Allen Park — After taking care of the running game with the team’s first two picks in the NFL Draft, the Lions turned their attention to the defense in the third round, selecting Louisiana-Lafayette safety Tracy Walker with the No. 82 pick on Friday.
“Good size, very athletic, play-making ball skills, toughness, tackling, speed,” general manager Bob Quinn said. “When he played against the highest level of competition on his schedule, I’d say go watch the Texas A&M game. That’s a good game for him.”
As a senior, the 6-foot-1, 206-pound Walker led the Rajin’ Cajuns with 94 tackles, earning third-team all-conference honors. For his four-year college career, he finished with 276 tackles, eight interceptions and 26 passes defended.
Most analysts projected Walker as a Day 3 option, an assessment even Walker was buying.
“I expected to be fifth round, to be honest with you,” Walker said. “I’m definitely blessed. I’m the type of person, I’m very conservative and I expect the worst. I was blessed to be drafted in the third round.”
But Quinn and company believed differently. Television cameras showed a joyous reaction from the team’s war room when Walker was still available.
Lions GM Bob Quinn comments on the second round of the NFL Draft. Detroit News
“Yeah, we were excited about the pick because there were a few teams in front of us that we were a little nervous about,” Quinn said. “Not to name any names, but we do all our research of what teams, who visited with what teams. And there were two teams, I think the 10 or 12 picks above us, that had visited with him on a (pre-draft) 30-visit.
"We have all that information in our hands and we get nervous that a guy that we know we want to take at that spot has teams that invested a 30-visit for a guy."
As it turns out, Walker already has a connection with the Lions. The Brunswick, Georgia native is second cousins with All-Pro cornerback Darius Slay.
“We never played together because when I came straight into high school; he had just graduated,” Walker said. “We never played together, but I feel like it’s definitely going to be a great opportunity for us. We’re going to definitely have great teammate chemistry because of the bond we have.”
Detroit isn’t scheduled to draft again until the fifth round on Saturday, No. 153 overall, after trading the team’s fourth-round pick to the New England Patriots as part of a package to move up and draft Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson in the second round.
The Walker file
Name: Tracy Walker
Notable stats: Started all 12 games as a senior and led the Ragin' Cajuns in tackles (97) and interceptions (two).
Analysis: Played at Brunswick High in Georgia, the same school that produced Lions cornerback Darius Slay. At 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds, Walker has good size and top-end speed for a safety, running a 4.51 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Walker started 42 games for Louisiana and earned third-team All-Sun Belt Conference honors as a senior in 2017, breaking up six passes to go along with a pair of interceptions.