With the NFL Draft Over, I Decided to Take a Look Back at my Initial Reactions to the Detroit Lions’ Draft Picks in the First Two Rounds Compared to How I Feel About Them Now.
The 2018 Detroit Lions’ Draft was a roller coaster for me, as I’m sure it was for most fans. Players that many fans believed to be pipe dreams for the Lions at 20 suddenly were falling to them. Quinn made the surprise pick of the draft in the third round. Second round talent fell to the fifth. Multiple trades and surprise picks made for a shocking draft and I can’t say that I would have liked it any other way. I think many fans had some harsh criticisms of some of the initial picks, myself included. But now that the dust has settled, I feel really good about the Detroit Lions’ draft class. I think that, given what Quinn’s philosophy appears to be in retrospect, he absolutely nailed this draft class.
Let’s start with the first pick. Before the draft, Harold Landry was my dream scenario and I don’t think that I was alone in this. When the draft started, I thought it was exactly that, a dream. Suddenly, picks start flying off the board (faster than I remember in previous years). The Browns pick Mayfield at one (my favorite quarterback in this class) and look to be heading in the right direction. The Giants inexplicably don’t take Darnold. We all saw it coming but seriously, they really need a quarterback. The Bills act like they are the Bills and trade up for Josh Allen. The Bears unfortunately get a stud linebacker. The Steelers make a mind-blowing pick of Terrell Edmunds rounds before most believed that he would go. Da’Ron Payne goes to Washington, effectively taking the one guy that I didn’t want the Lions to draft off the board and suddenly, Harold Landry looks like a legitimate option for the Lions. Suddenly, I am very excited for a first round pick that I had spent the last two months being nervous about.
Landry makes it past the Packers, the Patriots don’t jump the Lions and somehow, against all odds, Landry is on the board for the Lions at pick 20. The Lions select Frank Ragnow. Did not see that coming.
Initially, I was absolutely stunned. The Lions had passed on one of the very few premier pass rushers in the 2018 Draft class for an interior offensive lineman in a deep class. I had definitely considered the possibility of going with an interior lineman in round one and was completely on board with it, given that the draft board did not fall in the Lions favor. In this situation, I thought that it had. The Lions did not agree and went with Ragnow. Absolutely stunning.
After the initial shock wore off, I started to really think about the Detroit Lions’ draft pick. The Lions have dealt with constant decimation across the offensive line due to injuries and, despite having a very talented group there, have never really had the opportunity to play up to their potential. The team had a wide open hole on the interior entering the draft, and the position was definitely going to have to be addressed early.
Ragnow was someone that I liked a good deal more than the consensus and considered him to be one of “my guys”. He would solidify the offensive line and make the unit a true area of strength for a team that has struggled to keep Stafford upright and been completely stagnant in the running game. After a little consideration, I was on board with the pick.
A few more picks go off the board and I watch a Billy Price and Isaiah Wynn get selected, a few more offensive linemen off the board. It suddenly looked unlikely that the top talent would have fallen to Detroit. Quinn landed a top talent, his top interior lineman, at a position where the Lions did not have a viable starter. He did so just before the top talent at the position started disappearing.
Round two. The Lions have to be going pass rush right? There is no way that they are going to ignore the defense after bringing in a defensive minded head coach. The pick has to be defense. Offense is the stronger side of the ball and it would be irresponsible to take two offensive players to open up a draft where the Lions have limited draft capital.
I tweeted out on Day Two that Lions fans should temper their expectations at the running back position. My reasoning seemed sound at the time. In round one, we watched running backs come off the board much sooner than most of us expected. The Giants were expected to select Saquon Barkley with the second overall pick, but the rest was a surprise to most.
Sony Michel was getting a little bit of first round attention but I don’t think many people expected the Patriots to go that direction in round one. The problem for the Lions here is that there were a handful of teams that were expected to take a running back early. The Patriots were not one of them. A running back gets removed from the board and there are still the same number of teams expected to take a running back.
Next was the shocker. The Seahawks take Rashaad Penny in the first round. The. First. Round. Discussions of whether Penny would fall to the Lions in the third round instantly became laughable. Every team’s fan base dreamed of Rashaad Penny falling to them in the third and the Seahawks had absolutely no interest in making dreams come true.
The first round comes to an end and the problem here is that three running backs were selected and none of them were Derrius Guice. Derrius Guice would almost certainly come off the board before the Lions’ next selection, leaving only a couple of what most considered to be the starting quality backs with many running back needy teams still selecting in front of Detroit. With the pressing needs on the defensive side of the ball, it looked like the Lions were going to have to neglect the running back position for yet another year.
The second round starts rolling and Harold Landry comes off the board. I had a night to sleep on it and had come to grips with the fact that the Lions, as well as every other team, saw something with Landry that I didn’t. Something had to be wrong there. I was over it.
Derrius Guice is still on the board. I wasn’t sure how he was still on the board but I double checked and, yep, definitely still there. There was no way that he could fall to the Lions, but I wanted to keep the dream alive for as long as possible. I should have learned from Landry falling but as long as Guice was on the board, I was thrilled.
Somewhere deep down, I knew that there was no way that the Lions would have a chance at him. There was no way that he fell to the Lions in the second round. Then, the trade up happened. Suddenly, the Lions are on the board.
Guice had to be the pick right? The Lions couldn’t pass on a running back like Derrius Guice, not with Landry and all of the other player that the Lions had been mocked in the first round off the board. I held my breath and, nope, Kerryon Johnson is the pick. I was absolutely stunned. I knew running backs were going to come off the board quickly after the early run, but I definitely didn’t anticipate this.
The disappointment of passing on Guice in the first round made me absolutely sick for a minute. I took some time, gathered my admittedly ridiculously strong emotions over an NFL Draft pick and reminded myself that Kerryon Johnson was one of my favorite running backs in this class, a very strong class at that. He was now a Detroit Lion. It sounds a lot like I was trying to justify the pick to myself and I certainly was but the Lions had a chance at Derrius Guice and they passed on him, as did every other team to that point. There had to be something there that the fans and analysts didn’t know about.
With that in mind, Kerryon Johnson was the next running back on my board. It started to sink in a little bit. The Lions had just landed one of my favorite running backs in the class. The Lions never draft my favorite prospects. My favorite guys usually end up as division rivals but this year, the Lions landed Ragnow AND Kerryon Johnson, two of the guys that I was really excited for entering the draft. This should have been a dream come true for the draft fanatic in me and it was. It just took a little time to reconcile the guys that the Lions passed on.
After taking a step back and having a few days to digest the NFL Draft, I think the Lions did a fantastic job in the first two rounds. Frank Ragnow is an immediate starter, at a position of need, in an area of the offense that absolutely needed to be addressed early in the draft. It was common knowledge by draft day that Ragnow wouldn’t make it past the Bengals (the pick after the Lions in round one), so the Lions got him at the last possible pick.
After Quenton Nelson went off the board, there were no interior lineman taken until the Lions picked. The Lions got their guy. They got my guy. He’s going to be a really good addition to the team in the upcoming years.
Kerryon Johnson has all of the tools to be the workhorse running back for the Detroit Lions. He can catch the football. He can block. He’s patient, has good vision and runs with power. He probably overlaps with Blount a little bit in some of those areas but Blount is only on a one year deal, and Kerryon Johnson is the future. No the Lions didn’t get Guice and Bob Quinn may still regret that decision but I think that Kerryon Johnson was a fantastic pick here.
These first two draft picks will solidify the Lions run game, a phase that has been completely missing from the offense for years. Matthew Stafford is going to have a chance to attack defenses that have to actually care about stopping the running game and that is a very pleasant thought for Lions fans.