It’s hard to believe that it has already been three months since the Detroit Lions fell to the Seattle Seahawks 26-6 in the Wild Card Round of the NFL Playoffs.
Since that loss, Bob Quinn, who is in his 2nd season as general manager of the Lions, has been working countless hours to enhance the roster for the 2017 season. He has signed some important free agents, including offensive linemen T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner, and made the tough decision to release LB DeAndre Levy.
Though the Lions may still add a piece or two in free agency, the main focus had started to shift to the NFL Draft, which will begin on April 27th.
I have said it before and will say it again, especially now that we know the route the Lions took in free agency, Quinn ABSOLUTELY MUST focus on improving the defensive side of the football via the draft.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what the “Perfect” Detroit Lions 2017 NFL Draft class would look like.
Round 1 – Taco Charlton (DE) Michigan
Bob Quinn has worked this offseason to improve the offensive line which means it is almost a no-brainer to assume he will look to solidify the defense in the NFL Draft. One player who could come in immediately and make a difference is DE Taco Charlton out of Michigan. Charlton is a guy that I have been high on since the end of the college football season and he has been impressive in his workouts. Some mock drafts have the DE out of Michigan going before the Detroit Lions select, but I really hope he is still around.
“Inconsistent” has been the buzzword that has followed Charlton since coming to Michigan, but he began the process of shaking it during his senior season. Charlton is an ascending prospect with the size, length, athleticism and pass-rushing potential that NFL general managers dream of. What you see today might not be what you get. While his production coming out of college will be modest, he could become a substantially better player as a pro if he’s committed to the weight room and willing to absorb coaching. High-impact defensive end with all-pro potential is his ceiling. His floor is a solid starter.
Round 2 – Jourdan Lewis (CB) Michigan
Jourdan Lewis may be undersized, but when we look back, he could end up being one of the top corners selected in the 2017 NFL Draft. Darius Slay has one side of the field on lockdown, but other than him, the Lions lack talent at the CB position. It’s looking more and more like Lewis could be available when the Detroit Lions select in the 2nd Round and if he is, this would be a great selection.
Technician with the foot quickness and overall athleticism to handle himself from the slot. Shouldn’t be much of a detriment against the run for teams who want to attack on the ground from 11 personnel. Excels from press and plays with confidence and edge. Lack of size will scare some teams and could cause him to fall out of the first round, but he has the ability to become a very good slot corner for a man-cover team.
Round 3 – Duke Riley (OLB) LSU
As things stand, the Detroit Lions will have to start the 2017 season with Paul Worrilow, Antwione Williams, and Armbrister Thurston competing for two OLB positions. Worrilow will probably get the nod on one side, but the Lions have to improve on the other. Duke Riley is an interesting player who could be a boom or bust type guy, but he may be worth rolling the dice on.
One-year wonder who produced at a consistent level despite his average athleticism and lack of starting experience. While he’s mindful of his responsibilities, he’s not overly physical and his limitations could tie him to roles as either a WILB in a 3-4 or WILL in a 4-3. Could improve stock in pre-draft workouts, but would be surprising to see him taken inside of the first three rounds.
Round 4 – Kareem Hunt (RB) Toledo or Noah Brown (WR) Ohio State
Ok, I have to come clean. I am going to cheat a little bit in the next two rounds by listing two players, but let me explain. After going defense in the first three rounds, it will be a good time to get another weapon for Matthew Stafford and the Detroit Lions offense. I listed Kareem Hunt first on this list because IF he is available (my hopes are not high) then the Lions should grab him to compliment Ameer Abdullah in the backfield. If Hunt is off the board, I would be happy if the Lions select WR Noah Brown out of Ohio State.
BOTTOM LINE ON KAREEM HUNT
Big back with plus vision and enough elusiveness to make the first defender miss. Feel for the rushing lane helps him choose the correct path between the tackles but lacks the burst to turn the 4-yard run into 14. Zone-scheme runner with serviceable hands out of the backfield. Adequate in most areas and has talent to become a backup that can step in and handle a bigger load if needed.
Round 5 – Ryan Switzer (WR) North Carolina or Donnel Pumphrey (RB) San Diego State
What happens in the fourth round will certainly dictate what goes down in Round 5. If the Lions are able to select Kareem Hunt in Round 4, they should be able to steal WR Ryan Switzer in the 5th. Switzer reminds me of Wes Welker or Julian Edelman and could prove to be a big time weapon for Matthew Stafford in the passing game. That being said, if Noah Brown is the choice in Round 4, the Lions should roll the dice on RB Donnel Pumphrey. Pumphrey is the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher with over 6,000 yards and though undersized, he could be a Theo Riddick type player in the NFL.
BOTTOM LINE ON RYAN SWITZER
Wes Welker and Julian Edelman have become go-to comparisons for undersized slot receivers who utilize option routes to torment defenders underneath, but Switzer isn’t quite on that level. However, he’s able to create separation underneath and shows quality release quickness. Switzer is a slot-only target with punt return skills, but he has to find the right scheme fit to become a factor in the NFL.
Round 6 – Jadar Johnson (SS) Clemson
Another position of need for the Lions is strong safety. As it stands, Detroit will be rolling with either Tavon Wilson or Miles Killebrew alongside FS Glover Quinn. Jadar Johnson would likely have to work his way up the depth chart, but down the line he could make the Detroit Lions and their fans very happy.
Explosive height, weight, speed prospect with terrific ball skills but an inconsistent approach in run support. Johnson’s ball production, despite just one season as a starter, will likely give a team confidence that he will continue to shine in that area on the next level. Johnson has starting NFL potential and a strong workout could push him up the draft board. However, he must improve his run support to be a long-time starter in the league.
Round 6 – Michael Roberts (TE) Toledo
The tight end position is one the Detroit Lions need to improve depth-wise and Michael Roberts out of Toledo could be their man. Roberts is 6-foot-4, 270 lbs and looks the part of an NFL tight end. Though he would be a project, Roberts could work his way onto the field if he proves to be coachable.
One season of “wow” production, but has NFL size and length. Roberts’ tape shows inconsistent effort from a blocking standpoint, but it also shows the strength and ability to handle those chores on the next level. He should be a functional receiver target as well and could come in as a third tight end with the ability to work his way up the ladder.
Round 7 – Riley Bullough (MLB) Michigan St.
Tahir Whitehead will likely begin the season as the Detroit Lions starting middle linebacker unless they decide to select a guy like Zach Cunningham in Round 1. But if this draft goes how I have it planned out, they will have ignored the MLB position through the first six rounds. Now, if you are not a Tahir Whitehead fan, then you probably think I am crazy for not taking a MLB by now. Well, the Lions can not improve every single position all in one season and I believe Whitehead can be good enough if the right players are around him. That being said, the Lions should take a flier on MLB Riley Bullough out of Michigan State with their final pick of the draft. He may not be the quickest or most athletic linebacker, but he could eventually find a spot as a backup on an NFL roster.
Tenacity and willingness to play as physically as his body will allow will make him a favorite of special teams coaches, but his lack of size and plus athleticism could make it hard to find playing time, especially as an inside linebacker. He could go on Day 3 (Rounds 4-7), but his road to the roster could be bumpy.