2017 Detroit Lions draft grades


It is Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn‘s second year at the reigns and it marks the first time he has had a full offseason to prepare for the NFL draft. In saying this, expectations are extremely high for a newbie GM who has been crowned a genius after one solid draft class.

Quinn has always said his plan is to build his team through the draft, so this past weekend was incredibly important for the future of the Lions.

Before we begin, every single analyst who does a draft grade almost always just plays it safe and throws out “B”s for everyone and calls it a day. Not horrible, but not great and they just play the middle of the road. Remember, a “C” grade is considered average and is not always a negative.

[the_ad id=”80408″]

10. Round 7 (Pick 250): Pat O’Connor, DE, Eastern Michigan

You would be hard pressed to find somebody who would say that the Lions defensive line was a strength from a year ago. They ranked second to last in the NFL in 2016 with 26 sacks, yet GM Bob Quinn waited to pull the trigger on a true defensive end until his last pick in the draft.

The local product will not wow anybody with his measurables, but he does have a hot motor and can be a nuisance off the edge. He initially had very minimal draft buzz until he showed up at the Michigan Pro Day and caught the Lions eye.

O’Connor will compete for the same roster spot as last year’s 6th round pick, DE Anthony Zettel. The two players are very similar in stature and have many similarities throughout their game. If anything, O’Connor is a bit of a redundancy.

At this stage in the draft, any type of impact on the field from O’Connor is considered a plus, but he is on the outside-looking-in for a final 53-man roster spot.

Personal selection: DE Tashawn Bower


[the_ad id=”78455″]

9. Round 6 (Pick 215): Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami

This is a very intriguing selection. Before the 2016 season, there were quite a few draft gurus out there who thought Kaaya might be a first or second round pick. Those talks obviously dwindled as the year went on, but no matter the case, he at least looked the part of an NFL QB.

Brad Kaaya is far from a finished product, nor does he need to be. Stafford is the QB of this team and Kaaya has no shot at usurping the throne.

As much as you might want to believe in last year’s 6th round quarterback, Jake Rudock, he does not possess the traits of a starting NFL QB. His ceiling is a serviceable backup. Rudock may remain the no. 2 QB this year based solely on experience, but Kaaya is the backup of the future.

In today’s NFL where QBs are at a premium, Kaaya also should have value down the road for a possible trade if he begins to develop and flashes during the preseason.

The Lions needed a legit backup QB and that is exactly what Kaaya can provide.

Personal selection: QB Brad Kaaya


[the_ad_group id=”2371″]

8. Round 6 (Pick 205): Jeremiah Ledbetter, DT/DE, Arkansas

Listed as a defensive end, the 280lb Ledbetter will probably be best served inside at defensive tackle for Detroit. The Lions have been known to use Kerry Hyder, Armonty Bryant, and other larger DEs to get pressure up the middle on passing downs–Ledbetter will continue that trend.

He is a below par athlete at DE but an elite athlete if considered a tackle. If he can gain 10 pounds and maintain his quickness, he would be a perfect situational three-tech tackle.


Ledbetter demonstrated he could play tackle while at Arkansas, but it is still a little bit of a projection at the NFL level. There is always room for a gap shooting specialist on an NFL team as run stoppers are a dime a dozen. The Lions lacked a player who could wreak havoc and collapse the pocket from the inside last year, this should be Ledbetter’s main objective with the Lions.

It will be interesting to see Ledbetter’s transition and how he is utilized in defensive coordinator Teryl Austin’s scheme.

Personal selection: WR Isaiah Ford


[the_ad_group id=”2371″]

7. Round 5 (Pick 165): Jamal Agnew, CB, San Diego

Jamal Agnew was a player that did not receive very much hype in the draft process. After the Lions showed interest at his Pro Day and brought him in for an official top-30 visit, I knew their infatuation was real.

The 5-foot-9, 185-pound corner ran a blazing 4.34-second forty. Given his height, he is projected as a slot corner only at the next level.

Perhaps his biggest impact this fall will be on special teams where he was an electric return man. After the Lions split ways with WR/KR Andre Roberts in free agency, the return spot is wide open.

Returners can often times make an impact year one. Agnew should have a much easier time transitioning as a returner than a corner coming from a small school.

I really don’t see Agnew making a huge difference on defense early on. His services will be best used on special teams and as a reserve at the suddenly crowded corner position.

Personal selection: CB Brian Allen


[the_ad_group id=”2371″]

6. Round 4 (Pick 127): Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo

Michael Roberts is target hog around the end zone. He had the most TD receptions (16) of any tight end in FBS last season. The next closest tight end only had half of his total. With the departure of WR Anquan Boldin, Stafford will need a reliable target in the red zone and Roberts will be just that.

Despite scoring a TD every 3.1 receptions in his career, Roberts has limited athleticism. For those that think he may take over TE Eric Ebron’s spot, it’s highly unlikely due to the fact they will be playing essentially different positions. Robert’s addition will likely give Ebron more latitude on the outside and keep him away from the traditional inline role.

Roberts is very similar to former-Lion Brandon Pettigrew. Detroit struggled to find a replacement for Pettigrew last year and Roberts will finally fill that void. Both TEs are bigger bodied, willing blockers who can also catch decently well. Considering Roberts isn’t a first round pick, the expectations won’t be so highly placed.

Personal selection: TE George Kittle


[the_ad_group id=”2371″]

5. Round 4 (Pick 124): Jalen Reeves-Maybin, LB, Tennessee

Jalen Reeves-Maybin is today’s money backer. The NFL is moving towards smaller linebackers and JRC is no exception. At 230-pounds, his most natural position will be on the weak side chasing down plays in Austin’s defense.

The 2016 Tennessee team captain is quick to the ball and will add some speed to the linebacker core. Although he may not of have had a superb pro day, he plays faster than his 4.68-second forty suggests. Reeves-Maybin has top-notch instincts and the ability to cover tight ends and backs.

He is a guy that many assumed would still be available later in the draft. If he could remain healthy–which is a real issue–this would have been a great spot for him to land. His injury history with his shoulders are concerning and a story to keep an eye on.

Before his season-ending shoulder surgery last fall, he posted back to back 100-tackles seasons in 2014 and 2015. The production and football talent is there, he just needs his health to cooperate.

Personal selection: LB Blair Brown


[the_ad_group id=”2371″]

4. Round 3 (Pick 96): Kenny Golladay, WR, Northern Illinois

A wide receiver in the third may be too rich for many fans blood. Here is the thing, this is only half of what Quinn received for the Lions original third round pick(85) after a trade down with the New England Patriots. Pick 124 (LB Jaylen Reeves-Maybin) was also acquired from Quinn’s third round trade.

As a player, Golladay is one of the few wideout prospects who possess all the traits you look for in a number one receiver. He is listed as 6-foot-4, 218-pounds yet runs a 4.50-forty. Not many size/speed players like him fall too much further into the draft unless there are some major red flags.

Playing at a smaller school with sub-par quarterbacks, Golladay did his best given the circumstances. He was consistently double teamed and often forced to settle for hitches and shorter passes. His route tree will need to be worked on at the next level.

One of the biggest questions many have is “can he catch?” Golladay only dropped five of 165 catchable passes over the last two seasons. That’s not to say things won’t change catching fastballs from the hardest thrower in the NFL, but it’s an encouraging baseline. He does have a tendency to body catch which can make it difficult to consistently reel in passes from the likes of a Matthew Stafford–see Marvin Jones.

The Lions have no receiver depth and no height at the position. Golladay helps with both of those aspects and should see some decent playing time right away. His biggest competition will be TJ Jones, Jace Billingsley, and Keshawn Martin.

Many draft analysts didn’t believe Golladay would go this high, but a round early for someone with his sky-high potential is justifiable.

Personal selection: RB Samaje Perine


[the_ad_group id=”2371″]

3. Round 2 (Pick 53): Teez Tabor, CB, Florida

Much like the Lions second round pick last year (A’Shawn Robinson), Quinn picks up a SEC player who once was pegged as a top-15 selection. Quinn made it very clear this offseason that the defense needed more playmakers and that is what he got in Tabor.

The 6-foot, 200-pound corner is an elite football player, just maybe a below average athlete (relative to an NFL corner). If you judge your evaluation solely on film, Teez Tabor IS an elite prospect.

When comparing Tabor to CBS’ top-10 corners in the 2017 draft, he is always near the top in every statistical category. First in passes defended per target and touchdowns allowed percentage– second in fewest yards/target, interception/target percentage, and opponent passer rating. These are numbers of a true shutdown corner.

I feel the perfect comparison and ceiling for Tabor is Washington Redskins CB Josh Norman. There is some pretty big risk involved with this pick considering Tabor’s athletic limitations. There are very few great corners who have run the 40 in the 4.6s. It is not impossible, but we can only hope his elite instincts and football skills can mask his less-than-desirable athleticism.

Personal selection: S Obi Melifonwu


[the_ad_group id=”2371″]

2. Round 1 (Pick 21): Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida

Jarrad Davis was a late bloomer in terms of draft stock. After missing the combine recovering from an ankle injury, he lit up his pro day. He has the size (6-1, 238lbs), the speed (4.62 40) and explosion (38.5in vertical) that you look for in a first round pick.

On the field, he is your prototypical sideline to sideline MIKE backer who is a missile once he finds his target. He can overrun plays from time to time, but that aggression can be harnessed with coaching.

Perhaps one of Davis’s biggest benefits to the Lions will be his coverage ability. He was targeted 66 times on deep passes and allowed only ONE completion during his time at Florida. His prowess in pass defense will be a welcomed addition to a team that was statistically one of the worst in the NFL at covering tight ends.

Many Lions fan would have loved to grab the slipping Reuben Foster at 21. Foster may be a top-5 talent in this draft, but his longevity in the NFL is too hard to predict with all of his off-the-field concerns. There was a reason such a transcendent talent almost fell out of the first round completely. Davis is a much safer pick and a better locker room leader.

To put a cherry on top, Davis is renowned for his high character and was said to be one of the best interviews of any player in this draft. There wasn’t a ton of other reasonable options in the first round and Quinn made the correct call.

Personal selection: LB Reuben Foster


[the_ad_group id=”2371″]


Much like last year, Quinn played it safe with his picks and selected football players over elite athletes. These players come into the league NFL ready with high floors. None of these players were big-time names or really exude all-pro potential, but they are not boom or bust prospects either.

Based on the strength of the draft, he followed the route that seemed to be most pragmatic. It was actually pretty predictable the first few rounds. Was there really ever a chance the Lions would select a position outside of linebacker round one? With the amount of talent at the corner position, could they possibly pass in round two?

Every single player has a very specific role to which they will play in the upcoming year. It would not be difficult to imagine that at least five of these rookies see plenty of playing time. That is a solid contribution from a rookie class.

There may be some grumblings amongst fans that the Lions did not come away with a big running back or a highly touted D-lineman, but by the end of next year, many fans will feel a lot better about this draft. Sometimes the draft doesn’t shake out exactly how you want it.