Detroit Lions 2017 NFL Draft – Big Running RB and D-Line Help

Here we are at yet another NFL Draft….and here we are at yet another discussion as to what the Lions need.

NFLDRaftScouts.com indicates the top 5 needs for the 2017 draft:

  • Wide Receiver – Marvin Jones and Golden Tate combined for 136 catches last year.  But the rest of the receivers, sans Anquan Boldin, only had a grand total of six.  Boldin may come back next year to give the Lions a reliable 3rd down receiver but at 36 years old, just how much will he have left in the tank?
  • Linebacker – Lions are searching for a replacement since DeAndre Levy went the free agent route.  They have signed Paul Worrilow who is solid but they could be seeking a big playmaker to step in.
  • Defensive End – Once a strength of the Lions defense, the talent has degraded over the last few years.  In 2016, the defense was tied for 30th in the league with just 26 sacks.  Part of that deficiency is related to Ziggy Anshan’s high ankle sprain.  Lions need to find a reliable number 2 pass rusher
  • Cornerback – Lions appear to be in pretty good shape in the secondary with Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson and DJ Hayden all returning.  But things can change drastically over the course of a season.  And like relief pitching in baseball, you just can’t have too deep of a bullpen.
  • Tight End – Eric Ebron has improved over the last 3 years but I get the feeling that Lions offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, just doesn’t quite trust Ebron in clutch situations.  We’ve all seen Ebron make some fantastic catches but he seems to lose concentration on the routine ones…and his blocking hasn’t really improved all that much.

I still find it fascinating that running back isn’t listed as a need for the Lions.  Yes, yes, I know that we have Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.  But neither of those guys are going to wear down a defense.  Abdullah is 5-9 and 203 lbs. and is great in the open field.  Riddick, also at 5-9 and listed at 201 lbs. is a fantastic receiver coming out of the backfield in critical passing situations.  But I firmly believe the Lions need a big back to pound on the defense, wear em down so that in the 4th quarter, the 3-5 yard gains in the 1st quarter turn into 6-10 yard gains.

Fox Sports has the Lions with big needs at cornerback, linebacker and defensive ends.

Pride of Detroit, one of my favorite Detroit Lions sites, state that Lions needs on offense are minimal and really only need to target a 3rd wide receiver.  And also indicates that a short-yardage running back would be nice.  Most urgent needs would be on defense with just about anywhere needs help.

I agree the defense is in need of some re-tooling.  But having that big running back that can grind out yardage and take time off the clock will make the defense better.  Too many games over the last few years, I’ve seen the Lions defense at the end of the game with their hands on their knees, gasping for breath.  A rested defense is an effective defense.  These guys are the thoroughbreds of the NFL, trying to get through 300 lbs. to 330 lbs. offensive linemen to get to shifty quarterback and elusive running backs.  That takes a ton of energy so keeping your defense off the field as much as possible is a key ingredient for success.

With that in mind, I offer, to the 15 fans of Beer Thinker Sports, my 2017 Detroit Lions mock draft:

The Lions have eight draft picks this year, getting an additional 6th round pick from the New England Patriots in the Kyle Van Noy trade.

First Round, Pick 21:  D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas.  6-0, 233 lbs.

Great athleticism for a running back this size.  Smooth lateral movement and has the ability to go from one gap to the next without gearing down.  Great conversion rate on short down situations and is rarely tackled for a loss in attempts to bounce outside.  Foreman was a very productive runner for Texas in 2016 where he averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 2,028 yards with 15 touchdowns.  Not much of a receiver but is the load runner the Lions lack who can run over the opposition.

Second Round, Pick 53:  Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt.  6-3, 234 lbs.

Is a play-making machine.  Always plays downhill and is looking for blood.  He is fast to breakdown plays and respond to them.  Creates tackles for losses by shooting gaps at appropriate angles.  Football magnet with outstanding tackle production to go along with his ability to create and force turnovers.  He does well in pass coverage and has the talent to be a three-down starter in the NFL.

Third Round, Pick 85:  Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado.  6-3, 198 lbs.

I like big cornerbacks especially ones with speed.  With a 4.45 40 time, Witherspoon fits the bill.  He has an exceptional combination of size and speed, has fluid hips and fast feet.  Gets to top speed quickly with long, easy strides to chase down receivers.  Has plus athleticism for quick recovery when beaten off early release.  Witherspoon had a staggering 22 passes broken up in 2016.  There is some concern about his coach-ability and football character but teams like him off the field as well as his intelligence.

Fourth Round, Pick 128:  Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State.    5-11, 189 lbs.

Want a near -perfect 3rd wide receiver?  Gabe Marks will fill the bill in that regard.  Has the ability to create movement in defenders with his routes to leverage himself into open throwing windows.  Stafford will have no issues finding him in 3-receiver sets.  Shows good body-control when ball in in the air and works aggressively back to the throw and scrambles with his quarterback to open up.   He will have to prove that his success in college wasn’t because of WSU’s pass-happy offense and that he does have the skills to compete in the NFL.

Fifth Round, Pick 165:  Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn.  6-2, 261 lbs.

Yeah, I know.  A lot of draftnicks are going to say this is way to low to take a defensive end.  However, as I stated previously, if a big, grind it out running back is taken, then chances are, the Lions can find that diamond in the rough for a second pass rusher.  And while Lawson has had some injuries that have dropped him in many mock drafts, I think the Lions could take the chance with him in the 5th round.  He is well-built with good muscular definition with a strong upper-body.  Able to strike and release to shed tight ends quickly and fights through blocks to string outside runs to the sideline.  If Lawson can prove he can get and stay healthy, Lions would steal a good to great pass rusher taking him here.

Sixth Round, Pick 205:  Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo.  6-4, 270 lbs.

Eric Ebron isn’t going anywhere soon and the Lions need a good blocking TE.  Roberts will fill the bill in that regard.  However, a lot of teams will also need to pay attention to his receiving skills.  When he catches the ball, it matters.  Over 80% of his career catches went for first downs.  In 2016, over 35% of his catches were for touchdowns.  He is a huge target with gigantic hands and is quick to get open and find the ball on stop routes.  Very capable run-blocker as he sinks his hips to neutralize defensive ends.  Has experience block from in-line and wing spot.  Could be a great option in the red-zone where the Lions have had issues over the past few years.

Sixth Round, Pick 215 (From New England):  Josh Augusta, DT, Missouri.  6-4, 330 lbs.

A stretch pick for sure as there are some issues to his weight.  Walter Football has him listed at 360 lbs. and NFL.com lists him at 300 lbs.  I just averaged it out to 330 lbs. for the sake of argument.  He is an mountain of a man and is extra-wide to cause problems on single blocks.  He has a tendency to lock up on the player in front of him rather than search for the ball.  Good at clogging up the middle but has limited pass-rush skills.

Seventh Round, Pick 250 (From New England):  Brad Seaton, OT, Villanova.  6-8″ 325 lbs.

If Seaton is available here, the Lions should grab him.  He has big-time size and could be a sleeper prospect that could end up being a steal.  He has surprising lateral quickness and agility for such a tall player.  He is patient on the move and takes good angles on defenders on play-side zones.  Displays decent anchor on bull-rush passers.

While these are just my opinions, I just want to let Lions GM Bob Quinn know that I am available next weekend if he wants a consultant.  And I’d come cheap too….just a luxury box at Ford Field for the next 3 years.

Go Lions!