Lions 2019 draft preview: Depth would be nice at safety, but it's not a pressing issue
Allen Park — Over the next several days, leading up to the NFL draft, we’re taking a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions’ roster and evaluating how the team might address each position.
►Current roster: Quandre Diggs, Tracy Walker, Andrew Adams, Tavon Wilson, Charles Washington
►Short-term need: Two out of 10
►Long-term need: Five out of 10
►Top prospects: Johnathan Abram, Taylor Rapp, Darnell Savage
►Mid-round options: Savage, Deionte Thompson, Juan Thornhill
►Late-round fits: Will Harris, Khari Willis, Andrew Wingard
Every week, like clockwork the past six seasons, Glover Quin was on the field for the Lions. It's going to be strange when he's not out there in 2019, but if we're being honest, it was time for the organization to move on from the veteran.
After years of high-level production, Quin's play plummeted a year ago, in part because his heart wasn't fully in it last season. He admitted after the season he had sought his release from Detroit following the team's coaching change, then he skipped the voluntary portions of the offseason program for the first time in his career.
His wavering commitment showed on Sundays as the playmaking element of his game evaporated, resulting in a career-worst three pass breakups and zero interceptions for the first time since 2011.
Fortunately for them, the Lions drafted the presumptive heir to Quin's job last year, and third-round pick Tracy Walker looked the part in limited playing time as a rookie. The tall, long prospect out of Louisiana–Lafayette was brought along slowly, playing 10 to 20 snaps most weeks, but by the end of the year, he was looking comfortable with all his assignments, providing optimism for a bright future.
Walker's starting job is assumed, but isn't a sure thing. The Lions could easily rely on rotating players depending on matchups. That's less likely at the other safety spot, where Quandre Diggs has it on lock down.
The Lions awarded the nickel convert with a three-year extension in the middle of last season. The hard-hitting Diggs continues to thrive after changing positions, recording 78 tackles and three interceptions in his first full season in the role.
On the depth front, the Lions return Tavon Wilson and Charles Washington, plus added Andrew Adams to the mix via free-agency. Wilson has extensive experience in the scheme and good versatility, Washington is an outstanding special-teamer, and Adams has more than 20 starts under his belt and is coming off a year where he intercepted four passes despite playing fewer than 400 defensive snaps.
All things considered, the Lions don't need to draft a safety. But you have to prepare for all options, and given the three backups are all playing on contracts that expire at the end of the season, addressing the position isn't out of the question if that's the best player available when the team is on the clock.
On Day 2, Maryland's Darnell Savage carries appeal. Undersized, sure, but with outstanding athleticism and plays like he's magnetically drawn to the ball. And if the Lions are interested in adding more size and length after seeing Walker's potential, Alabama's Deointe Thompson could be a fit.
In the later rounds, it will be about finding players who can contribute on special teams. The Lions could be drawn to someone like former Michigan State captain Khari Willis, who has outstanding character on and off the field. He asked to be put back on special teams as a senior in an effort to maximize his remaining time at the school and help his team any way he could.
Another potential teams standout is Wyoming's Andrew Wingard. He plays at a stout 210 pounds and racked up more than 450 tackles during his college career. His glorious long, blonde hair won't factor into the evaluation, but maybe it should.
It may not one of Detroit's lesser needs entering the draft, but the potential to add a long-term special teams contributor and matchup piece for coach Matt Patricia's versatile scheme never can be dismissed.