The 2018 NFL Draft is a few weeks away, which means that Draftmas is back. Draftmas will take a look at each NFL team heading into this year’s draft, what their needs are and who they could be targeting. Draftmas continues today with the Detroit Lions 2018 NFL Draft profile.
The Detroit Lions finished 9-7 and second in their division. They fell short of making the playoffs in a year when division rivals all experienced quarterback issues.
Ultimately, missing this opportunity to win the NFC North led to the end of the Jim Caldwell era in Detroit. Even though he had a winning record (36-28) during his tenure with the Lions, the expectations in the Motor City are growing more each year. Division titles and playoff wins appear to be the new bar set by general manager Bob Quinn.
Matthew Stafford continues to be the unequivocal leader of the Lions offense. Prior to the start of the 2017 season, Stafford became the highest paid player in NFL History at the time. He finished 2017 with 4,446 passing yards, 29 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and a 99.3 passer rating. Career highs were achieved for Stafford in passer rating and yards per attempt (7.9). His greatest achievement to date is leading the team to three winning seasons in four years, a feat unmatched since Bobby Layne (1950s).
Moreover, the Lions offense finished 13th in the NFL, sixth in passing and last in rushing. The running game needs to be addressed for the Lions to be a true contender. Stafford has suffered due to the lack of offensive balance, and it is evident in his win-loss record (60-65).
In his nine-year career, Stafford has only had seven 100-yard rushers in a game. For reference, Blake Bortles had seven in 2017 alone. All he did was lead his team to the AFC championship. Imagine what Stafford could do with that help. Jared Goff also had seven 100-yard rushers this past season. Like the Jaguars, the Rams were also a playoff team in 2017.
Defensively, the Lions finished 27th in the NFL, 27th against the pass and 18th against the run. The defense was serviceable at times, but did not stop the opposing offense enough to be an impact defense. Finishing 21st in points allowed (23.5 per game) was not conducive to making the playoffs either.
A positive for the defense was their ability to take the ball away from the offense. The Lions recorded 32 takeaways, which was third best in the NFL behind the Ravens and Jaguars.
Picks and needs
The Lions only have six draft picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. They are not likely to be involved in any trades to move up in the draft. Furthermore, based on Quinn’s recent draft history, the team will be selecting the best player available.
First round (1 pick): 20
Second round (1): 51
Third round (1): 82
Fourth round (1): 117
Fifth round (1): 153
Sixth round (0):
Seventh round (1): 237
Running back – It remains to be seen if the Lions covet a player in the first round or if they think there is more value to be had in the later rounds. Fortunately, this is a very deep class of running backs. Unless they absolutely love one of the first-round backs, expect them to wait and strike on Day 2 or even Day 3 of the draft.
Interior offensive line – The Lions let Travis Swanson move on. However, the versatility of Graham Glasgow allows the Lions to take the highest rated guard or center when the time comes.
Tight end – With the signings of Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo, the Lions may not view tight end as a big need as they once did when they released Eric Ebron. This is not a great tight end class though, but there are a couple of bright spots.
Defensive line – With Ziggy Ansah’s contract negotiations looming large of this group, expect Detroit to use multiple picks on the defensive line.
Outside linebacker – This group features young players and new faces and could very well see a new one added in the draft.
Defensive back – The Lions could target a defensive back, but with the signing of DeShawn Shead from Seattle, this need may not be as large as once thought. Also, the development of 2017 second-round pick Teez Tabor remains as a big question mark. Look for Detroit to add depth and competition at this position late in the draft.
Pick No. 20: Harold Landry, DE/LB, Boston College
The Lions have needs in other areas, but Landry might be the most naturally gifted player left on the board at pick 20. He lacks optimal size as he stands at 6-foot-3, 252 pounds. What he lacks in size he makes up for in his arm length (32 7/8).
His biggest weakness is he still needs to learn counter moves in his pass rushing. He has exceptional flexibility and is able to dip his hips and turn the corner on offensive tackles. Furthermore, Paul Pasqualoni, Detroit’s defensive coordinator, was Landry’s position coach at Boston College.
Ultimately, Landry will come into the Motor City as a possible long-term complement (or replacement) to Ziggy Ansah. Also, with the Lions transitioning to multiple defensive sets, Landry has the skillset to be a great outside linebacker in the 3-4 or as a defensive end in the 4-3.
Pick No. 51: Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
If not for a failed physical due to a heart condition at the NFL Combine, Hurst would be a top-15 pick in the draft. He dominated at Michigan.
According to Pro Football Focus, Hurst was the highest graded player at any position in the 2017 college football season. Thus, pairing him with the outside presence of Landry and Ansah would instantly improve the Lions defense. In Hursts’ final two seasons at Michigan, he tallied 92 tackles, 24.5 for loss and 10.5 sacks.
The NFL covets this type of play. Therefore, to get that level of production in the second round could possibly be the steal of the draft.
Pick No. 82: Rashaad Penny, RB, San Diego State
The depth of the running back position allows the Lions to wait and get their man in the third round. Penny has quickness to create yardage for himself. His work ethic and motor are a perfect fit for the identity of the city of Detroit. He ran well at the combine as well with a 4.46 40-yard dash.
Penny compares to Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt from the 2017 draft. Both took the league by storm as third-round picks and had similar draft grades to Penny. Penny received a draft grade of 5.80 with a “chance to become an NFL starter.”
Kamara and Hunt each received grades of 5.92 and 5.53 respectively. Surprisingly, those draft choices seemed to work out well for the Saints and Chiefs. Therefore, the Lions could possibly find themselves the offensive rookie of the year in the third round.
If the Lions are able to get these three players, it will make a huge impact for the beginning of the 2018 season. All three would compete for a starting role out of the gate. However, there are other options as well, depending on how the organization has the players ranked. Other potential picks include tight end Mike Gesicki (Penn State), guard/center Billy Price (Ohio State) and cornerback Jaire Alexander (Louisville).
Make sure to check back tomorrow for the Cincinnati Bengals 2018 NFL Draft profile.