Grading the Lions 2014 Draftees: Dorf’s Grades



The NFL draft’s first round was almost a week ago. I prefer to wait a few days before doing my draft grades so they aren’t knee jerk reactions but instead a well thought out analysis. I was very angry about the first round pick on Thursday night and if I would have rushed to complete this analysis, it would have been entirely negative based on the anger over the Ebron pick. Since the picks have had a couple of days to settle in, now’s the time to unleash Dorf’s 2014 Lions Draft Grades.

Dorf’s Grading Scale: Much like in college where not all A’s are created equal, I weigh the Lions’ selections to determine their overall grade. It is based on the below scale.

1st Round Pick = 5 Credit Hours

2nd Round Pick = 4 Credit Hours

3rd Round Pick = 3 Credit Hours

4th Round Pick = 2 Credit Hours

5th – 7th Round Picks = 1 Credit Hours Each.

The assures that the first round pick, which has the most impact on the team’s future is weighted the highest and that a 7th round pick that may be a great pick doesn’t cancel out a boneheaded move at the top of the draft. The overall grade for the Lions draft is at the very bottom of the page and I encourage you to read all the way down there.

Round 1 – Pick #10 Overall:

Eric Ebron – Tight End – North Carolina

Eric Ebron

Measurables (Taken at NFL Combine)

  • Height: 6 feet 4 3/8 inches
  • Weight: 250 lbs
  • 40: 4.60 seconds
  • Bench @ 225 lbs: 24 reps
  • Vertical: 32 inches
  • Arms: 33 1/4 inches Hands: 10 inches

Grade: C

Commentary: I absolutely hate the pick, but I totally understand why they made the pick, so therefore in my mind it makes this grade a C. This has the potential to be a home run however. I would have graded this pick significantly higher if the Lions traded down to the mid-teens and took Ebron there. I like the player and his NFL future, just not the pick. Remember Jim Caldwell’s days as offensive coordinator in Indianapolis with Peyton Manning under Tony Dungy? They were always in 12 personnel but had a dynamic tight end in Dallas Clark that spent more time in a 2-point stance instead of in a 3-point with his hand in the dirt. Ebron very well could be Jim Caldwell’s new Dallas Clark, making the Detroit offense downright dangerous. Brandon Pettigrew will be the blocking first, hand in the dirt tight end and Ebron will be the slot/stand up tight end making this offense dangerous. I would have preferred the Lions to pick a defensive player here, but I understand why they didn’t. Jim Caldwell wants to mold this team in his ideal image, and the pick of Ebron allows him to start that transformation off his way.

Round 2 – Pick 40 Overall:

Kyle Van Noy – Outside Linebacker – Brigham Young

Kyle Van Noy

Measurables: (Taken at NFL Combine)

  • Height: 6 feet 3 inches
  • Weight: 243 lbs
  • 40: 4.71 seconds
  • Bench @ 225 lbs: 21 reps
  • Vertical: 32.5 inches
  • Arms: 32 1/2 inches

Grade: A-

Commentary: The Lions knocked this one out of the park with the selection of Van Hoy. The only knock that I have on it is that the Lions traded up to select him, but at least the price to move was relatively small. Noy not only will help out in the base defense as a dynamic tackler, but makes the nickel package much more dangerous. The Lions nickel defense which each NFL team spends almost half their defensive snaps in, was terribly bland because of a lack of dynamic edge rushing athletes. They just kept the same front four with their hands down rushing their lanes and dropping their two linebackers and the defensive backs on the field into, a soft, cover two shell zone defense. Now they can mix it up, bringing Van Noy off the edge and shed a defensive lineman who’s not great at getting to the passer (Jason Jones). The boost to the nickel package makes this pick a slam dunk already.

Round 3 – Pick #76 Overall:

Travis Swanson – Center – Arkansas


Measurables (Taken at the NFL Combine)

  • Height: 6 feet 5 inches
  • Weight: 312 lbs
  • 40: 5.26 seconds
  • Bench @ 225 lbs: 20 reps
  • Arms: 33 1/8 inches

Grade: B

Commentary: I like that the Lions are finally looking to address reality with Dominic Raiola. He’s an ageing veteran who could just lose all ability to play football at the NFL level without much notice. I think Raiola played his best football in five years during the 2013/14 season, but he’s still an old man playing a young man’s game. Lots of commentators think that a team’s picks in the first three rounds have to be expected to start right away, however I disagree. I don’t want my 3rd round picks having to start right away out of necessity, but because they are good enough. If Swanson is good enough to beat out Raiola right away then so be it. If not, Swanson has the physical size to be a backup for at least four of the five offensive line positions this season, and will slide right into the starting role next season after a year of getting stronger in a NFL lifting program. Only being able to put up 20 reps at the bench at the combine concerns me a bit, but I’m not worried at all if they don’t need him to play starters reps right away this season.

Round 4 – Pick #133 Overall:

Nevin Lawson – Corner back – Utah State

Utah State v USC Measurables (Taken at the NFL Combine)

  • Height: 5 feet 9 inches
  • Weight: 190 lbs
  • 40: 4.48 seconds
  • Bench @ 225 lbs: 16 reps
  • Vertical: 33 inches
  • Arms: 31 1/2 inches

Grade: B-

Commentary: I don’t know much about Lawson having never seen him play, but several draft pundits that I respect have given him good praise for a fourth round prospect, however, some other guys that are usually spot on in their analysis listed him as a 7th rounder or undraftable prospect. Some scouts think he will be a dynamic slot corner or nickel back in the league, others think he’s too small or slow to hang in the league and won’t make it past his first contract. I don’t expect him to play in more than 6 or 7 games as a rookie, primarily on special teams assuming there aren’t a ton of injuries, but he could develop into a suitable number 3 corner in the NFL. I wish the Lions would have addressed the cornerback position earlier in the draft, but I understand why they didn’t. Assuming that the Lions didn’t take a cornerback in the first round, I don’t think there was one available that would be better than the guys already under contract. Resean Mathis, Chris Houston, Darius Slay, and Bill Bentley aren’t all world players, but they are better than the guys that were on the board after Justin Gilbert, Kyle Fuller, and Darqueze Dennard were taken in the first round.

Round 4 – Pick #136 Overall:

Larry Webster – Defensive End – Bloomsburg

Larry Webster

Measurables (Taken at the NFL Combine)

  • Height: 6 feet 6 inches
  • Weight: 252 lbs
  • 40: 4.58 seconds
  • Bench @ 225 lbs: 17 reps
  • Vertical: 36.5 inches
  • Arms: 33 1/2 inches

Grade: B+

Commentary: I like this pick a lot. He’s functionally going to be the same player as Willie Young was for the last several years, you just don’t have to pay him $9 million dollars over the next three seasons, and instead you get him at just over $1.5 million. Webster is small, fast, and not terribly strong, but can become a solid rotational/special teams player with the potential to be much more. You don’t need him to be much this season because of the guys ahead of him on the depth chart already, so you can just let him develop physically and as a football player. His biggest impact on the Lions likely won’t be until next season.

Round 5 – Pick #158 Overall:

Caraun Reid – Defensive Tackle – Princeton

Caraun Reid Measurables (Taken at the NFL Combine)

  • Height: 6 feet 2 inches
  • Weight: 302 lbs
  • 40: 4.91 seconds
  • Bench @ 225 lbs: 20 reps
  • Vertical: 26.5 inches
  • Arms: 33 inches

Grade: D

Commentary: A small school defensive tackle without any elite measurables? I don’t get why the Lions made this pick. He’s not overly big, or terribly fast, or strong. It would be one thing to take a guy that doesn’t have the elite measurables if he was just a dominate football player on the field because he looks outstanding on tape, but because he plays in the Ivy league against poor competition, you can’t say he has dominate tape. I think it was a waste. You could have had somebody from a bigger school with the same measurable that would have been a better idea to take.

Round 6 – Pick #189 Overall:

T.J. Jones – Wide Receiver – Notre Dame

]bilde Measurables (Taken at the NFL Combine)

  • Height: 6 feet 0 inches
  • Weight: 188 lbs
  • 40: 4.48 seconds
  • Vertical: 33 inches
  • Arms: 30 5/8 inches Hands: 10 inches

Grade: C

Commentary: Don’t expect Jones to be anything as a pro besides a special teams player. He’s to small to make up for a lack of explosiveness as a receiver. His vertical and speed are less than stellar for a NFL wide out, so he’ll likely spend this season on the practice squad or entirely in a special teams role. Jones played at a big school with mega exposure and even with the NBC hype machine working for him, he never really made a name for himself as a dominate football player. I’m not saying he can never be a contributor on a NFL team, but I really doubt that the odds are terribly good. I don’t expect much out of 5th round picks or later unless they’re specialists, so if Jones never makes an impact, I won’t be upset.

Round 7 – Pick #229 Overall:

Nate Freese – Kicker – Boston College

5550328 Grade: B

Commentary: Freese doesn’t have elite leg strength, but is spot on accurate. As a four-year player at Boston College, he was 70/81 kicking field goals including a senior season where he went 20/20. His career long is only 52 yards, but his high touchback percentage on kickoffs makes you think he has a few more yards in his leg. Punter Sam Martin can boom kickoffs with the best of them so Freese won’t have to likely worry about kickoff duties, so this pick can be functional. The Lions also had two other kickers on their expanded offseason roster, but they have a collective 3 games NFL experience so I wouldn’t be worried about Freese not beating them out for the job in the end. Assuming there isn’t a surprise cut of a veteran kicker at the end of camp somewhere else in the NFL and the Lions gobble him up to go with experience instead of with a rookie, Freese should be the guy coming the start of the season.

So what is the overall grade for this draft? Using the grading scale described above, the Lions get: B- or a 2.720 GPA

About Dorf

Adam "Dorf" Waltersdorf is the Vice President of TMSNX and contributor across the entire Majors Sports Network. He is the Editor in Chief of the Majors East Lansing and an editor at The Majors Detroit and the The Majors Sports Network. He also is the Host of TMSNX's weekly Football podcast "Inside the Huddle" and on air personality for the weekly Detroit Sports Podcast "Motor City Uncut" and the weekly baseball podcast "The Sandlot Report".

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