Detroit Lions: Grading day 3 draft picks

The Detroit Lions entered the final day of the 2014 NFL Draft with five picks across rounds 4-7. With plenty of talent remaining and team needs to fill, the Lions had some work to do on Saturday.

Detroit still had glaring team needs in the secondary, at receiver, and on the defensive line. They addressed those holes as they  picked through the remaining pool of players. Here’s who they ended up with:

Detroit Lions Day 3 Draft Picks (Player, Position, College):

  • Round 4 (Pick 133): Nevin Lawson, CB, Utah State
  • Round 4 (Pick 136): Larry Webster, DE, Bloomsburg
  • Round 5 (Pick 158): Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton
  • Round 6 (Pick 189): T.J. Jones, WR, Notre Dame
  • Round 7 (Pick 229): Nate Freese, K, Boston College

Friday’s trade with the Seattle Seahawks came back to bite Detroit in the fourth round. There were nine cornerbacks taken in the first 29 picks of the round. By the time their 33rd pick of the round arrived, they had to reach toward the bottom of the barrel for defensive back help.

Had they not traded up for Kyle Van Noy in the second round, they would have still had the 11th pick in the fourth round (No. 111th overall).

detroit lions

The trade for Van Noy cost the Lion’s secondary dearly.

Instead, Detroit was left with Utah State’s Nevin Lawson as their first choice of the day. If I didn’t love the Van Noy pick so much I would have been furious as this was unfolding.

All in all, the Lions addressed all of the gaps in their roster before the day was over. Here are my grades of the last day’s selections:

Round 4 (No. 133 overall) – Nevin Lawson, CB : C- 

Utah State’s Nevin Lawson was by no means at the top of the Lion’s secondary wish list, but they had to settle for him. I know he’s no prize pick, but it pleases me to see Detroit addressing their most serious need; even if they did it too late.

Lawson was born in Jamaica, and played his high school ball in Florida. He played in both the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl this season.

The Good

Lawson, a three-year starter for Utah State, has a lot of experience playing at corner. He shined in his senior season with four interceptions, 13 pass break-ups and 57 total tackles. He was also a two-time all-conference cornerback.

He has long arms for his height, which will help him defending passes. He has the speed to keep with his man and the quickness when it comes to reading and reacting.

The Bad

Lawson measured in at a lowly 5-foot-9 at the combine. His height isn’t going to offer him any help as he tries to make the roster.

This was a reach of a pick in the fourth round, but the Lions were late to the cornerback party in the fourth round.

Round 4 (No. 136 overall) – Larry Webster III, DE : C+

Just seven minutes after the Lawson selection, the Lions drafted Bloomsburg’s Larry Webster III, a defensive end. Webster is the son of a former NFL defensive tackle of the same name.

Webster played just two years of football at Division-II Bloomsburg. This was because he originally went there as a basketball player, he was one of their top players for four years and holds the school record for career blocks.

detroit lions

Webster was the Lions’ second pick in the 4th round.

The Good

He was the second fastest defensive end at the combine with a 4.58 40-yard dash, behind only Jadeveon Clowney. The Lions were seeking speed off the edge in this draft, and the athletic Webster may be able to provide it.

He played just two seasons of football in college, but he finished his career with 26 sacks. With Suh and Fairley clogging up the middle, there should plenty of room for him to exercise his speed on the pass rush.

His NFL blood isn’t hurting his cause either. His father played 10 seasons in the league.

The Bad

He lacks experience and has played against only Division-II opponents. He needs to refine his mechanics and stay lower to make it at the next level.

He is still too raw to be given a higher grade.

Round 5 (No. 158 overall) – Caraun Reid, DT : C+

The Lions traded down in Round 5 in order to acquire a pick in the seventh round. They swapped their 146th overall pick for the Cowboy’s 158th and 229th picks.

They took Princeton’s Caraun Reid with their downgraded pick in the fifth round, a 6-foot-2, 300-pound defensive tackle. A four-year player, Reid was just the second Princeton player to ever be invited to the Senior Bowl.

The Good

Reid is quick off the ball and never stops his feet. He has seven career blocked kicks to show for it. He also has shown pretty good speed for his size; he ran his 40-yard dash in under five seconds and had over 20 career sacks at Princeton. He’s a competitor with good intelligence.

Reid was initially projected as a third or fourth round pick but he ended up slipping to the fifth. The Lions got good value with this pick.

The Bad

His upper-body strength has been a question mark ever since 2011 pectoral surgery. He also tends to stand straight up which negates his speed.

Reid joins a crowded defensive tackle position led by Suh and Fairley, he will have a lot of work to do if he wants to be a playmaker some day.

Round 6 (No. 189 overall) – T.J. Jones, WR : B+

Jones was a four-year contributor for Notre Dame. He finished his senior season with 1,108 receiving yards and nine touchdowns.

detroit lions

T.J. Jones was a quality receiver for four years at Notre Dame.

The Good

With Nate Burleson’s departure this offseason and the injury problems for Ryan Broyles, the Lions still had need of a receiver in the draft. Jones will team with first round selection Eric Ebron to fill that roster hole.

Jones is an excellent route runner with reliable hands. He could eventually find playing time in the slot in Detroit’s high-octane passing offense.

He is also an experienced punt returner, and could find a place on special teams. This was a quality late-round pick for the Lions.

The Bad

He is not the fastest, tallest or most physical receiver receiver. His strength and body size may hurt his chances at succeeding at the next level.

Jones has limited kick return experience, meaning he may have to just stick to the punts. This hurts his value slightly.

Round 7 (No. 229 overall) – Nate Freese, K : A-

Detroit acquired this pick via the aforementioned fifth round trade with the Cowboys; they originally did not have a seventh round pick due to their second round trade with Seattle.

They used this pick to address their kicking job, as the position is wide-open. Last year’s kicker David Akers was not resigned after his one season with the team. Freese was one of two kickers taken in the 2014 NFL Draft.

The Good

Freese is insanely accurate. He hit all 20 of his field goal attempts last season with Boston College and finished his career with a success rate of 86.4 percent. Now he can show off that accuracy playing in at least eight indoor games a year.

He was the only kicker the Lions brought in for a pre-draft visit; they had their on this guy. Freese is my immediate choice to be the starting kicker next season.

The Bad

He has suffered injuries to both knees in the past which could be cause for concern.