It has been a marathon but we are almost to the promised land which is the 2019 NFL Draft!
After hours and hours of research, all of the so-called “experts” will soon be unveiling their final mock draft of the season and none of them will end up being correct.
I, on the other hand, do not claim to be an expert. Instead, I am just a huge fan of the Detroit Lions who happens to believe to know what the Lions’ biggest needs are and which available prospects can fill those needs.
That being said, here is my final crack at what I believe the “perfect” Detroit Lions’ draft would look like.
*Remember, this is NOT what I think Lions’ GM Bob Quinn WILL do in the upcoming draft, it is what I think he SHOULD do.
Round 1, Pick 8
Ed Oliver (DL) Houston
Oliver is an absolute beast and he could come in and make an immediate impact for a Lions defense that should be greatly improved in 2019.
STRENGTHS: Fluid body control to wriggle off blocks…excellent foot quickness and change of direction skills…shot out of a cannon with his first step…forces holding penalties due to his gap quickness…creates knockback with his speed-to-power skills…ball awareness to track through blocks…uses natural leverage to stay underneath the pads of blockers…better than expected play strength as a run defender…highly aggressive motor and effort never wanes, chasing down plays near the sidelines…dominated from the moment he stepped onto campus and leaves as a three-time All-American, collecting 54.0 tackles for loss over 33 career starts.
WEAKNESSES: Lacks desired frame and length…needs to continue and develop his body and stay in the 280-285 pound range (weighed 274 for most of his final season at Houston)…relied more on motor than brute power to overwhelm blockers in college…not a bull rusher…undeveloped approach with his hands…below- average counter measures once locked up…faced inferior competition in the AAC…several immature moments in college, including an on-field altercation with head coach Major Applewhite regarding a coat issue on the sideline — Oliver has a “young attitude” and has “growing up to do,” according to an NFL scout…missed five games as a junior with a right knee bruise (November 2018) and was limited at the combine with a strained hamstring (February 2019).
SUMMARY: A three-year starter at Houston, Oliver was one of college football’s most disruptive players over the last three years, spending most of his time at nose tackle for the Cougars. With his football flexibility and natural biomechanics, he has rare athletic ability for the position with the backfield vision to recognize play designs and disrupt from different angles. Oliver still requires time to develop his body, mind and technique at the next level. He will struggle with long-armed blockers who get to his frame and control his chest, but his energy and motor are both elite. Overall, Oliver won’t be a natural fit for every NFL scheme, but he is an ideal one-gap penetrator due to his athleticism, instincts and relentless nature, projecting best when he is lined up closest to the football.
Round 2, Pick 11 (43 overall)
David Long (CB) Michigan
I am not going to lie. I keep going back and forth between David Long (Michigan) and Justin Layne (Michigan State) when it comes to grabbing a cornerback in the early rounds of the draft.
Back in January, Layne was my pick but following the NFL Scouting Combine and further research/film study, I am going with Long as my perfect second round pick for the Lions.
The Lions currently have Darius Slay locking down one side of the field but as we have seen, the defense has still struggled against the pass. Adding a solid CB is an absolute must grabbing Long in Round 2 will be the answer to the Lions problems.
STRENGTHS: Balanced athlete to press and mirror off the line…swivel hips and sudden footwork to stay in the pocket of receivers…heady player with a natural feel in coverage, suffocating the catch point…his pattern recognition improved each of the last three seasons…aggressive long-arm to dictate the path of routes…keeps one eye in the backfield to release his man and make plays…leverages the field well as a run defender…tough, competitive and treats every rep with the same intensity…experienced on special teams…posted an impressive workout at the NFL combine, including an elite three-cone time (6.45).
WEAKNESSES: Shorter than ideal with below-average arm length…handsy at the top of routes and his physicality draws attention from officials…peeking in the backfield gets him in trouble, losing his route leverage…needs to quicken his trigger from off-coverage to drive on throws…intermittent run defender and needs to clean up his break down and finish technique…inexperienced as a nickel corner (over 88 percent of his college snaps were at outside cornerback)…unimpressive resume with lackluster tackle and interception production.
SUMMARY: A two-year starter at Michigan, Long was a bump-and-run right cornerback in Don Brown’s press-heavy scheme, getting physical at the line of scrimmage and riding the receiver throughout the route. His college production was underwhelming, but he wasn’t routinely challenged on tape. Long plays nose-to-nose in press with the lateral slide to match releases and attach himself to patterns, staying balanced with his punch and transition. While patient at the line, he tends to panic, grip and grab at the top of routes and can be manipulated by savvy receivers. Overall, Long needs to develop a more disciplined approach with his reads and contact downfield, but he is a composed athlete with hip fluidity and physical mentality, projecting best in the nickel.
Andy Isabella (WR) UMass
One of Bob Quinn’s biggest jobs this offseason will be to replace Golden Tate and though Quinn signed veteran Danny Amendola, Isabella is the man for the job. Not only his he extremely fast but he runs efficient routes that allow him to get the separation he needs. There is no doubt in my mind that Isabella would be the perfect weapon for Matthew Stafford and the Lions’ offense. The only problem is, I would not be too surprised if a team jumped on Isabella before the Lions have a chance at grabbing him in the fourth round. That being said, I would also not be surprised if Quinn trades up to get his man.
NOTE: If Isabella is off the board, my next in line would be either (WR) Miles Boykin or (WR) Terry McLaurin.
STRENGTHS: Exceptional short-area quickness to burst off the line and out of breaks…finds space to operate and always makes himself available…above-average speed that defenses must respect vertically (led FBS with 11 plays of 40-plus yards in 2018)…slippery ball carrier with a low center of balance to force missed tackles…heightened sense for weaving through congestion…natural hand-eye coordination…doesn’t play skittish over the middle…short but decently built for his frame…one of the hardest workers “I’ve ever coached,” according to former UMass head coach Mark Whipple…highly productive resume, leading the FBS with 1,698 receiving yards in 2018…played well vs. Power Five opponents (30/519/3) the past two seasons – his 15 catches at Georgia (November 2018) were the most ever by an opponent between the hedges at Sanford Stadium.
WEAKNESSES: Undersized frame with maxed out bulk…smaller catch radius, relying on his body to finish grabs…not going to win many contested tries…needs to be more efficient at the top of routes, forcing extra steps…rarely faced press coverage in college and can be jostled by physical defenders early in the route…would benefit by adding more pacing to his patterns…size limits his upside as a blocker…limited experience as a punt returner in college (9/77/0).
SUMMARY: A three-year starter at Massachusetts, Isabella lined up inside and outside for the Minutemen, setting numerous school records, including career receiving yards (3,526). He also set the UMass single-game record with 303 yards, becoming the only player in FBS history with 300-plus receiving yards in a game with fewer than 10 receptions. Isabella, who “couldn’t run a route” when he arrived in Amherst, needs to clean up his steps vs. press and at the stem, but he can create on in- and out-breaking routes due to his plant quickness and YAC skills. While he has quick hands, his focus and reliability can be disrupted by crowded catch points. Overall, Isabella’s undersized frame and catch radius might limit his role, but his explosive athleticism and receiving instincts will be a problem for NFL defenses, projecting best in the slot where he can manipulate space.
Round 5, Pick 8 (146 overall)
Cameron Smith (LB) USC
STRENGTHS: Instinctive hunter…fills with purpose, using his hands to scrape and shed…physical appetite comes natural to him…fundamentally-sound tackler, wrapping and putting his pads into the gut of his target…strong hands to wrestle to the ground when needed…reads the eyes of the quarterback, anticipates and disrupts passing lanes…productive resume, averaging 7.5 tackles per game over his career…intense practice player (USC assistant coach: “Dude only knows one speed”)…team captain and carries himself like a leader.
WEAKNESSES: Not a rangy athlete…limited change of direction skills due to stiffness through his hips/thighs…plays fast, but doesn’t consistently close the gap in pursuit…offenses target him when left alone in man coverage…late to use his hands to keep himself detached at the line of scrimmage, sticking to blocks…medicals will be important after tearing the ACL in his left knee (November 2015) and requiring platelet-rich plasma and hyaluronic acid injections in the same knee as a senior (October 2018); also missed two games as a senior due to a hamstring injury (October 2018).
SUMMARY: A four-year starter at USC, Smith enrolled early and became an immediate starter as the inside MIKE linebacker in the Trojans’ 3-4 base scheme. He led the team in tackles each of the last three seasons and it would have been four if not for his ACL tear late in the 2015 season. Smith tested very well at the NFL Scouting Combine, but he is an unimpressive burst player on tape and his timed speed doesn’t match his play speed. He plays with a contact-driven mentality and his diagnose skills help mask his average athleticism. Overall, Smith is a reliable run defender with the competitive make-up desired for the next level, but his athletic limitations show in space and cap his NFL ceiling, projecting as an early-down inside linebacker.
Round 6, Pick 11 (184 overall)
Shaq Calhoun (RG) Mississippi State
WEAKNESSES: Average body type…not an overpowering player and won’t jolt defenders…wild hands and lacks control in his initial setup and reach…mistimes his punch, allowing quickness to cross his face or attack his gap…bad habit of lunging with his upper half…makes too much contact with his own blockers and needs to play more graceful in his movements…not a rangy player and most comfortable in confined quarters…played only right guard in college…missed four games as a sophomore due to a left ankle sprain (October 2016), requiring surgery after the season.
SUMMARY: A three-year starter at Mississippi State, Calhoun earned the starting right guard job as a sophomore and didn’t give up his post the last three seasons. Despite playing only one position in Starkville, he regularly practiced at center and played every offensive line position in high school. Calhoun has the length to get away with undisciplined hands and mistimed punch in college, but that won’t be the case in the NFL. Although he isn’t an overwhelming blocker, Calhoun keeps busy through the whistle to create stalemates, competing with the same toughness regardless of the scoreboard. Overall, Calhoun tends to get sloppy and is often late off the snap, but once he finds his footing, he is a stubborn positional blocker who keeps defenders occupied, projecting as a potential NFL backup.
Round 6, Pick 32 (204 overall) — From New England
Devine Ozigbo (RB) Nebraska
STRENGTHS: Big-bodied finisher, running physical to deliver blows at contact…keeps his legs pumping, making him tough to finish off…quick feet and strong strides to accelerate quickly…wins races to the corner…anticipates creases to attack the second level…good feel for spacing…steady hands and experienced running wheel routes…faces up the rush in pass protection…wasn’t worn down in college…three career fumbles, but none as the starter in 2018…graduated with a degree in advertising (December 2018)…known for his work ethic in the Huskers’ program – awarded Nebraska’s prestigious Tom Novak Award, which is given to the senior who “best exemplifies courage and determination despite all odds.”
WEAKNESSES: High-cut runner with tall pads, negating some of his power and making it easier for defenders to chop him down…long gait and tight hips hinder his ability to be elusive in small spaces…hits his top speed quickly but doesn’t have great long speed and defenders will chase him down from behind…almost all of his big plays came on bouncing runs outside…had his share of drops on film…battled multiple ankle injuries his sophomore and junior seasons.
SUMMARY: A one-year starter at Nebraska, Ozigbo led the Huskers in rushing as a junior with only 493 yards before emerging as one of the team’s offensive playmakers in Scott Frost’s zone-read, option offense in 2018 (started the final nine games). He finished second in the Big 12 with 12 rushing scores and was one of only 11 players nationally to average 7.0-plus yards per carry. Ozigbo is a straight-line athlete and lacks an elusive lower body, but he makes quick decisions to swerve away from danger. His toughness in pass protection and experience as a receiver will be traits that separate him from other college backs. Overall, Ozigbo’s tape showed a lot of all-or-nothing-type runs, but he is a physical, hard-charging back with strong acceleration and every-down versatility.
Round 7, Pick 10 (224 overall)
The Detroit Lions recently signed free agent quarterback Tom Savage to compete with Connor Cook to become Matthew Stafford’s backup. That being said, Bob Quinn loves to bring in quarterbacks so I do not believe the Savage signing prevents the Lions from grabbing a developmental QB late in the draft.
Gardner is certainly not the most physically gifted QB in the draft (not close) and he definitely will need some seasoning, but he may be worth a flyer in the 7th round.
STRENGTHS: Natural, quick mechanics from his footwork to his delivery…disciplined eyes, sees the whole field and processes things quickly…accurate within the WSU offense and always aware of his outlets…large hands to grip and get the ball out quickly…calm demeanor and plays with efficient rhythm…comfortable throwing from a confined pocket, but also able to reset and find second-chance throws…engineered three fourth-quarter game-winning drives in 2018…charismatic and his best traits are his “presence” and “leadership qualities,” according to Leach…graduated with his degree in communications (December 2017) at East Carolina…awesome production in 2018, leading the FBS in passing yards per game (367.6) and finishing third in completion percentage (70.7).
WEAKNESSES: Pressure will disrupt his placement and timing…can make all the throws, but doesn’t have a power arm…mechanics tend to break down off platform, throwing off his accuracy…shined in a simplified spread system that emphasized quick reads and shorter routes (ranked 67th in the FBS with 7.22 yards per pass attempt in 2018)…learning a full playbook and verbiage will take time in the NFL…shorter than ideal…only one season as a full-time starter and impressive production.
SUMMARY: A one-year starter at Washington State, Minshew thrived in Leach’s air-raid, pass-happy offense, setting school and conference records for passing yards (4,779) and completions (468) in a season. The “one-year wonder” label is unavoidable after his shaky stint at East Carolina and gaudy production in a system known for boosting stats. But Minshew has translatable traits with his passing mechanics, natural accuracy and makeup, bringing out the best in his team with his magnetic, confident personality (NFL scout: “He has some Baker Mayfield to him with his size and energy”). Outside of the WSU offense, had a strong week at the Senior Bowl, showing quick reaction time to read and know where to attack. Overall, there are reasons to doubt him due to his average physical traits and lack of production outside of Leach’s system, but Minshew has the requisite passing skills and competitive mentality to earn an NFL roster spot as a reserve.
Porter Gustin (EDGE) USC
When it comes to the 7th round the hope is to purchase a winning lottery ticket and that is exactly what Porter Gustin could end up being.
Not only does he have a motor that never seems to stop but he could be ready to contribute in certain situations immediately.
STRENGTHS: Outstanding size and strength with adequate length…natural joint flexibility and likes to play low…quickly finds his edge speed and controls his arc momentum to shave the corner…violent hands to bury his reach into blockers…proficient with push-pull techniques, getting blockers off-balanced…controls the outside run game, filtering the ballcarrier inside…maniacal approach with his diet and conditioning, he takes care of his body like a well-oiled machine…plays with nonstop effort and merciless intensity…nicknamed “Superman” by his coaches for his ability to tough out injuries…senior captain.
WEAKNESSES: Lacks creativity as a pass rusher, relying more on his raw speed/strength than nuance…can get lost in a crowd and needs to better use his hands to stay detached…tends to react before reading, leaving him vulnerable vs. misdirection and play fakes…inconsistent strike zone as a tackler…at his best getting upfield and not as comfortable in reverse…medicals are a bright red flag, as he’s missed most of the last two seasons due to multiple injuries: missed the second half of his senior season with a fractured right ankle (October 2018) and required surgery; suffered a slightly torn meniscus in his left knee (August 2018) and required minor surgery; broke the big toe on his right foot in practice (Sept. 2017) and required surgery to insert two screws; suffered a torn right bicep (Sept. 2017).
SUMMARY: A three-year starter at USC, Gustin was a stand-up hybrid linebacker (a position called the “Predator”) in the Trojans’ 3-4 base scheme and was primarily used as a pass rusher. When on the field, he was productive with almost as many career sacks (21.0) as starts (22.0). However, various injuries kept Gustin off the field (he recorded the most MRIs at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine), which is cruel irony considering he treats his body like a temple, following a strict diet and workout routine. He passes the eye test and plays a physical brand of football, but needs to add more diversity and discipline to his rush plan. Overall, Gustin is a predictable pass rusher with average athletic traits, but there is a place in the NFL for his off-the-charts intensity and competitive toughness — if he stays healthy.