Tier One Of Ash Thompson’s 2017 NFL Draft Big Board.
Bob Quinn has been pretty tight lipped as the Lions GM, but he has said a few things that made me curious. One of those things is that his draft board is not a list, up and down from the best player to the worst player. He referred to it as a series of tiers reflecting how much impact a player would have on the team, balanced with the player’s overall talent level.
He said that players move down to lesser tiers as selections are made based on the team’s needs changing. That got me thinking. Lions fans are fairly universal in their praise of the 2016 draft at this point. One of the major reasons is that each of the players drafted, except the quarterback and long snapper sixth round picks, made an impact.
A team does not select seven players that make the active roster as rookies by drafting the best player available. A BPA team gets loaded at certain positions, and never seems to fix others. The Green Bay Packers have been the poster franchise for the BPA mindset under first Ron Wolf, and then Ted Thompson.
That is why they can never fill their hole at inside linebacker. They’ve needed one for a decade. The Lions under Martin Mayhew never fixed their depth problems in the secondary. They needed safety help from 2008-2013 but Martin Mayhew drafted only Louis Delmas in that time period.
Last month Bob Quinn said something about free agency that I found very interesting. “We always have fallback plans, and there is always the draft at the end of April if you don’t do what you want to do.” He has also said that he believes in building through the draft. Bob Quinn is drafting for immediate, and future roster impact, not just the next man on a list ranked by “goodness.”
The First Tier
In every draft, there are great players that also fill a team’s short and long-term needs. Some of those players also push others that are already on the roster into important positions where they fit. Taylor Decker, the Lions first overall pick last season, is a perfect example. He took the left tackle role and pushed Riley Reiff over to the right tackle spot. Two positions saw a major improvement in quality with one move. This is the first tier of prospects in the NFL draft; those who improve their position and another.
There are several of these players in the 2017 draft. There are no obvious moves like Decker-Reiff. The Lions simply have fewer miscast players this year than last. There are however plenty of opportunities for the Lions to push a current starter into a situational role that greatly benefits the team. Teams will take most of these players before the Lions select at pick 21. When only one of these players remains, that is when the Lions should consider moving up. If they can not do so then they should consider trading back. The second tier of players, those who will start for the Lions, is a much bigger list. I have ranked the prospects in a conventional “Big Board” style.
The Big Board
Be warned: there is NSFW music on many of these highlights.
- Myles Garrett: DE, Texas A&M – Games – Highlights – Combine
- Solomon Thomas: DE, Stanford – Games – Highlights – Combine
- Reuben Foster: LB, Alabama – Games – Highlights – Combine
- Mike Williams: WR, Clemson – Games – Highlights – Combine
- Jonathan Allen: DT, Alabama – Games – Highlights – Combine
- O.J. Howard: TE, Alabama – Games – Highlights – Combine
- Marshon Lattimore: CB, Ohio State – Games – Highlights – Combine
- Malik Hooker: FS, Ohio State – Games – Highlights – Combine
- Taco Charlton: DE, Michigan – Games – Highlights – Combine
- Chidobe Awuzie: CB, Colorado – Games – Highlights – Combine
- TreDavious White: CB, LSU – Games – Highlights – Combine
- Raekwon McMillan: LB, Ohio State – Games – Highlights – Combine
- Jarrad Davis: LB, Florida – Games – Highlights – Combine
- Cordrea Tankersley: CB Clemson – Games – Highlights – Combine
A Little Context For The Big Board
The Lions biggest opportunities to impact their roster is on the defense. The defensive ends listed are the ones that I think are likely to take the left defensive end starting role from Kerry Hyder and Cornelius Washington, pushing those players into rotational roles. The Lions rotate a lot of linemen, the third DE slot plays as many snaps as the nickel corner. Speaking of cornerbacks, the ones on this list are the prospects that I believe would take the starting outside corner job from Nevin Lawson before training camp ended.
That would improve the nickel role as well, which plays more snaps for the Lions than the starting strong side linebacker. The Linebackers on this list would immediately play over either Paul Worrilow or Tahir Whitehead. The replaced linebacker would take over that SLB role, and be available for special teams duty and injury insurance.
The rest of the players are just phenomenal talents at their position. Williams would take Anquan Boldin’s role, and eat into Marvin Jones and Eric Ebron’s catches as well. O.J. Howard would push Ebron into Boldin’s role from last season in the passing game. That would free Ebron from the blocking responsibility he can’t handle. Malik Hooker is talented enough to move Glover Quin over to SS. Quin has proven in the past that he can handle himself in the box, the Lions safety coverage would be elite immediately. Other players at these positions are not talented enough to shift the incumbent’s roles on the team.
Next up is a much longer list, the players I believe start immediately for the Lions in this draft. I include nickel corners, and third wide receivers in this list, as they play more snaps than strong side linebackers in the modern NFL. This big board is not a list I expect to reflect the draft, If Raekwon McMillan went before Haason Reddick in the draft I would be even more surprised than you. I do suspect however that the players on my big board are more highly ranked for the Lions than other teams, because of the impact they would have immediately.