Detroit Lions 2016 Draft Overview: Wide Receiver

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In this series, I’ll be looking at five college players that might get drafted by Detroit position-by-position, breaking down the positives and negatives of each player and projecting if Detroit were to take them, which round they would be taken in. The position I am looking at today is:

Wide Receiver

Out goes Calvin Johnson, in comes Marvin Jones. This year will be different for Detroit in the passing game, most noticeably, at the wide receiver position. Marvin Jones won’t be able to replace Calvin Johnson, heck nobody will ever be able to replace Calvin Johnson in the NFL. Detroit made the smart move in signing Jones so far this offseason, and yesterday they added Jeremy Kerley to the roster. There is still a need in this position group to help give Stafford more options to throw too and behind Jones and Tate, Detroit doesn’t have much.

TJ Jones did alright last season when he played and we all know how Corey Fuller did. Kerley was an alright wide receiver in New York, but his production went down with Marshall and Decker taking over. Detroit had a good number three wide receiver in Lance Moore last season, and even with him wanting to come back to Detroit, the administration hasn’t made any attempt to re-sign the wide receiver. Detroit is going to have to look at the draft to find that number three wide receiver, whether they start out at the bottom of the depth chart and work their way up, or impress right off the bat and become the number three wide receiver by week one, drafting one isn’t a bad idea for Detroit. The big debate is when to take one in the draft. Do we take one early or do we wait until the mid rounds to take one? Could we take one in the late rounds who is a developmental guy, give him a year or two to develop then groom him into the spot down the road? Let’s look at some players in different rounds that Detroit could possibly end up with.

Wide Receiver Options:

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1. Laquon Treadwell (Ole Miss)

The number one wide receiver in the draft class has a chance to wind up in Detroit. According to Tim Twentyman’s article about experts’ latest mock drafts, Treadwell is a popular pick to Detroit. Having him be the first pick would be huge for Detroit. The number three spot would instantly be filled with Treadwell and his addition to the team would give Detroit an instant weapon that can contribute to the team from day one. Treadwell can jump up high and make the big catches, he can give that little stutter step in the middle of his routes to throw cornerbacks off. He understands a zone defense and can find the spot for the quarterback to make a safe, easy throw. He isn’t the fastest wide receiver out there, and press coverage against quick corners can be a challenge for him, but if he is the number three receiver, he won’t be taking on the best cornerback or even the number two guy on the opposing team.

At Ole Miss, he ended with 202 catches for 2,393 yards and 21 touchdowns. 2015 was his best season with 1,153 yards and eleven touchdowns after just getting on average of 620 yards and five touchdowns the two years before. He doesn’t have the most yards our touchdowns in this class, but he is the best wide receiver in this class.

The only chance Detroit has of getting this guy is if he is available at the number sixteen spot. He will not fall into the second round or later unless something gets discovered and hurts his draft stock.

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2. Tyler Boyd (Pittsburgh)

Last year, everyone praised Theo Riddick for being competitive and still giving it his all even when the game was lost. Tyler Boyd is that kind of player, just playing wide receiver instead. He has strong hands to hold onto the ball and be able to secure the tough catches. He can control his body very well and make the hard catches look simple to him. He can’t be the type of wide receiver to beat someone deep, he is more of a possession receiver. He can’t make players miss like Golden Tate or Marvin Jones can, and he can’t break tackles well. Boyd went down in production in 2015, going from back to back 1,000+ yard seasons to 926 yards and touchdowns going down just one from the average of 7.5 in his first two years to six last season. His career at Pittsburgh was great though, breaking two records, the first for most receptions in Panthers history with 254 in just three seasons. The other record was for career receiving yards, which he ended with a total of 3,361 yards. He also ended with a career total of 21 touchdowns.

Boyd is projected as a first or second round guy and Detroit shouldn’t reach for him in the first as Treadwell is the only receiver on this list that I would take in the first. Boyd falling to Detroit in the second would be a good pickup for the Lions. It fills the wide receiver need and helps Detroit stronger on offense.

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3. Kenny Lawler (Cal)

Just about one out of every five catches for Lawler in 2015 ended with a touchdown. Lawler had a scoring heavy season last year, ending with 13 in just 52 catches. Lawler’s three seasons at Cal saw him finish with 143 catches for 1,706 yards and 27 touchdowns. He has good footwork to be able to  get in and out of his breaks and can read zone defenses just like Treadwell, able to find the weak-spot and give the quarterback a easy throw. His route running ability is questionable and running a 4.64 second forty yard dash at the combine shows he isn’t a deep threat receiver. He can control his body though and make those close to the ground low catches and up to the moon high balls. He is a skinny guy, so building muscle and gaining weight would be something Detroit has to change in him.

Lawler wouldn’t be a bad choice in the third round. His pick would Detroit address the two bigger issues in the first two rounds and we’d still get a guy that can score along with making some tough catches.

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4. Keyarris Garrett (Tulsa)

For a non-Power Five conference player, Garrett is an impressive wide receiver who could fit into Detroit. He is 6 foot 3, so the height is there and he has 34.5 inch arm length, a whole inch longer than Calvin Johnson. He has a huge catch radius and with the height advantage, quarterbacks can throw up high to him. He does have a drop problem with thirteen in the past two seasons and contested catches are something he also has an issue with. Once he is able to get over the top of the cornerback on the deep routes, there is no chance in them stopping him. He had a great year in 2015, ending with 1,588 yards and eight touchdowns. In his five year career (two where he only played a combined nine games), Garrett ended with 3,209 yards on 219 catches for 22 touchdowns.

Garrett would be a great pick in the third or fourth round. He could be a bit of a reach in the third, but the height and arm length tell me he could fit right into Detroit. Fourth round might be too late for him, but the drops issue could hurt his stock a tad and Detroit could find him fall into their lap.

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5. Aaron Burbridge (Michigan State)

Aaron Burbridge is a play-maker. He can make crazy catches with his body control and athleticism. Just like Lawler, his ability to make catches high and low are impressive. He can dive and extend his body just enough to snag the ball. He is a quick wide receiver who can create space with double moves and get wide open to make big plays. Just like Garrett, his hands are inconsistent and when it comes to the tough catches that the cornerback is fighting him for, he struggles in that department. For a wide receiver he his speed is OK but he can’t seem to take it up an extra level. He can track the deep ball well and when cornerbacks get physical with him, he isn’t afraid to be physical back at the top of routes. His career at Michigan State wasn’t bad. He wasn’t the main target until 2015, so his production was small and nothing noticeable, but 2015 when he was the number one target his numbers went up high, with 85 catches for 1,258 yards and seven touchdowns. His career at Michigan State ended with 165 catches for 2,174 yards and ten touchdowns.

Burbridge in the fourth round makes sense for Detroit. He may not be the number three wide receiver, he may be our number four, in week one. He can still produce and having that ability to sacrifice your body to make the tough catches is something not many wide receivers have.

There you have it, the second installment in this series. Later this week, look for me talking about defensive tackles. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @BKnappBlogs, find me on Reddit at /u/sportsguy4life and leave me your thoughts on the Detroit Lions subreddit.

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.