Lamorandier: Detroit Lions 2019 Draft grades

Let me preface this article by stating the obvious: “Draft grades are useless before a prospect even touches an NFL field.” Now that’s out of the way, let’s discuss the Detroit Lions 2019 NFL draft class.

I like to use grades to give you my honest opinion on a draftee and how they project at the next level.

For reference, a “C” grade is considered average. I’m not just going to give everyone the ultra-safe “B” grade like seemingly every other draft analysts.

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa:

(First round, 8th overall)

    6-foot-5
    251-pounds
    4.70-sec 40 yard dash
    37.5-inch vertical
    4.18-sec short shuttle

For the third time in the last decade, the Lions used a first round pick on a tight end. The past shouldn’t dictate your feelings on the present though. This pick is different.

Hockenson is one of the most complete tight ends to come out of a draft in a while. He can block, has reliable hands, boasts elite explosiveness and agility.

My biggest complaint is the value of the tight end position. It’s trending up in the league right now but just look at the highest paid contracts of the top TE talent. The best tight ends aren’t first round picks and they only get paid half of what defensive ends get paid. The Lions took Hockenson over another player with sky-high potential at a premium position — DL Ed Oliver.

The $5-million yearly average salary that Hockenson will receive is middle of the pack tight end money right out of the gate. For a pass rusher (like Oliver), $5-million per year is chump change.

Quinn is in win-now mode and it’s very rare for tight ends to make a big impact in year one. I hope that OC Darrell Bevell is ready to make Hockenson a focal point on offense, otherwise, you can’t justify taking a top-10 tight end.

It’s not like Hockenson was going to fall much further after Detroit, so if the Lions had to have him, they took him in the right spot.

Overall, Hockenson is probably the best offensive graded player in this draft class. A future Pro Bowler should be the expectation. He is just at a position that’s rarely drafted in the top-10.

Personal selection: DL Ed Oliver

Grade: B-


Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii:

(Second round, 43rd overall)

    6-foot-2
    250-pounds
    4.86-sec 40 yard dash
    33.5-inch vertical
    4.41-sec short shuttle

This was a true head-scratcher. Tavai was a favorite sleeper of more than a couple draftniks out there, but I still can’t get on board taking him this high.

Obviously, Quinn and Patricia must really like the fit in the defense — mostly due to his size and power. Rumors were the New England Patriots were interested in Tavai as well, so naturally, as were the Lions.

Unfortunately, Tavai was one of the least athletic players taken in the first two rounds. He was ultra productive and versatile in college, but there are plenty of linebackers who rack up stats and go late in the NFL draft due to athletic limitations.

I watched tape of Tavai pre-draft long enough to stop because I assumed it would be hard for him to make an impact at the next level. Much like I said after drafting CB Teez Tabor, players can overcome poor athleticism, but the odds are not in their favor.

After the pick was made, I could not even find an obscure metric to make me feel better about the selection. He missed 49 tackles compared to the 220 he made solo in college. His senior year, he was ranked 175th of the draft-eligible linebackers for yards allowed per cover snap.

His best quality is how versatile he is. He can rush the passer decently well and lines up all over the field.

I’ll trust Quinn on this one, but it doesn’t mean I have to like the decision (especially with the players still left on the board).

I hope I end up on @OldTakesExposed for this grade. Maybe the scheme can cover his flaws and he can be something more than just a backup.

Personal selection: CB Greedy Williams

Grade: D-


Will Harris, SS, Boston College:

(Third round, 81st overall)

    6-foot-2
    207-pounds
    4.41-sec 40 yard dash
    36.5-inch vertical
    4.12-sec short shuttle

Matt Patricia runs plenty of three safety sets, so Harris makes a lot of sense after the departure of S Glover Quin. Harris has an elite athletic profile and off-the-charts character and leadership qualities. DC Paul Pasqualoni is already very familiar with Harris as he was on the defensive staff in 2016-17.

The Lions had to give up their second sixth-round pick in order to move up and grab Harris. They would know better than I do, but I don’t feel like Harris was some hot commodity with all the safety talent still left on the board.

As a third safety who can cover the big slot and play in the box, his ferocious demeanor on the field will go a long way. He always plays in turbo mode and never slows down.

To nitpick, it would have been nice to see a little more ball production while at Boston College. As a three-year starter, the team captain was targeted 118 times and had five interceptions with just eight pass breakups.

Once again going back to year one impact, I don’t think Harris will provide a ton outside of special teams and limited defensive snaps. It’s a long term pick.

Personal selection: EDGE Maxx Crosby

Grade: C


Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson:

  • (Fourth round, 117th overall)
    • 6-foot-4
      271-pounds
      Did not participate at combine due to injury

    Bryant was another productive player who was surrounded by elite defensive talent. Due to a pectoral injury that he played through his senior year, he could not participate at the combine or Clemson Pro Day. Therefore, he was unable to ease my concerns of his poor athletic ability.

    When completely healthy in 2017, he was a first-team All-American.

    The Lions were actually solid last season in terms of sacks but were bottom five in the league for pressures. Bryant is not going to help much in that department. He was 44th in total QB pressures among draft-eligible EDGE players In 2018. His above average run defense is likely what the Lions coveted the most.

    Over his career, Bryant rushed the passer a total of 902 times and accumulated 21 sacks, 15 QB hits and 59 hurries.

    I like the position selection, I just wish a mid-round pick would have a higher ceiling. It’s a classic safe pick that Quinn is so prone to selecting.

    Personal selection: TE Foster Moreau

    Grade: C-


    Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State:

  • (Fifth round, 146th overall)
    • 6-foot-2
      205-pounds
      4.48-sec 40 yard dash
      36.5-inch vertical
      6.82-sec 3-cone

    Considering Oruwariye was on my list of “wants” in the second round, this is my favorite pick by far. The NFL was apparently not nearly as high on him.

    The senior checks all the boxes. He only allowed 49.3% of his targets to be completed and a passer rating of 66.6 in his career. Oruwariye could be a little more reliable in the tackling department, but he is aggressive in run support and a high effort player. For comparison, Greedy Williams missed four tackles last year to Oruwariye’s nine.

    The Lions needed a developmental type behind stopgap CB Rashaan Melvin and Oruwariye could push for that starting spot sooner than later.

    Given that I would have already drafted Greedy in the second, Alabama LB Mack Wilson would have been my “personal selection” here. No matter the case, Oruwariye is unbelievable value at this stage in the draft.

    Personal selection: LB Mack Wilson

    Grade: A


    Travis Fulgham, WR, Old Dominion:

  • (Sixth round, 184th overall)
    • 6-foot-2
      215-pounds
      4.58-sec 40 yard dash (4.49 at Pro Day)
      36.5-inch vertical
      6.82-sec 3-cone

    Fulgham dominated the deep ball at Old Dominion with 18 catches of 20+ yards — good enough for second-most in this year’s draft class per PFF. Yes, it’s a small school and his combine 4.58 40 yard dash would suggest it might be tough to translate to the NFL.

    Fulgham only played two years of high School football before walking on at Old Dominion. He already possesses great hand eye coordination and ball skills — those are two traits that you usually don’t lose. He will need to continue to refine his game at the next level.

    There isn’t a ton of tape out there on Fulgham, but he and WR Jon Duhart made quite the duo in college. They will get a chance to be together again as Duhart will also start his career in Detroit as an undrafted free agent.

    The Lions could have probably used more of a slot-type receiver and Fulgham is not that, but there are some nice qualities there for the Lions to develop.

    Personal selection: OL Oli Udoh

    Grade: C


    Ty Johnson, RB, Maryland:

  • (Sixth round, 186th overall)
    • 5-foot-10
      210-pounds
      ~4.35-sec 40 yard dash (Pro Day)
      36.5-inch vertical
      27 reps bench

    Johnson looks the part and has quite the highlight reel. The Lions needed a home run threat behind RB Kerryon Johnson. Now, they will have two Johnsons that could take it to the house on any play. Make no mistake, despite their similar weight, Kerryon has more power.

    Ty Johnson did not get a combined invite. At his pro day, Some scouts reported that Johnson was running in the mid 4.2s. Pro day numbers are historically inflated though.

    As a sophomore, Johnson had over 1,000-yards on the ground and set a school record with 9.1-yards per attempt.

    His senior season was a bit of a letdown as he had to deal with a calf injury and RB by committee approach. Johnson still averaged 7.7-yards per attempt (2nd in draft class), averaged 5.08-yards after contact (2nd) and had runs that went for 15+ yards on 53.5% of his carries (3rd).

    Although the kick returner is a dying position, Johnson should instantly be a front runner for the job. He averaged 27.2-yards per kick return last year.

    Personal selection: RB Devine Ozigbo

    Grade: B+


    Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia:

  • (Seventh round, 224th overall)
    • 6-foot-3
      244-pounds
      4.91-sec 40 yard dash
      28-inch vertical
      7.45-sec 3-cone

    Nauta was a freshman All-American and came out as a junior. He probably would have been a much higher selection if he wasn’t one the most unathletic tight ends at the combine.

    Surrounded by talented wideouts at Georgia, he was still pretty involved in their offense.

    At the very least, he can use his above average run blocking ability to carve out a role as the potential third tight end. I wouldn’t bank on him being all that impactful in the passing game, but he should at least be reliable when targeted.

    Personal selection: WR Emanuel Hall

    Grade: C


    PJ Johnson, NT, Arizona:

  • (Seventh round, 229th overall)
    • 6-foot-4
      323-pounds
      5.07-sec 40 yard dash (Pro Day)
      20 reps bench

    The Detroit Lions strength of their team is at the defensive tackle spot and Johnson will likely strengthen the DT room… if he can crack the roster.

    I do the like the upside of this pick though. Just a junior and a former JUCO transfer, Johnson has the size and speed to be special. During his one year at Arizona, he played up around 340-pounds.

    Last season, Johnson had the 10th rated run defense grade for interior defensive line in this year’s class (90.1) — a potential solid backup for DT Snacks Harrison. The Lions were interested enough to bring Johnson in for a top-30 visit, they must have liked what he was selling.

    Personal selection: QB Tyree Jackson

    Grade: B


    Overall Grade:

    This was a pretty standard Bob Quinn draft. He went after players who were productive, high-character, and reached for players that fit the system. It wouldn’t be a BQ draft without selecting at least one unheralded sleeper in the first three rounds.

    Fortunately, I usually don’t come away all that impressed with Quinn’s drafts and he has been good at proving me wrong. Even though my final grade for the class isn’t that generous, I’m more than willing to give it a chance. I’m just an armchair GM after all.

    Not going after an interior offensive lineman was a bit worrisome, but the addition of Wisconsin OG Beau Benzschawel as an undrafted free agent is a major plus. Benzschawel had offers from over 20 other NFL teams and the Lions were able to persuade him to come to Detroit. He has a real chance to compete for the starting right guard job.

    Like Quinn’s previous drafts, he came away with high-floor players that should be able to contribute in certain roles right away, I just question if any can immediately become that elusive Pro-Bowler that Quinn is still searching for. He doesn’t have time to waste going into his fourth year.

    Overall grade: C- (Passing grade, but slightly below average relative to the rest of the league.)

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