Well Lions fans, the Detroit version of the Super Bowl has come and gone, how do you feel about it? The initial thought I experienced at first was here we go again. I wondered why Ziggy Ansah? I saw the need but didn’t understand the pick. But I’m going to go bold here and say the Lions first six picks will be on this roster and it’s about time. Ansah, Slay, Warford, Taylor, and Fuller are all big and run well to very well at their positions. I’m going to call this draft the Xander effect. There was clearly a plan and needs were filled.
So here goes, here are the picks followed by my analysis and grades.
- Round 1 – Pick No. 5 (5) – DE Ezekiel Ansah (BYU)
- Round 2 – Pick No. 4 (36) – CB Darius Slay (Mississippi State)
- Round 3 – Pick No. 3 (65) – OG Larry Warford (Kentucky)
- Round 4 – Pick No. 35 (132) – DE Devin Taylor (South Carolina)
- Round 5 (from SEA) – Pick No. 32 (165) – P Sam Martin (Appalachian State)
- Round 6 – Pick No. 3 (171) – WR Corey Fuller (Virginia Tech)
- Round 6 (from SEA) – Pick No. 31 (199) – RB Theo Riddick (Notre Dame)
- Round 7 – Pick No. 5 (211) – TE Michael Williams (Alabama)
- Round 7 – Pick No. 39 (245) – LB Brandon Hepburn (Florida A&M)
Ezekiel Ansha (DE, BYU): On draft night and the weeks leading up to the draft this was about the last guy I wanted to see the Lions pick. I originally wanted Eric Fisher and thought no way could a team with so much need take a project. But to tell you the truth I don’t think Detroit was ever really interested in a tackle. It’s my belief that Ansah was their guy since the Senior Bowl and an offensive tackle was a fall back option.
At first glance you see a guy in Ansah with little experience having just 4.5 sacks which came when matched up against TE’s. I also saw a guy that was 23 years old and didn’t dominant a younger opposition. Then I tried to see what Detroit scouts potentially saw, and you know what? I get it. It caused me to flip flop but I like it. Detroit sees 6’5 and 280 lbs that runs a 4.6 40 yard dash and exceptional numbers in the 100 meters as well. Ansah’s vertical was impressive, he has long arms, and if you put him in passing lanes it makes a QB’s job that much harder. Watching game film on him you’ll see this. He is a little rough around the edges in terms of rushing the QB, but he wins battles which will result in a much better run defense for the line as a whole. We don’t need him to get double digit sacks but will need him to come up big in other areas such as getting tackles for losses and deflecting passes. Avril was only a pass rusher and not very good either when you factor in playing next to Ndamukong Suh.
Ansah is an improvement from day one in regards to KVB or Avril supporting the run. You might not notice Ansah in the box score, but on film I think we will get a guy that closes holes and pushes tackles backward. You can’t coach a player into size. Think about how far he came in 2 years and what some NFL coaching can do for him.
Darius Slay (CB, Mississippi State): The Lions took Slay over what some thought was a better player in college teammate Johnathon Banks. Well from the get go, Slay put on a display at the combine showing off his blazing speed with a 4.36 40 yard dash. The 40 isn’t the end all be all by no means but Slay played against the best talent in the country in the SEC. He established that he is a sure tackler and has good ball skills. The ability to get an interception from the secondary has been a problem in recent years and getting a corner with soft hands and enough size and speed to make one is key. Too many times has Detroit seen a wide out run away from our corners. At 6’ and 192 lbs, Slay is a little bigger than most guys at his position but his addition adds to the depth of young corners at Detroit’s disposal. To take it a step further, read the scouting reports on Slay. He doesn’t have one criticism that can’t be corrected via coaching where Banks is thin and ran almost a 4.6. Technique can be coached but skill however is a gift.
Larry Warford (G, Kentucky): This was the pick that made me see the light. Detroit never intended on a tackle, they were going to get an interior lineman later. With that move they got a beast in the 3rd round. Now if I’m honest with the fan base anybody at RG would have been an upgrade, hell a garbage can would’ve been an upgrade. Stephen Peterman gave up the most QB pressures in the NFL last year. Warmack and Cooper got all the pub at guard in the draft but Warford has the makings of a 10 year starter.
The concern though for Warford is whether or not he can keep the weight down. At 6’3 and 330 lbs he did do a good job getting in shape for the combine and the hope is the Lions can help him maintain it. Warford has good arm length and excels in pass protection, an area the pass happy Lions would like him to continue to do. He has proved to be immoveable and plays with an edge Lions fans will like. Furthermore Warford is the definition of a mauler at right guard with many scouts and mock drafters working into the 2nd round prior to the draft. In my opinion though Detroit got a better guard in the 3rd than the New York Giants did in the 1st round with Pugh.
Devin Taylor (DE, South Carolina): Detroit was dealing in the need for depth here. Jason Jones nor Willie Young have proved to be a starter in their careers while Taylor has an untapped upside.
Taylor continues the general theme in this draft for the Lions, size and speed. At 6’7 and 265 lbs. Taylor runs like a deer and is impressive in making his way to the QB. He can play sideline to sideline and went unnoticed only due to the depth at DE and Clowney being on the other side of him at South Carolina. In 62 games played Taylor had 35.5 tackles for losses in the SEC but Taylor will be a project.
Sam Martin (P, Appalachian State): Lions fans, before you rip this pick keep in mind they did reach here but with good reason. The Lions have had punting issues for 4 years and when your punter can’t help your defense then you have a big problem. Martin has a knack for placing the football inside the 20 and the kid is also known for having a boot. It was a need and the Lions couldn’t risk him not being there in the 6th. I will grade this one a little lower than I would of if it happened later, but I realize the value a good punter has in the NFL today.
Corey Fuller (WR, Virginia Tech): Good speed (4.4), decent height (6’2) and had a knack for the going after deep balls as a good route runner. Now he isn’t a big threat to burn a secondary after the catch is made but there’s a chance he could be a steal if he puts the work in. Fuller will likely will start on special teams, but will have a shot at the 4th WR spot after Megatron, Burleson, Broyles. This is a good depth pick considering the street free agents Detroit was parading out last year. He fits nice as a deep threat if Detroit goes four wide or is looking to spread the field. If his lack of college numbers concern you, he did transfer from
Theo Riddick (RB, Notre Dame): This is a move every good team makes in the Draft nowadays. Riddick is likely a return type guy and special team gunner. He doesn’t have great speed (4.6) and doesn’t have much wiggle but he doesn’t go down on first contact either. My opinion is he is a nice special teamer that provides depth in 3 spots.
Grade: C, B- if he makes the roster
Michael Williams (TE, Alabama): It looks like Detroit got their 3rd TE in Michael Williams who is primary a blocking tight end with no real numbers in the passing game. He generally owns the man he is locked up against and has done a good job in protection. Does he make the roster though? That remains to be seen.
Brandon Hepburn (LB, Florida A&M): Hepburn has size and speed to play LB at the NFL level. He is listed at 6’2 240 lbs. and clocked in with a 40 at 4.6. His broad jump stood out the most of all at 124 inches. The Lions are hoping they got a special team’s player that can stick and make big time tackles on coverage units.
Overall I have to give this Draft a B grade. This is a big draft for Detroit, if you have followed The Majors this past year you know I have had no problem criticizing the Lions. I have seen the bad drafts over and over and this isn’t one of them, every pick has a purpose. Now I don’t think this draft propels the Lions into the playoffs this upcoming season but what it does do is put them in a position to grow and compete nicely in the NFC North. A lot hinges on Stafford taking a final step and what free agents Detroit can still add. I liked the aspect of size and speed in this draft which was needed in order to get an actual win in the division this year.
I think the Detroit offense is ready to go and be right back to the explosiveness we saw in 2011 with Bush being a nice added piece and the WR core being healthy. The defense though still needs work at outside linebacker and a pass rushing defensive end.
Overall Grade: B