2013 NFL Draft: Detroit Lions Grades and Analysis on Every Pick
Detroit Lions 2013 NFL Draft Grades
The 2013 NFL Draft had a little bit of everything for the Detroit Lions. The team improved on offense, defense and special teams through this year's draft. Detroit took proven players and some that will need time before they will be starters. The Lions took players from big SEC schools like South Carolina and Alabama. Detroit also got some players from smaller schools likeBYU,Appalachian State and Florida A&M.
Detroit did not complete a first round trade up or down, as I originally thought they would. The team instead hung on to their fifth overall pick and selected defensive end Ziggy Ansah. This pick followed a trend of drafting players with track and field backgrounds and also players that were coached by the Lions at the 2013 Senior Bowl.
Despite not trading in the first round, the Lions were able to complete one draft day deal. The team traded their 137th overall selection to the Seattle Seahawks for the 165th and 199th overall selections. Essentially, the Lions moved down in the draft and were rewarded with an extra pick.
With the completion of that trade, the Lions picked a total of nine players in the 2013 NFL Draft. Two of those picks were compensatory selections due to the loss of free agents in 2012. So how did the Lions fare in picking their nine players? Which pick has the biggest upside and which one will start right away?
Follow through the slide show to see grades on every pick and an overall grade for the Lions' 2013 haul.
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Ziggy Ansah: First Round, 5th Overall
First Round: 5th Overall
The Detroit Lions 2013 NFL Draft will be judged on this pick for the most part. The bad news is the pick has more of a wait and see approach to it. This is where I think the Lions went wrong. Three offensive tackles came off the board, as did the best defensive end in the draft (Dion Jordan). The Lions were left with taking the second best player at a position of dire need.
Ansah is a beast physically, but has almost zero football experience. He has only been playing football for a couple of years and didn't even know how to put on football pads as a sophomore at BYU. Ansah played in only 31 NCAA games and recorded only nine starts.
Ansah was not even good enough to start at BYU and if not for injuries would not have been a first round pick. Injuries at BYU gave Ansah an opportunity to start and dominate weak opponent schools. Ansah did end the season with 62 tackles and 4.5 sacks. Ultimately this becomes a high risk/high reward pick for Detroit. I'm not sold on Ansah yet and think Detroit could have done better with this pick to have an immediate impact on their 2013 season.
Darius Slay: Second Round, 36th Overall
CB, Mississippi State
Second Round: 36th Overall
There was no question entering the 2013 NFL Draft that the Detroit Lions would take a cornerback. Some analysts even had the Lions taking Dee Milliner with the fifth overall selection. However, when Detroit took Ziggy Ansah in the first round, a cb looked more like a second round option.
Slay was the fastest cornerback in the draft and performed well at the 2013 Scouting Combine. His speed will help make him the front runner for the Lions' return specialist. In junior college, Slay was one of the best kick returners in the nation. Slay does come with some injury risk as he tore his meniscus prior the draft.
The injury makes this pick a bit more puzzling. The Lions lost two 2012 NFL Draft picks, at the cornerback position, to injury last year. I also question picking Slay this high with other options like Jamar Taylor on the board. Slay also was drafted ahead of his teammate and arguably the better cornerback Johnthan Banks.
Larry Warford: Third Round, 65th Overall
Third Round: 65th Overall
Warford is my favorite pick for the Detroit Lions in the 2013 NFL Draft. By taking a guard, the team emphasized its need to improve its offensive line. The team also made a statement to Riley Reiff that he is the starting left tackle by waiting so long to address the openings on the line.
Warford fell out of the second round, where he should have gone, and into the hands of the Lions. The Kentucky guard will compete and should win the opening at right guard. It seems fitting that the team that brought in running back Reggie Bush drafted a guard who can make those extra blocks and create holes for him to get through.
In 2012, the Lions took Riley Reiff to help protect quarterback Matthew Stafford. This year they take Warford to protect Bush and the run game. This seems like the smart third round pick to me.
Devin Taylor: Fourth Round, 132nd Overall
DE, South Carolina
Fourth Round: 132nd Overall
The Detroit Lions took another defensive end in the fourth round. This one is an even worse one than Ziggy Ansah in the first round. While Ansah showed potential and upside, Taylor has been on the wrong end. Taylor's stats have dropped the last two seasons, while being overshadowed by Melvin Ingram and Jadaveon Clowney at South Carolina.
In 2012, Taylor had 40 tackles and three sacks. This comes only two years after a sophomore season that saw 46 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. This great season earned Taylor First Team All-SEC honors. Taylor's draft stock plummeted and he was listed by many to be around in the sixth or seventh round.
Without being too hard on Taylor and the pick, he did start the last 40 games. As a fourth round pick, I want to give this a better grade, as Taylor could return to his form from two years ago.
Sam Martin: Fifth Round, 165th Overall
P, Appalachian State
Fifth Round: 165th Overall
In my opinion, this was the worst pick of the 2013 NFL Draft for the Detroit Lions. As the team parts with punter Nick Harris, they have to get a punter from somewhere. The fifth round was not the place for this need. A total of two punters were taken in the draft and none were picked after Martin. Detroit could have waited until the seventh round or called this guy when the draft was over. The last time the Lions drafted a punter (1984), they waited until the 11th round to do so.
The only reason this gets a passing grade is the fact that Detroit ranked dead last in punting average last year. The team needs a punter and Martin also was on kickoff duty in college.
Corey Fuller: Sixth Round, 171st Overall
WR, Virginia Tech/
Sixth Round: 171st Overall
I guess I am in the minority when it comes to the Detroit Lions needing more receiving targets. I think everyone forgets that the Lions were missing two receivers for much of the 2012 season. Ryan Broyles, a 2012 rookie, and Nate Burleson both missed time and left quarterback Matthew Stafford with few weapons outside of Calvin Johnson.
However, the Lions welcome back Broyles and Burleson, who along with Johnson, Mike Thomas and Kris Durham, round out a nice receiving group. Let's not forget that the Lions added possibly their best receiving option in free agency in the signing of Reggie Bush.
I give the Lions props for waiting until the sixth round, as they usually jump the gun on receivers. However, I just can't get behind this pick.
Theo Riddick: Sixth Round, 199th Overall
RB, Notre Dame
Sixth Round: 199th Overall
Riddick was the player taken with the Detroit Lions pick acquired from the Seattle Seahawks. The team turned the pick into a possible great one, in my opinion. Riddick brings a multi-dimensional game to the Lions' offense. Riddick has experience playing wide receiver, running back and kick returner.
At Notre Dame, Riddick excelled in all areas and fit into his roles well. He had several big 100 yard rushing games in 2012, which helped Notre Dame make it all the way to the BCS National Championship Game. Riddick finished his career with 1169 rushing yards and 1263 receiving yards. He had 917 rushing yards in 2012 and scored five times.
I have a feeling that Riddick could someday become the next Reggie Bush, as a powerful receiving tool out of the backfield. Riddick might not get a ton of playing time or targets in 2013, but someday could be a key part of the Lions' offense.
Michael Williams: Seventh Round, 211th Overall
Seventh Round: 211th Overall
Anytime one of the guys you really want is available in the seventh round, the pick gets a good grade. As I reported earlier, Williams was one of three tight ends that worked out for the Detroit Lions prior to the 2013 NFL Draft.
Williams doesn't flash huge offensive numbers to get him drafted in the first two rounds. In fact, in his career at Alabama, Williams had only 30 receptions for 324 yards and four touchdowns. Williams was more of a blocker for a team that made it to several National Championship games in his tenure.
Williams is a player who should get playing time from the start. He will be involved in two tight end sets and will rotate with Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. Williams is another player that boosts the signing of Reggie Bush in free agency.
Brandon Hepburn: Seventh Round, 245th Overall
ILB, Florida A&M
Seventh Round: 245th Overall
There isn't a ton to say about Brandon Hepburn. He comes from a small school, but had a big impact on defense. In 2012, Hepburn recorded 86 tackles, 5.5 sacks, seven pass breakups, and a forced fumble. Hepburn did impress scouts, and likely the Detroit Lions, at the 2013 Scouting Combine. Hepburn ranked fifth at his position in the broad jump and recorded the seventh fastest time in the 40 yard dash (4.68 seconds).
Hepburn seems to be focused on his education and ability cure cancer in rats. The biochemistry major will someday run his own company in the medical field. Until then, he might find a home on the Lions' special teams unit.
Detroit Lions Draft Grade
Here is the recap of the grades I gave to the Detroit Lions 2013 NFL Draft picks:
Ziggy Ansah: B-
Darius Slay: B-
Larry Warford: A
Devin Taylor: C
Sam Martin: D
Corey Fuller: C
Theo Riddick: B+
Michael Williams: A-
Brandon Hepburn: C
My overall grade for the Lions picks is a B.
The team improved on offense and defense and focused on its positions of need. Prior to the draft, the Lions made their biggest move by signing free agent running back Reggie Bush. The new running back was definitely a winner during the Lions' draft, with the picks of Warford and Williams. The Lions continue to strengthen their roster in hopes of an improving 2013 season.