We are entering year two of the PATRICIA/QUINN partnership/leadership regime in Detroit. This comes on the heels of a tumultuous first year as Head Coach for MATT PATRICIA. There was a great deal of roster experimentation last season, as PATRICIA tried to mold the overall team into his view of what it should look like. Even more personnel upheaval is transpiring as I write this, and we come down the hot stretch to the 2019 NFL Draft. A good number of the bodies brought in to bolster the roster last Fall are now ex-Lions seeking employment elsewhere. No doubt, there will be more changes after they bring in their next Draft Class. So let’s have Pigskin Paul help them add another 9 names of bright eyed pro football hopefuls.
Round 1, Pick 8
T.J. HOCKENSON TE IOWA 6’5/251 PP#10
On my Board, the big decision with this Pick is between T.J. and DEVIN WHITE/LB/LSU. The team will need a LB or two before the proceedings are over, but I think MATT STAFFORD needs more support on Offense. HOCKENSON is the best combo receiving/blocking TE in this draft. Combine him with VFA JESSE JAMES, and their TE group just got better by leaps and bounds. PATRICIA and QUINN both worked for the Patriots thru much of the GRONK era in New England. Accordingly, they are well aware of the impact on Offense with a premier, do everything, TE in the fold. How can they not want that in Detroit?
Round 2, Pick 43
JERRY TILLERY DL NOTRE DAME 6’7/295 PP#52
TILLERY just might be too good to pass up as the team moves forward, most likely without ZIGGY ANSAH. People who downgrade TILLERY because of a lackluster 2018 season at times, seem to be overlooking the impact of his playing with a torn labrum much of the year. He’s an athletic, long body athlete, who can fit inside to outside in a base 4-3 scheme. He is not a pass rush specialist, but uses his arms and hands effectively to brush aside blockers. Of his 86 tackles the last two years in South Bend 12.5 of them were sacks. The upside is intriguing, and a good coaching staff should relish the challenge of working with him.
Round 3, Pick 88
RILEY RIDLEY WR GEORGIA 6’1/199 PP#92
The only caution I have for you here, LIONS fans, is that you should not expect from him what his brother CALVIN did with the Falcons last year as a Rookie. RILEY does NOT have the explosive speed to be a constant deep threat for defenses to try to contain, but he is considered by most to be one of the best route runners of the major prospects in the 2019 talent pool. He is a good “hands catcher” who is explosive after the catch. He should be ready to play as a Rookie, but is not likely to have the impact CALVIN did right away.
Round 4, Pick 111
CONNOR McGOVERN OG/C PENN STATE 6’5/308 PP#121
With the retirement of T.J. LANG, the OL unit needs some help on the Interior. This move should provide some competition for KENNY WIGGINS at RG, and a safety net at OC if GLASGOW gets hurt. It may also buy them some time to further develop TYRELL CROSBY out at OT, where I still think his frame is best suited. At the very least, McGovern should provide them with a 3 position backup on the game day active list. BARKLEY and SANDERS gained way too many rushing yards at Penn State for us to continue to ignore the talent upgrade along the OL during the Franklin regime in Happy Valley. McGovern clearly has pro starting potential, and was creeping close to the Top 100 of most prospect rankings.
Round 5, Pick 146
DRUE TRANQUILL LB NOTRE DAME 6’2/234 PP#154
How about an experienced, versatile performer from an elite winning college program. How about a 52-game vet who was a team-captain, and started games at both S and LB. I have not heard any strong medical red flags coming out of the Combine, even though he had 2 ACL surgeries while in college. I have to believe that he’s an immediate key man on Special Teams for them. He ran a very respectable 4.57/40 at the Combine. His 6.94 in the 3-Cone drill was also impressive at 234 lbs. His Combine numbers indicate that he is physically capable of playing in the NFL. Expect him to be a leader in the weight room, and a positive locker room presence. At the least, he improves the depth and versatility in the LB meeting room, and it should not be long before it translates to a steady job out on the grass.
Round 6, Pick 184
MIKE WEBER RB OHIO STATE 5’10/211 PP#183
I see a crowded RB room when I look at their current depth chart, but the quality of that crowd is questionable. KERRYON JOHNSON was a big boost as the No.1 RB last season as a Rookie, but he isn’t built to carry the ball 250+ times a season. WEBER had to share carries while with the Buckeyes, and therefore would seem to have tread left on his tires. His 4.47/40 at the Combine tells you that he can scoot in the open field, and watching tape, you see his quickness to-and-thru a hole. His 54 career catches also tells you that he can be a receiving weapon out of the backfield. In the season after Zeke moved on to the NFL, WEBER was the starter, and ran for over a thousand-yards in 2016. He shared the running load since then in Columbus. ZENNER is a blocker, Special Teamer, short yardage guy, and RIDDICK is pretty much a receiver. WEBER could become their No.2 RB as a Rookie, and spell JOHNSON.
Round 6, Pick 204
CLAY THORSON QB NORTHWESTERN 6’4/222 PP#206
THORSON comes to the NFL with a veteran college resume of 53 games played for the Wildcats. He played in a pretty vanilla, ball-control Offense for HC PAT FITZGERALD, but has all the tools to have a shot in the NFL. He displays a strong arm and has a quick delivery. He can move enough to extend plays and roll the pocket. The biggest question about THORSON is his decision making on throws. For his career, he had a TD/INT ratio of 61/45. That is not impressive, and raises concerns about his potential to become an INT machine at the next level. He looks the part of a career pro backup who is coachable, and should be able to cut down on those INT’s with time and quality coaching.
Round 7, Pick 224
JAMEL DEAN CB AUBURN 6’1/206 PP#246
Talk about needing to see his Combine medical! DEAN caused a buzz at the Combine when he ran a sizzling 40-time of 4.30. That was at 6’1/206 lbs. After sitting out 2016 with the second knee injury of his career, he transferred to Auburn and played 26 games there. He’s solid in run support, and is physical in man-press assignments. He can be a bit shaky sorting out his responsibilities in zone coverage however. He has moved from irrelevance to draftable, depending upon what his medical showed. Worth a risk in the last round.
Round 7, Pick 229
JOHNNIE DIXON WR/RS OHIO STATE 5’10/201 PP#240
How about we finish off this draft effort by the Lions, with the fastest WR left on the Board in DIXON. He flashed with a 4.41 at the Combine, and is even quicker than he is fast. He was HASKINS other deep threat option, after CAMPBELL, for the Buckeyes in 2018. DIXON explodes out of his cuts in the open field. He might also be able to help in the return game. He’s bigger and stronger than many people seem to think, with a tight, toned body and shows good hands for catching.
If the medicals check out on several players that I specifically mentioned above, then the Lions might have a group here that helps right away at the top, and has potential to develop from the Day 3 Picks. That’s, in essence, how an NFL team’s draft is supposed to work.