Coupled With The Perfect Free Agency, Here Is The Perfect Draft.
This is a continuation of the perfect free agency article that can be found HERE. In that article the Lions signed a third WR, a second TE, a starting MLB, a number two corner, among other needs that were filled. Without reading that you won’t have context for this draft, and you’ll likely be questioning everything I write below. Go read that article quickly, we’ll all wait for you.
The draft is a wonderful thing. It forces young college prospects to forgo their constitutionally granted right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It forces them to play in a location they have no say in for an organization they may never have chosen, for a period of no less than four seasons. This is where good teams build their depth, and set up their futures. So that is what I am trying to do here. Bob Quinn built the trenches in year one, but heavy free agent losses and poor veteran play from guys he inherited have kept that as a primary need yet again. The Lions have needs of various types at every position on the field, far too many for a single offseason.
One: Obi Melifonwu, S, Uconn
Melifonwu is a 6’4″ 220lb freakish athlete with elite college level coverage abilities. He effortlessly slides through blockers on screen plays. Even if they get on him there is no end to his efforts to get to a ball carrier, while he may not overpower linemen, he works toward the ball carrier when blocked. Melifonwu will erase tight ends from the game at the NFL level. The best comparable in the NFL is George Iloka, a player that would be a tailor made fit for the Lions strong safety position.
In Terrell Austin’s scheme, Melifonwu is a high impact strong safety from the moment he walks in the door. After a year of coaching he could be the long term solution at free safety. Glover Quin is a 31 year old free agent next year, and is coming off a down season. I had already typed this up before his combine performance, but his 4.40 40 yard dash, 11’9″ broad jump, and 44″ vertical jump tell you what kind of athlete Melifonwu is.
Round Two: Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson
Tankersley is a physical ball hawking corner. The problem is that currently he is a little more physical at the top of the route than the bottom of it. He has an incredible career of takeaways and pass deflections at Clemson, and reacted well to being the second corner in 2015. He doesn’t love the run game, and will need to perform with more consistency when contesting blockers and ball carriers. Where he excels is after the ball is in the air. Tankersley jumps routes, and tracks the ball at full speed. The vast majority of defensive backs can simply not do that well. It is his ability in both man and zone coverage that gives Cordrea Tankersley a high potential for immediate impact.
Round Three: Dalvin Tomlinson, DT, Alabama
Tomlinson did not emerge as a premier player at Alabama until this season. Jarran Reed, A’Shawn Robinson, and Johnathan Allen will have that effect on most players though. Where Tomlinson sets himself apart is in anchoring against the run. Wheras most of the Lions defensive tackle group last season were getting pushed around on first and second down, Tomlinson will not have that problem. He shares many traits with Lions 2016 second round pick A’Shawn Robinson. Tomlinson was a three time Georgia State wrestling champion in high school, and plays with the leverage that sport teaches. He is an elite pocket pusher, and has an uncanny ability to get his hand in to passing lanes. When Tomlinson gets his hands on a ball carrier, they are done. He has a motor that never stops, and his injury history is clean since an ACL tear in 2012.
Round Four: William Holden, OT, Vanderbilt
Holden stands 6’7″ and has spent his college career on the left side. He doesn’t move laterally well enough to stay on the left side permanently and he has short arms relative to his frame. They measured 33-1/4″ which is not great but not prohibitive. He is a decent pass blocker, but when he latches on to a player in the run game, that player moves. Holden will be a starting right tackle in the league before too long.
Round Five: Jeremy Sprinkle, TE, Arkansas
Sprinkle is a solid blocker and receiver. He would add to the Lions tight end group as either a third or second option, and has the ability to step in to the Eric Ebron role if required by injury. Sprinkle has a strange off the field incident in which he was given a $450 shopping spree by a store, but tried to go over that limit and was charged with shoplifting. He will have to answer questions about the incident with every team he talks to.
Round Six: Jayon Brown, LB, UCLA
Brown is a coverage linebacker that has difficulty against the run. He has the lower body of a running back, but while playing at UCLA was unable to solidly anchor against the run. Brown needs to build a great deal of functional strength to find a regular role in the league. He will immediately have an impact on special teams, and could fill in on nickle packages.
Round Six: Corey Levin, OG, Chattenooga
Levin is an interior lineman that’s more athletic than he looks. He’s got a few minor technical issues in his game, his hands could be quicker for example. Like most late round, small school offensive linemen he will see a great deal of benefit from an NFL strength and conditioning program.
Round Seven: Mike Tyson, S, Cincinnati
Mike Tyson is no relation to the boxer. Yes I did check. He is however a safety very comfortable close to the line of scrimmage. Tyson is a very athletic prospect, and could find a role on special teams coverage early. He may grow in to a box safety over time. He moved well at the combine, but he is not an elite athlete. Tyson hesitates in coverage at times, but has the body to become a box safety.
The Offensive Depth Chart
At quarterback the Lions go in to the season with Matthew Stafford and Jake Ruddock. That gives them an entrenched starter and an understudy. At running back they have picked up a thunder and lightning dynamic. Latavius Murray brings power that the Lions have not had in their running game, while Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick provide a very dangerous counterpoint. Zach Zenner and Dwayne Washington battle to round out the roster with Michael Burton. Likely only two of the three survive to the 53 man roster.
At wide receiver Golden Tate and Marvin Jones have been joined by Kamar Aiken in the offense. Andre Roberts provides a solid fourth option and return man. The Tight End group starts with Ebron. Jack Doyle and Jeremy Sprinkle add some sand in the pants of the position group without sacrificing receiving ability.
Taylor Decker and Mike Remmers at tackle anchor the offensive line. The guard spots are manned by some combination of Graham Glasgow, Laken Tomlinson and Joe Dahl. Corey Levin does battle with Brandon Thomas for a backup role and may spend a year on the practice squad. The tackle spots are backed by Corey Robinson and William Holden.
The Defensive Depth Chart
The defensive tackle spot has Haloti Ngata returning, backed up by veteran Glen Dorsey. Delvin Tomlinson joins his former college teammate A’Shawn Robinson as the future of the position. Khyri Thornton provides a reasonable fifth option. Ziggy Ansah back at full strength and Kerry Hyder proved himself a capable second pass rusher last season. Devin Taylor returns to his natural third DE spot and Anthony Zettel provides depth.
At Linebacker the Lions start DeAndre Levy on the weak side, Zach Brown in the middle, and Tahir Whitehead on the strong side. Their respective backups are Josh Bynes, Jon Bostic, and Antwione Williams respectively. Jayon Brown spends a year on the practice squad getting stronger. This is basically an entirely new middle level, which was the weakest part of the defense last year.
In the secondary the Lions start Darius Slay with Alterraun Verner, Cordrea Tankersley and Nevin Lawson fighting for roles behind him. Johnson Bademosi and Quandre Diggs battle for a fifth roster position, with Bademosi likely winning. Glover Quin guides rookie Obi Melifonwu’s development at the safety position, with Tavon Wilson as the backup to both. Miles Killebrew plays special teams and likely fills in on some nickel packages, while Don Carey may or may not find a role based on his special teams play. Mike Tyson ends up on the practice squad.