When Iowa tackle Riley Reiff dropped to the Detroit Lions at pick number 23, I had high expectations for the 2012 draft class.
After watching Detroit follow one puzzling pick with another in the rounds thereafter, my expectations have dropped significantly.
Yes, Reiff was a good pick and will likely improve the Lions offensive line right away, but drafting wide receiver Ryan Broyles in the second round was wrong.
Broyles is a good player, and I liked the way he played at Oklahoma. The problem is that the Lions need a corner, bottom line. To pass on Montana corner Trumaine Johnson in favor of Broyles was Martin Mayhew’s biggest mistake.
Broyles fans will point to his great hands and polished play and call me an idiot, but here’s my side.
The Lions have, in my mind, one glaring hole in their team that prevented them from making a playoff run in 2011: the secondary. Especially at corner, Detroit was one of the worst teams when it came to positional matchups.
They didn’t, or couldn’t, go after any free agent corners in the offseason. That was fine by me since they really didn’t have the cap room to do so. But I figured that Mayhew and the Lions would surely take a corner early in the draft, which they did not.
The Lions did finally take corner Dwight Bentley in round three, but I am not convinced he is any better than the existing debacle in the Lions’ secondary. Detroit went on to make two more selections at the corner position, but quantity can’t make up for quality.
Chris Greenwood from Albion and Jonte Green from New Mexico State will compete for roster spots in the secondary along with Bentley, but I don’t see any of them making a splash in the near future. While the Lions are in love with Greenwood’s measurable and say that they have scouted Green extensively and think he can produce at this level, I have reason for doubt. For one, both played for small schools and in Greenwood’s case, division three. Talent rises to the top, and if these guys were really capable of producing at the NFL level, they would have gone to bigger schools.
Brandon Carr (Grand Valley State) is a clear exception to this rule, however, and I’m not saying that these guys will never produce.
But the odds are against it.
Also curious was the fact that the Lions traded up in the fifth round to draft LB Tahir Whitehead of Temple. Not a particularly imposing player, Whitehead struggled shedding blocks and
R. Lewis is a tremendous, albeit unpolished athlete
in coverage at Temple, making this trade-up very suspect to me.
I also hated the fact that the Lions repeatedly passed on South Carolina safety Antonio Allen. A guy I rated as a fourth round talent, the Lions passed on him in rounds four, five, six, and seven. Allen in the seventh round at pick 223 would have been a steal in my mind, but Detroit saw more value in Oklahoma LB Travis Lewis, who there really isn’t much to say about.
The only other pick I liked besides Reiff came in the fourth round, with the Lions selecting OLB/DE Ronnell Lewis from Oklahoma. A hard hitter and fantastic athlete, the Lions got great value here in the fourth, and hopefully a guy who will pressure opposing quarterbacks for years to come. Maybe not a guy who starts right away, but a talented prospect with a high ceiling for sure.
Detroit also signed undrafted free agent QB Kellen Moore of Boise State, a guy who brings a winning attitude to Detroit. Moore will compete with veteran Shaun Hill for the team’s backup quarterback role.
Overall, I have a hard time giving this draft class anything more than a C-. With a clear need at corner not met, I have to question the Lions’ draft strategy once again.
Only time will tell.
Follow me on twitter @ScottPeceny
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