Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 4/29/12

The Lions were once again big movers in the draft, trading back and forth positioning themselves to get the players they wanted. Now, before the dust has a chance to settle and actual skill or talented assessment clouds the issue, let's give out some draft grades. 

1)   1st round, 23 overall - Riley Reiff - OT Iowa : One of the best offensive lineman in the draft, expected by most to be a top 15 pick. When he dropped to 23, the Lions had to move. Old and shrewd with decades of experience is a great asset if it refers to your coaching staff. But when it is used to describe your offensive line, you have problems. The Lions have the oldest offensive line in the league and they needed to make upgrades. Reiff is strong pass blocker and a quality run blocker. He will make for an instant upgrade to the offensive line. And he can learn from Jeff Backus making for a seemless transition into the left tackle position.     

Grade: A
2)   2nd round, 54 overall - Ryan Broyles - WR Oklahoma : Most catches in division 1 history... that is the kind of label you don't mind having. He is a smaller receiver, described as ideal for the slot. Some will argue that this is not a position of need. However, this is not the case for two reasons.

 A) First, remember back over the 2012 season. When the Detroit Lions needed a clutch reception, who caught the ball? Calvin Johnson or Brandon Pettigrew. But they were not the only ones thrown to. Nate Burleson and Titus Young had those balls thrown their way as well, but didn't respond as well. Titus Young will be given a free pass because he was a rookie and was improving. But Nate Burleson needed to play better. Now he may be playing to continue with the team.

B) The NFL has significantly changed the rules regarding the return game. In effect, they have almost removed the kickoff return from the game. It is now no longer cost effective to have one player who does nothing but handle kickoffs. So when you have a chance to draft a player who is a mix of Nate Burleson and Stephan Logan, you do it. 

The only real knock on this pick is that Broyles is coming off of major knee surgery. If he is able to return to full speed and able to be as productive as before, this will be a devastating addition. 

Grade: B

3)   3rd round, 85 overall - Dwight Bentley - CB La-Lafayette : Has natural skills as a cornerback and runs with 4.4 speed. Detroit could use the help at the position. There is some question as to his size and he produced a disappointing 31 inch vertical leap at the combine. He held his own at the Senior Bowl, but there will be some questions as to whether his game will translate to NFL caliber talent. Gunther Cunningham will bring him along slowly, as he always does with rookie cornerbacks. If his vertical leap was the result of a bad day, and if he can add some bulk, and if he can handle the change in level of competition, he should be a quality addition to the secondary. That is a lot of "ifs."

Grade: C

4)   4th round, 125 overall - Ronnell Lewis - OLB Oklahoma: Nicknamed "the Hammer", Lewis was a ferocious raw talent. Has freakish natural ability but needs work on his technique. Willing to learn but had difficulty with bookwork at Oklahoma. Is relentless but has difficulty shedding blocks. Is good in run defense and keeps his eyes up. He will need work but with some development, has great upside. With these picks, it's all about upside. And Gunther Cunningham absolutely loves these kinds of guys. For those who think the defensive staff will not be able to work with him, please refer to Cliff Avril, Sammie Lee Hill, and Willie Young. 
Grade: A 5)    5th round, 138 overall - Tahir Whitehead - OLB Temple: Remember this name. He plays with aggression and has powerful straight line speed but has trouble making cuts and redirecting. Translation: Special teams monster. He will be largely unknown right up until the middle of the second preseason game when he decleats somebody during a return. Very productive at Temple, but may not translate to the NFL outside of special teams play and situational pass rush.

Grade: B

6)     5th round, 148 overall - Chris Greenwood -  CB Albion: Sneaky, outstanding pickup. Hiding away at a Division III school, this phenom was glimpsed by scouts and began rushing up draft boards. Needs work on technique. will occasionally turn too quickly or over jump the receivers. But his raw abilities were on display at both the combine and at Michigan's pro-day which he got invited to as a local talent. He put up a 4.34 40 and a 43" vertical leap at the pro-day. He ran a 4.42 40 at the combine. To put that in perspective, Morris Claiborne ran a 4.5 40 with a 34" vertical leap. Stephon Gilmore, 4.4 40 and 36". Dre Kirkpatrick, 4.5 40 and 35" vertical. While it is true that he will need more work on his technique than the others, make no mistake, none of them would have been starting for the Lions this year. So if they are able to refine the technique, this will be another absolute steal.

Grade: A

7)     6th round, 196 overall - Jonte Green - CB New Mexico State: 5'11"  with a 4.4 40. The Lions take the speed and see if they can develop the technique. In a position of need. Can you really ever have too many?

Grade: B

8)     7th round, 223 overall - Travis Lewis - OLB Oklahoma: Very productive OLB for the first three years. Draft stock suffered due to playing through an injury his last year and a poor showing at the combine. Natural leader. Is a project at this point but if he can regain the form he had before injury, has the ability to be a contributing linebacker and can play at the NFL level.
Overall This is more of a risk/reward type of a draft. If Broyles works out, they have a receiving core to rival any in the NFL. They drafted three cornerbacks, two of which could end up being elite. They drafted three OLB/DE types any of which could be dominant. And stacking them up next to Suh and Fairley or Hill and Williams is only going to help their chances of being dominant. They drafted a dominant offensive lineman for the future.

Many of these picks will either be stars or busts...not much in between. That immediately puts them at average. But they stuck the the plan. The Lions plan has been to put together a dreadful force at defensive line, a quality linebacking core, and fast basic talent at cornerback. The Lions goal is to blow up the play at the quarterback, not at the receiver. After all, you can't catch what is never thrown. Cunningham doesn't like rookie cornerbacks. He doesn't trust them. So wherever a cornerback was taken, they were going to be eased into playing time, not be day one starters. 

The draft is one big risk, anyway. There is no real way to know who will bust and who will dominate. The Lions were not timid and they did not fall victim to listening to everyone around them.

They stuck to the plan.

Grade: B


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