The NFL Draft took place a month ago and while most experts have weighed their thoughts on the draft, I decided to sit back and wait until some research was needed. My initial reaction to the Lions draft choices were met with quizzical doubts. I still feel the same a month later. I am not sold on these picks the Lions have made. It will take production on the field during games to prove me and the doubters wrong. A review of each pick.
1. (5th overall) Ziggy Ansah DE BYU
The history of BYU players succeeding in the NFL isn’t great. Only Steve Young and Jim MacMahon have made a name for themselves in the NFL, after spending their collegiate years in Provo. On top of that, BYU’s history is more rooted on the offensive side of football than defense. So I am skeptical of this pick. Yes the Lions did need to replace Cliff Avril who took his team high 9.5 sacks to Seattle, but this may not be the right choice. There is no denying of Ansah’s athletic ability. Standing 6’6 and weighing 270 pounds, Ansah is a very fast and mobile defensive end. He didn’t put up huge numbers, recording only 4.5 sacks in 2012 and his lack of football experience is a concern. Ansah is raw but properly developed, he could be a good one. However, with the likes of Jarvis Jones and Bjoern Werner out there, this could blow up in the Lions face.
2. (36th overall) Darius Slay CB Mississippi State
For years, decades even, the Lions have needed help at corner. Many have tried but the Lions haven’t had a true shut down corner since Lem Barney retired in 1977. Could Slay be the guy? The Lions could have drafted a corner in the first round as Alabama’s Dee Milliner was on the board, but concerns about a knee injury scared the Lions away. Yet the Lions used their second round pick to draft a corner that scared some teams because of a reoccurring knee injury. So yes, this is a head scratcher from GM Martin Mayhew. Slay did have a solid season with Mississippi State, registering 5 interceptions, one of those was went for touchdown. Slay possess great speed as he recorded a 4.36 in the 40 yard dash, the fastest out of all cornerbacks in the draft. While he did play in the nation’s toughest conference, (SEC) can he take the next step and play among the game’s elite? Only time will tell.
3. (65th overall) Larry Warford OG Kentucky
The O-Line has been another problematic area for the Lions in their history. Even when Barry Sanders was mesmerizing defenses in the 1990s, the Lions still had trouble finding the right mix up front. The Lions are hoping Warford can help stabilize the interior of the line. Warford brings size and strength to the line, (6’3 332 lbs) but does lack foot speed. Scouts have said Warford is especially good at run blocking, as he does have the power to pancake blocks to defensive linemen. I do like this pick and I wouldn’t be surprise to see Warford in the starting lineup, before seasons’ end.
4. (132nd overall) Devin Taylor DE South Carolina
The Lions traded down in the fourth round, and decided to pick Taylor, who benefitted from playing alongside Jadeveon Clowney at South Carolina. Taylor brings length and athleticism to the D-Line standing 6’7 and weighing 266 lbs. Taylor’s strength is batting down passes with his long arms. With Ndamukong Suh drawing double teams, the Lions are hoping that frees up space for Taylor to put pressure on the quarterback, or give him the room to swat away pass attempts. If Ansah doesn’t fit the bill, then there will be more pressure on Taylor.
5. (165th overall) Sam Martin P Appalachian State
Once again, the Lions traded down to gain future draft picks. The Lions went for a punter from a Division 1-AA school. Punters are always a risky proposition in the draft but with the release of incumbent punter Nick Harris, the Lions felt the time was now to take Martin. The former soccer player turned punter does have a booming leg, averaging 45.9 yards per punt with a 40.8 net punting average. The Lions felt Harris was too inconsistent and are hoping Martin can become a secret weapon in the special teams. Still drafting a punter in the fifth round is questionable at best.
6. (171st overall) Corey Fuller WR Virginia Tech
Everyone knows how great Calvin Johnson is. But even the Lions recognize that Megatron can’t do it all. While Ryan Broyles could develop into a solid receiver down the road, the Lions felt another weapon in the passing game was required. Especially now, after Titus Young likes to be arrested more than playing football. Hence they took the speedy Fuller. Possessing great speed and big play ability, Fuller could stretch defenses down the field, opening up the middle for Megatron. Fuller did have a solid season in Blacksburg, recording 43 receptions for 815 yards and 6 touchdowns. There are questions about Fuller’s strength and he needs to be more precise in his routes. Fuller could be used as a kick returner but he will need to learn that skill.
6. (199th overall) Theo Riddick RB Notre Dame
The second pick in the sixth round for the Lions saw them take Riddick who did receive plenty of exposure at Notre Dame. But just because you play in South Bend it doesn’t mean that it will translate into a successful NFL career. (Does the name Rocket Ismail ring a bell?) Riddick does bring versatility to the backfield as he is an effective pass catcher while being a solid runner. Riddick did rush for 917 yards and 5 touchdowns in 2012, while catching 36 passes for 370 yards and 2 touchdowns. But Riddick did struggle against Alabama in the BCS Title game, only gaining 37 yards on 10 carries against the mighty Crimson Tide defense. Riddick is also small by NFL standards (5’10 201 lbs) so I have my doubts about him being the featured back in the offense. A questionable pick.
7. (211th overall) Michael Williams TE Alabama
If there is one thing to say about the Alabama tight end, it’s that Michael Williams is huge! Standing 6’3 while tipping the scales at 278 lbs, Williams will use his size more as a blocker than a receiver. He can get into the open field though, making 24 catches for 183 yards and 4 touchdowns, during Alabama’s National Championship run last year. Williams could be used in a two tight end formation and could be very valuable in short yardage or goal line situations. With Brandon Pettigrew entrenched as the starting TE, Williams will have to impress at camp, to make the team.
7. (245th overall) Brandon Hepburn LB Florida A&M
The Lions used their final draft pick to select an unknown linebacker from a small school. They are hoping that Hepburn can be a diamond in the rough. He did enjoy a terrific senior campaign with the Rattlers, registering 86 tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. If Hepburn makes the team, he will most likely see duty on special teams.
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