Lions mailbag: Sizing up Quinn's draft classes

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Remember when we used to post our Detroit Lions mailbag at the same time every week? Well, that was before the Lions started playing all these non-Sunday afternoon games after the bye. We apologize for the delay, but we didn't forget you.

Are the GM’s first 2 drafts a success or is it too soon to judge? 

— Jeffrey Peltier🇨🇦 (@jjpelcheh) 

Having talked to people around the league for years, I subscribe to the thought a draft is best judged after three years. So yeah, it's too early. But allow me to offer some current impressions to hold you over.

Lions defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson hasn't made the expected jump in production in Year 2.

Bob Quinn's first class has lost a bit of its initial luster. Taylor Decker still looks like the right pick, Graham Glasgow appears to be rounding into form and Anthony Zettel has been the steal. On the flip side, Miles Killebrew's stock has temporarily plateaued, Antwione Williams and Jimmy Landes are gone, Dwayne Washington hasn't developed, and A'Shawn Robinson hasn't made the production jump we expected in year two.

But if, in 2019, Glasgow continues trending up, Killebrew puts it together and Robinson makes the delayed leap, that's a pretty fine class.

This year, it's way, way too early. Jarrad Davis is raw, Teez Tabor has barely seen the field and Kenny Golladay missed a good chunk of games with a hamstring injury. Michael Roberts and Jalen Reeves-Maybin have shown flashes, but are far from finished products. The immediate home run has been Jamal Agnew, but only as a return man. That's enough, given where he was drafted, but imagine if he ends up being a quality nickel as well. Check back in 2019.

Why did Prater kick the final kickoff and not Martin? Is he hurt?

— Nick Moore (@NickAKAdad) 

It wasn't just the final one, Matt Prater handled all kickoffs in Tampa. Sam Martin was dealing with a foot injury last week. He didn't appear on the injury report this week, so Lions should be back to business as usual.

At what point does coaching start to take the blame for an offensive line full of high draft picks and top-money free agents that performs poorly?

— RWL (@RedWingLion) 

Lions left Taylor Decker missed the season's first eight games following offseason shoulder surgery.

The Lions have declined to use injuries as an excuse, and I respect that mentality, but to suggest it hasn't been a factor would be foolish. Greg Robinson was a massive drop-off filling in for Decker at left tackle, Travis Swanson and T.J. Lang have missed time, and Rick Wagner has been battling some stuff all year.

But yes, even when the unit has been largely healthy, the performance hasn't lived up to the investment. And yes, you have to point to coaching as a primary culprit. The run blocking is especially troubling, and you have historical data to support that Jim Caldwell's teams always struggle in that department.

I don't have a magic solution, but I do think Caldwell would be wise to invest in a proven run-game coordinator this offseason to help solve it.

What's so bad about liking the Magnificent Seven?

— No, I did not "Go to Jared" (@SuperMarilink) 

If you're missing the joke here, don't worry, I'll catch you up.

On Wednesday, as everyone was getting setup in the press room, someone asked Caldwell his favorite movie because we had been discussing the topic before he showed up. Caldwell being Caldwell answered, "I do, but I care not to share it. You might misunderstand. I don’t have time to explain."

Oh course, a quick Google search showed he had answered the question in the past. Caldwell's choice is the American Western classic "Magnificent Seven." Why he was so dismissive of the innocuous query, I'll never know. Maybe his answer is changed in recent years and he inexplicably loves "Suicide Squad."

Now that I've sufficiently wasted all your time, let's move on...

With Ebron's recent resurgence, are we more likely to keep him with his 5th year option in place at 8.25 million or try to sign him to a less expensive long-term deal?

— Kevin Gallagher (@liberty_kevin) 

Lions tight end Eric Ebron has 22 of his 42 catches this season in the last four games.

The jury is still out on what the Lions will do with Eric Ebron this offseason, but has he helped his cause with his recent stretch (sans last week's fumble)? Sure.

Here's the situation: His option year is guaranteed only for injury, but the Lions have to make a decision to stay the course or cut bait before March 14, the first day of the league year. They'll have the "legal tampering" period the two days before to check the temperature of the free agency market to see if there's a viable replacement with a far lower price tag, maybe a guy like Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

There isn't another F-type tight end currently on the roster. Michael Roberts' skill set doesn't fit here, so you have to have a replacement plan, and it's risky to bank on a specific player falling to you in the draft.

So while I'm not certain Ebron is the long-term guy for the Lions, I can see a case where they bite the bullet on the option year while getting a replacement in place.

How will you do the mailbags when people can't afford to use Twitter anymore?

— Seasonal Depression (@DGarraston) 

I don't like to mix politics into this space, but we all lose with the repeal of net neutrality.

Do you see the Lions upgrading on the opposite side of Slay this offseason? And if so, do you see Lawson still on the roster

— Brandon B (@almightyloud3) 

It depends how they view Tabor, but with Nevin Lawson and D.J. Hayden both set to hit free agency, I have to imagine the second-round pick out of Florida will get the first crack at starting opposite Slay in 2018. It's not a position I would expect the Lions to spend significant money on in free agency.

Why should we continue to pay attention to a league that welcomes Jameis Winston and shuns Colin Kaepernick?

— Brian Baron (@brianbaron13) 

I can't tell you why to watch. That's an individual decision. If you want to steer clear of the NFL because you're offended by those who kneel for the anthem, go ahead. That's your right. Same goes to those who believe Kaepernick is being blackballed by the league's owners.

If you're not enjoying NFL football for any reason, don't watch. It seems pretty simple.

Riddick or Ameer?

— Bryan Eimers (@Beimers2424) 

Give me Abdullah as a runner, Riddick as a receiver and a slight edge to Abdullah overall. But why do we have choose? I think both are players capable of helping an offense who have been hurt by consistently ineffective blocking.

Lions running backs Ameer Abdullah (21) and Theo Riddick can coexist.

I’ve seen some mocks with the Lions taking Barkley. I think the need is so clearly is one the defensive line, but if a RB of that caliber is available, is it too difficult to pass up?

— Dana Scodeller (@Dino_14) 

Mock drafts in December are probably pretty volatile, but I have a difficult time imagining Saquon Barkley will slip out of the top half of the first round. Even if the Lions lose their final three games, they probably won't have a shot without trading up.

As I've said in this space, I don't have a lot of time to watch college football and track prospects during the season, but I've seen enough of Barkley to know he's a special talent. That said, I'm still not going to advocate trading up for a running back.

If, by some miracle, he's on the board when the Lions are picking, by all means, sacrifice your other needs and pull the trigger. Otherwise, stay put and address that defensive line.


At this point is it more likely that Joe Dahl or Travis Swanson is a starter for the Lions in 2018?

— Jacob Powers (@myjakeisname) 

This is a good question and we haven't seen enough of Dahl to fully assess his potential as a starter, but I think it's growing less likely Swanson is re-signed. The Lions have a viable center option in Glasgow and guard might be the easiest offensive line position to find a plug-and-play option in the draft.

To answer the question directly, give me Dahl by default, only because I think he has a better shot of being in Detroit next year.

Do you think you will ever see the Lions win a Super Bowl in your lifetime? Like, serious question.

— Nick (@cityofDET) December 14, 2017

In my lifetime? Well, I'm 36 and hope to live until 75, at least. I'm not sure NFL football survives another four decades, at least not in its current form, given the increased understanding of how players' brains are being impacted. But if it does, yeah, I'm confident the Lions finally make a Super Bowl.

Has Taylor Decker shown any disturbing changes in himself after coming back from IR?

— Fake Bob Quinn (@fakebobquinn) 

Weird way to ask a question. I haven't seen him eating pizza with a fork or anything like that.

I'm guessing, at least I hope, you're asking about Decker's performance. And I can tell you this, after a sluggish start, his film has looked much better the past two games. It appears he's quickly rounding back to form.

How much is a shot of Louis XIII cognac?

— John Niyo (@JohnNiyo) 

It's $75 for a half-ounce. How do I know this? Well, John and I were enjoying a nice postgame meal at the hotel in Tampa and they had a bottle of Louis on the top shelf in a fancy display. Curiosity got the best of me and I price checked it with the bartender.

And for a minute, I considered pulling the trigger, before I snapped back to reality, realized I chose journalism as a profession and knew my bank account couldn't handle that kind of hit.

Is there a scenario where the Lions make the playoffs and Caldwell still gets fired? I can’t root against the Lions, but I don’t want Caldwell back.

— Mike Spiro (@mspiro11) 

I don't believe in absolutes, but if the Lions win 10 games, playoffs or not, I would expect Caldwell back for 2018.