After a couple of 9-7 seasons with still no Play-Off victory for the 26 straight season GM BOB QUINN fired JIM CALDWELL in favor of a more “aggressive” approach from a new coaching staff. Enter an old acquaintance of his from New England named MATT PATRICIA. PATRICIA hopefully brings the cache’ of working for/with the most successful HC this millennium in BILL BELICHICK. The clock is ticking on their most prized asset in QB/MATTHEW STAFFORD. OC JIM BOB COOTER, who is close with STAFFORD is back for continuity purposes.
Besides what PATRICIA can do to toughen up the defensive scheme, the biggest goal in this Draft was to beef up the running attack to take some heat off of STAFFORD and the passing game. At Pick 20 they selected FRANK RAGNOW/OC/Arkansas. RAGNOW snuck up on everyone as a first round prospect a bit because he missed the second half of the 2017 college season with a foot injury. But his name started cropping up after the Combine, where he still could not participate in the running testing. RAGNOW is just a plain, old fashioned strong, tough guy, who moves defenders. He’s big at 6’5/309 and has good functional strength. He also has longer arms than most Interior guys at 33 1/8″. Since the Draft he has been in Detroit on several occasions for OTA and mini-camp sessions and has ended up playing at OG next to returning OC GRAHAM GLASGOW. Look for him to start there from Day 1 in Training Camp. RAGNOW was the first of two OC in Round 1 this year, which is not a normal event at all.
In Round 2 QUINN got antsy to fix his other big need on Offense and traded up to select KERRYON JOHNSON/RB/Auburn. JOHNSON timed 4.50 in his 40 at the Combine, at 213 lbs. He and VFA signee LaGARRETTE BLOUNT will completely change the look of the LIONS RB group which has been mostly scat-backs in recent years. In fact the team goes into 2018 not having had a 100-yd rushing game from a player in their last 68 games. That will change. JOHNSON rushed for 1391 yards last season for Auburn, including 18 TD. He’s not a huge receiving threat like THEO RIDDICK, but he also caught 24 balls last season. The LIONS have a solid OL, so JOHNSON should be able to pick his running gaps, which was a trait of his in college. I would caution that he is not a thick body type, so it is a good thing that BLOUNT is around to partner with him. But he is clearly a serious RB upgrade for the team.
Historically, PATRICIA has seemed to like, and make very good use of, versatile, athletic S types. In Round 3 the team got just such a guy in TRACY WALKER/S/LA-Lafayette at Pick 82. WALKER had 97 tackles from his S spot last season, as well as 6 PBU and 2 INT. He has nice size at 6’2/200 and nice long 33 1/2″ arms. His 4.53/40 time is acceptable at his size. WALKER was at the Shrine venue in January and showed well all week and should be well suited for the pro game and PATRICIA’s style of secondary play. Look for him to upgrade the athleticism and production in the LIONS S group. I would expect him to challenge for a starting job, or at the very least to steal some playing time for undersized QUANDRE DIGGS.
In Round 4 the team got a solid, versatile and athletic DL out of Alabama named Da’Shawn HAND. HAND never developed as a pass-rusher in college, and that diminished his value as a pro prospect. But he plays with a high FBI and displays good functional strength at 6’4/297. He has big hands (9 3/4″) and long arms (34 3/8″). Some declared him as an underachiever for the Crimson Tide, but I think not. He is quite solid at what he does and was versatile along their DL. He may never see a Pro Bowl or lead the team in tackles, but he will show up every week and do his job, as defined by the coaching staff. This is a solid value at Pick 114. I had him ranked as Prospect 84.
In Round 5 the team may have stolen a future starting RT in TYRELL CROSBY of Oregon. CROSBY may surprise once veteran OL Coach JEFF DAVIDSON, gets to work with him every day. His 10 3/4″ hands and 35 1/4″ long arms excited NFL scouts. He’s long and lean. He also has good skill in both pass-pro and run blocking. At the Senior Bowl he struggled at times in drills primarily because he reaches a bit too much and loses his balance, which allows speed rushers to get around him and into the pocket area. That should be correctable with coaching. I was shocked during the Draft when Crosby kept falling. He is another guy I had ranked in my Top 100 (#58) who fell way below where I expected him to. He could start in a few seasons when they get ready to replace RICKY WAGNER.
It is not often that I say this, but the LIONS were dealt a cruel blow to their master plan when NICK BAWDEN/FB/San Diego State, went down for the 2018 season with a knee injury in OTA. BAWDEN was the final piece in rebuilding the LIONS running game. He cleared the way the past 2 seasons for PUMPHREY and PENNY to both rush for over 2,000 yards per season. The former QB is a strong guy at 6’3/245, who also has some athleticism. The LIONS were awful trying to run in the red zone and/or goal line last season after the CALDWELL staff decided they didn’t need a true FB in their backfield and did not carry one on the roster. BAWDEN was going to show them the errors of their ways and lead block in short yardage for BLOUNT/JOHNSON. For now LB/ST Nick Bellore will be their FB, unless they sign a VFA. Good pick, in Round 7 but tough luck for now!
This is a solid Draft for QUINN and his LIONS team, even without BAWDEN for this season. They got good value at most of the Picks and still filled a lot of roster needs in multiple position groups. Combine that with another 10 solid VFA signings and the LIONS could look a lot more physical and aggressive under the new coaching staff. The NFC North looks loaded up and seriously improved for this coming season.