The Lions added a defensive line, an offensive tackle and a fullback on the third day of the draft. We discuss.
The 2018 NFL draft is finally in the rear view and we no longer have to look at who the Detroit Lions may select, instead concentrating on who they selected. As this is head coach Matt Patricia’s first draft, we can safely assume the players are going to be fits for his coaching schemes.
Each ranging from very good to great athletically, each of the Lions’ picks seem cobbled together from historically great players.
The Lions’ first-round selection, Frank Ragnow, put up the fourth-highest Relative Athletic Score ever recorded by a center. He is bigger than both Mike or Maurkice Pouncey, twins who share nine Pro Bowl selections between them. Ragnow’s explosiveness numbers were on par with former Pro Bowl center Nick Hardwick, who started 136 games over a decade for the San Diego Chargers. And with a RAS of 9.93, Ragnow has a more impressive overall athletic profile than 2017 first-team All-Pro Jason Kelce (9.50 RAS).
With players like Sony Michel (8.97 RAS), Nick Chubb (9.16), and Rashaad Penny (7.32) already off the board, the Lions didn’t wait to select Kerryon Johnson (7.10). It isn’t difficult to find similar athletic comparison for Johnson. Though they differ stylistically, athletically, Johnson is nearly a mirror image of former first-round pick Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch, like Johnson, ran a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash, and each posted strong explosion numbers in the vertical and broad jumps. In fact, Johnson posted slightly better numbers in both of the explosiveness and agility drills, while Lynch put up a far more impressive bench press than Johnson.
Tracy Walker (6.88 RAS) was a bit of a surprise in the third round, but finding reasons why the Lions would covet him as a player weren’t difficult to find. Bigger, and with better speed than current Lions starter Glover Quin, Walker has more than enough range to do damage as a deep-field roamer.
One area that wasn’t talked about much are his incredibly long arms. At 33.5 inches, Walker is one of only 16 safeties since 2010 to have arms 33 inches or longer. It’s a small group, but it includes All-Pro Kam Chancellor, Pro Bowler Eric Reid, and quality starters such as Jamal Adams and George Iloka. Of that long-limbed group of defensive backs, Walker is the fastest.
Fourth-rounder Da’Shawn Hand was one of the Lions’ more athletic selections, registering a RAS of 8.90 out of 10. Now it’s up to his former position coach, Bo Davis, who currently holds the same role in Detroit, to tap that immense potential.
Like Johnson, Hand has a nearly across-the-board athletic comparison, one striking closer to home for Lions fans: former first-round pick Nick Fairley.
Fairley ended up with a higher RAS (9.44), with better performance in the agility drills. Outside of that, the two players are nearly the same size, posted almost identical explosiveness drills, and both posted elite speed and quickness for a defensive tackle.
Tyrell Crosby, the team’s fifth-round selection, was one of the surprising draft slides before the Lions stopped his descent. Similar in size to Cowboys All-Pro Tyron Smith, and with arms nearly as long, the Lions are hoping Crosby can start his career at offensive tackle. Lacking the elite athletic traits that made Smith so dominant, Crosby appears destined for a move inside to guard, either as depth or an eventual successor to T.J. Lang.
Crosby bears some athletic similarities to Panthers Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner, with both posting the same shuttle time and Crosby putting up a somewhat better time in the 3-cone. Explosiveness is more of a strength for Crosby, and his vertical and broad jumps were each within an inch of those scored by Pro Bowler Zack Martin.
The return of a fullback in Detroit might have come as a surprise, but with the added focus on the run game, plus new offensive line coach Jeff Davidson’s former reliance on one in Minnesota, it makes a lot more sense. The fullback Davidson had blocking for Adrian Peterson was former Lions draftee Jerome Felton (7.85 RAS). Seventh-round pick Nick Bawden (7.93) is a carbon copy athletically.
None of their measurements line up exactly, but the differences are minimal. Bawden is slightly taller than Felton, while Felton was slightly faster. Felton was more explosive, Bawden a bit more agile, which is impressive considering the size difference.
The fullback often is viewed as a dying breed, but the Lions look to be copying a Pro Bowl formula that has worked in the past.
Patricia will be setting the tone of his coaching tenure with this draft class and, on the surface, it looks to be off to a strong start. General manager Bob Quinn provided his new coach with six players loaded to the brim with athletic talent, and it’s up to the coaching staff to get the most out of them. Athleticism alone won’t win football games, but if the coaching is good enough, a team stands to benefit from the tools provided.
The Relative Athletic Score (RAS) system was developed by Kent Lee Platte in 2012 to provide fans with a contextualized score on a 0-10 scale, making it easier to understand how athletic draft prospects are when compared to their position dating back to 1987.