The Lions are coming off of their first losing season since 2015, posting a 6–10 record in 2018 and missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.
Detroit took Arkansas center Frank Ragnow with its first selection in last year's draft but it was the team's second selection, Auburn running back Kerryon Johnson, who really broke out during his rookie season. Quarterback Matthew Stafford and Johnson will look to lead the Lions to a winning season this year as Detroit tries to rebound from a disappointing 2018. (Check out draft needs for all 32 teams.)
We're breaking down each of the Lions' selections in this year's NFL draft—including grades from The MMQB's Andy Benoit—as well as providing a full list of Detroit's picks, which will be updated as the draft continues.
Round 1, Pick 8 (No. 8 overall): T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
Andy Benoit's grade: A
Head coach Matt Patricia fired offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter in part because Cooter was not overly familiar with the Patriots-style scheme that Patricia wants to run. (We’ll soon find out if new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell is.) Obviously, a Patriots-style scheme has plenty of room for a five-tool tight end. Hockenson might not be the next Rob Gronkowski (those would be unfair expectations to place upon any player), but like Gronk, he is both a high-level receiver and blocker. That gives the Lions schematic flexibility and helps a running game that, incredibly, has remained mostly dormant since Barry Sanders’s sudden retirement. The fact that Detroit signed ex-Steeler Jesse James for $10.5M guaranteed in free agency suggests they want to keep two tight ends on the field, which helps simplify the looks they’ll see from opposing defenses.
Round 2, Pick 11 (No. 43 overall): Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii
Andy Benoit's grade: C+
Stemming from his Patriots roots, Matt Patricia prefers big, thumping linebackers. He has one in Christian Jones, but Jones is average on the field in a contract year—hence the selection of Tavai. What will be interesting is whether Tavai’s arrival impacts where the explosive but somewhat inconsistent 2017 first-round linebacker Jarrad Davis plays.
Round 3, Pick 17 (No. 81 overall): Will Harris, S, Boston College
Andy Benoit's grade: B-
The Lions play a lot of six-and seven-DB packages under Matt Patricia, making secondary depth and versatility a key component for this defense. Anyone in this scheme must have the ability to match up one-on-one in space, and the Lions hope Harris can do that, particularly against tight ends.
Round 4, Pick 15 (No. 117 overall): Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson
Round 5, Pick 8 (No. 146 overall): Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
Round 6, Pick 11 (No. 184 overall): Travis Fulgham, WR, Old Dominion
Round 6, Pick 13 (No. 186 overall): Ty Johnson, RB, Maryland
Round 7, Pick 10 (No. 224 overall): Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia
Round 7, Pick 15 (No. 229 overall): PJ Johnson, DT, Arizona
See every NFL team's 2019 picks by clicking the links below.
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