either, or he could possibly beat out Fox for the starting job (but I doubt it). Warford will almost certainly end up playing RG at some point this season, if not from the start. If Warford doesn’t start at RG, then I’d look for Reiff to start there, while Fox mans the LT position and Hilliard occupies the RT spot.

  21. Of all the other NFC North teams, I have the most respect for the Lions. Not really sure why because you seriously suck, but I do.

  22. If Ansah didn’t know the game until college, and excelled at it when many high school stars fail to, wouldn’t that mean he is good at the game and may get better? Who are these jokers that say he doesn’t deserve a shot in the NFL? I can understand their reasoning of not taking him until later in the draft, but keep in mind that this is a guy that dominated the Senior Bowl – a game that top 10 draft picks participate in.

  23. I see “good, not great” tossed around. I tend to think that in those terms, there were so many needs that “great” wasn’t possible.

    Instead, they did as well as could be expected given the variety of holes there are to fill.

    On the other hand, this is familiar territory for Lions fans. Were they better in previous drafts, this one would not have been so nutty.

    Perhaps they overextended chasing Reggie Bush and that tied up too much cap space to be able to retain one or two more free agents — such as Gosder or Avril. I don’t think they could have done anything about LoJack, though. He expressed that he’s done with wide-9.

    Perhaps they’re so confident in some of the more unknown players (Whitehead, Greenwood, Fox, Austin, Nagy. . . ) that we won’t see it coming.

    Maybe they’re just delusional. There’s plenty of doubt to go around following a 4-12 season wherein they lost the final 8 games.

  24. Most reviews of the Lions’ draft are from pundits who really aren’t familiar with the team. After the Big Three LTs were gone any others would have been bad selections versus value that was on the board.

    Far as RT, Jason Fox is the answer—providing he can stay healthy…which he did at The U. Reiff is projected to be no worse than Backus and Warford is an upgrade to Peterman. The offense should be fine.

    The real improvement has to be on the defensive side of the ball. The question marks are Ansah and Slay. If both hit, the Lions will be in thick of it.

  25. “Not to mention he was wearing 3D glasses with no lenses in them at draft! Whats with that? Haha” — inyofaceagain

    Perhaps you could arrange a meeting with the big fellow, so that you might discuss the relative merits of the “Urkel look” versus the Metrosexual one which your lifted, tweezed eyebrows suggest that you rock.

    Could be that you’d come away enthusiastically professing your conversion to his retro take on your favorite industry. 🙂

  26. Iks311: While I mostly agree with your take on the draft, I think that the O-line will still tell the tale of the season, through little fault of the F/O. The real problem is that lines take time to learn to work with one another, even when all of the guys are accomplished vets. I would be very surprised if these guys aren’t still making an abnormal number of mistakes when they go home for the bye week.

    The adjustments which these guys have to make on the line are so complex and interdependent, fluctuating with opponent’s personnel and their own nagging injuries, strengths and weaknesses, that it simply takes time to do it routinely, on the fly.

    So, expect the ignorant multitudes to resume their imitation of howler monkeys at the zoo from jump street. Those folks just can’t resist a warm handful of their own isht.

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