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The Lions added a defensive line, an offensive tackle and a fullback on the third day of the draft. We discuss.

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Allen Park  — Following the completion of the NFL draft, the Lions have largely wrapped up the player acquisition phase of the offseason. Over the next month and a half, the team will shift focus to on-field development and schematic installation during OTAs, rookie minicamp and mandatory minicamp. 

Reflecting on Detroit's additions and subtractions usually leads to questions. With that in mind, today seemed like a good day for a mailbag. On to your queries. 

 

The Lions are trending toward facing some tough decisions with the team's backfield the next couple of months. As I shared in my post-draft thoughts over the weekend, the fact that LeGarrette Blount, Ameer Abdulllah and Theo Riddick haven't contributed much on special teams in recent seasons makes it difficult to justify rostering all three. 

We're still a few months from those decisions, and an unexpected injury always could factor into the equation, but if everyone is healthy, I have to imagine either Abdullah or Riddick will be the odd man out. I'd lean Abdullah now, but that's subject to change. 

Quinn said there were no trade conversations about current Lions players during the draft, but as we get into training camp and the pecking order becomes clearer, you best believe the Lions will be shopping one or both, because it's always better to get something, even a late-round draft pick, than letting a player go for no return.

Way to pack three questions into one, Todd. Others might want to play, too. 

1. Fifth-round pick Tyrell Crosby immediately enters into a competition with Corey Robinson to be the team's top backup offensive tackle. 

2. Not only did you ask three questions, you made me go back and watch Kevin Smith film. What did I do to deserve this? 

 

I didn't expect to agree with your assessment, but I can see where you're coming from. At UCF, Smith showed good patience, strong initial burst and above-average ability to change direction. I'd say Johnson has slightly better agility. 

Both runners had thinner lower bodies coming out, but Smith's running style was more upright. With better leverage, Johnson is better at breaking tackles.  

And although my sample size is small, Johnson appears to be a more advanced route runner and pass blocker coming out of college. That fact is accentuated when you consider the level of competition of the two players. 

3. No, I can not.  

My confidence remains unchanged, because there are too many unknown variables. How quickly will the defense take to Patricia's scheme? Will the offensive line enter the season healthy? Is Frank Ragnow strong enough out of the box, or will he need a season in the weight room to handle the strength of NFL defenders? 

I'll say this. If the run game is league average, the Lions should be a playoff team. An average run game would result in a highly efficient offense that should put together longer sustained drives, even if it doesn't always result in points. That means more rest for the defense between series and longer fields to defend. 

Washington, Abdullah, Riddick, Spence, Killebrew. 

Now, some context. First of all, cap causality doesn't really fit for Abdullah or Miles Killebrew. They're not making enough for release to impact the cap. 

 

As for the order, Cornelius Washington is in a tier of his own. The Lions drafted a clear replacement option in Da'Shawn Hand and could free up nearly $3 million in space, which can be carried over to 2019 if it goes unused.

Abdullah and Riddick are addressed above. There's a strong likelihood one will be on the outside looking in when the final roster is set, but I'd still expect a trade over a straight cut. 

At the moment, Spence seems safe, but perception could change when we see how he fits in a gap-control scheme. He's better as a penetrator, which worked better in Teryl Austin's defense. 

Killebrew is cheap, under contract for two more years and still has plenty of untapped potential. The Lions have a lot of DBs, but his skill set still stands out. 

The Lions predominately ran Cover-3 under Austin, while the Patriots ran more Cover-1 and Cover-2. If Patricia ports that over, you'll see an increase in the usage of man coverage on the outside. 

Another popular element of the Patriots defense was its big nickel package, basically running with three safeties on the field. The Lions have the pieces to implement something similar, but given the way things are stacking up on the defensive back depth chart, we're probably going to see a lot of mixing each week to matchup with the opponent. 

What if I told you it didn't matter. The benchmarks we should really be focusing on is team rushing yards and yards per carry. 

When the Lions ran for over 100 yards as a team the past three years, they were 8-3. That includes the Hail Mary loss to Green Bay

And when the team averaged over 4.2 yards per carry during the same stretch, they posted a 9-5 mark.

But if you want to be caught up in the 100-yard individual rusher, Johnson is going to be the most likely to do it. 

I asked Crosby about his ability to play guard and he said he didn't know, he's never done it. I'm sure the Lions will explore the possibility, but without seeing him on the field at that spot, it's difficult for me to say he can be a future starter. 

Surprise implies it won't be someone like Jarrad Davis, who is expected to be a quality starter, or Kenny Golladay, who already had a bit of a breakout his rookie year. With those players off the table, I'm really intrigued by Jalen Reeves-Maybin. 

The second-year linebacker has an advanced feel for the game, regularly showing natural instincts, both in college and during his limited playing time as a rookie. We all know he's under-sized, but with a full offseason to focus on bulking up, I'm curious to see what kind of weight he's carrying coming into the offseason program. 

Other player worth monitoring is cornerback DeShawn Shead. The combination of his size and tackling ability could lead to a bigger than expected role this season. 

Here's the thing about evaluating the Lions — I'm there every day, watching it first-hand and reviewing the tape. I don't do that with other NFL teams, so for me to fully evaluate the draft classes of the league's other 31 franchises, it would be disingenuous.

Others have attempted to make these broader assessments. Here's a 2017 study from the New York Post.  They ranked the Lions 21st from 2012-16, up from 32nd the year before. 

You kids and your optimism. 

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/Justin_Rogers

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