Grading the Draft: Detroit Lions

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The Lions went into the draft with one main goal -- improve their defense. They did exactly that and improved their receiver talent as well.


Jarrad Davis




Jalen Tabor




Kenny Golladay


Northern Illinois


Jalen Reeves-Maybin




Michael Roberts




Jamal Agnew


San Diego


Jeremiah Ledbetter




Brad Kaaya


Miami (FL)


Pat O'Connor


Eastern Michigan

UDFA Signings: Alex Barrett, DE, San Diego State; Maurice Swain, DT, Auburn; Noel Thomas, WR, Connecticut; Michael Rector, WR, Stanford; Storm Norton, OL, Toledo; Leo Koloamatangi, OL, Hawaii; Des Lawrence, DB, North Carolina; Robert Tonyan Jr., WR/TE, Indiana State; Brandon Barnes, TE, Alabama State; Tion Green, RB, Cincinnati; Jeremiah Voloaga, DE, UNLV; Josh Thornton, CB, Southern Utah; Nick James, DT, Mississippi

Jarrad Davis had been steadily moving up draft boards the weeks preceding the event, and it should come as no surprise the Lions selected him with the 21st pick. He's a well-rounded linebacker who is effective making plays up the field, out to the flanks and in coverage. In my opinion Davis was slightly overrated (I had Zach Cunningham rated higher) and his injuries are cause for concern.

Detroit went back to Gainesville in Round 2, selecting Jalen Tabor. Were it not for some awful 40 times prior to the draft, Tabor may have landed in the first round. He comes with terrific ball skills but his poor foot speed means he'll need to play in a scheme that protects him.

Kenny Golladay was a surprise pick in Round 3. Golladay has excellent size and ran significantly faster than expected at the combine. He was a productive receiver at NIU but shows limited quickness in his game. The Lions must coach Golladay to play to his 40 time.

The Lions took yet another defender from the SEC in Round 4 -- linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin. He's a tough run defender but is small and comes off a major shoulder injury that ended his 2016 season.

Detroit may have hit paydirt with Michael Roberts, its other selection in Round 4. Though not a true field stretcher with 4.8 speed, Roberts was one of the most complete tight ends in this year's draft. He'll start his career as the No. 2 tight end and can eventually develop into a starter.

Jamal Agnew is an interesting selection in Round 5 and someone we like. He's a terrific small-school cover corner and impacts games as a return specialist. I definitely see Agnew as an active roster player sometime this season.

The same can be said for Jeremiah Ledbetter, the fourth defender from the SEC the team drafted. Ledbetter is listed as a defensive end but will be a sensational rotational lineman who can play on the outside, inside at tackle or as an end in three-man fronts. 

Brad Kaaya was worth a shot in the sixth round. I was quoted repeatedly in the South Florida media saying it was a grave mistake for Kaaya to enter the draft. Coming off a poor season in which he struggled with a shoulder injury, the learning curve is going to be steep for Kaaya.

Seventh-round selection Pat O'Connor could be a steal. He's a terrific edge rusher with a nice combination of athleticism, size and growth potential. He needs to get stronger but can line up as a situational player on Sundays.

The Lions signed two interesting tight end prospects I expect to end up on the practice squad after the draft. Brandon Barnes has terrific size and speed numbers and flashed ability but was hampered by the Alabama State offense. Robert Tonyan was a massive small-school receiver who was productive on the college level. He has a future in the NFL as a move tight end.

Analysis: The Lions first- and second-day picks come with risk, but they selected players on the final day of the draft who can help fill out the roster. They did improve their defense, which was a stated goal, and deserve credit.  Grade: B