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NFL Draft 32 for 32 - Detroit Lions Outlook


The first year of the Matt Patricia era for the Detroit Lions did not go exactly as planned. The team struggled on both sides of the ball, while Matthew Stafford (3,777 yards, 21 TDs, 11 INTs) had his worst statistical season since 2012. There seemed to be a disconnect between Patricia and now departed OC Jim Bob Cooter. Outside of Kenny Golladay, the receivers were hard to figure out each week. Marvin Jones got injured, Golden Tate was subpar prior to being traded, leaving the team with few options to fall back on.

Even the one thing the team hit on (drafting Kerryon Johnson), they decided to mishandle as well. Johnson was clearly the best back for this team, but Patricia insisted on giving opportunities to the aging LeGarrette Blount. The difference was clear to the average eye as Johnson doubled Blount in yards per carry (5.4 to 2.7). Heading into 2019, if the Lions want anything to change, it must be in how they handle the workload for a player of Johnson's caliber. If he shows he can handle 250 touches, he has the potential to sneak into the low-end RB1 discussion. But that is a mighty big if. Odds are that the team will again split time in this backfield with the recent signing of C.J. Anderson, limiting his upside and placing him lower on the RB2 line.

As for the draft, the Lions have clear needs on the defensive side of the ball if this team wants to play up to Patricia's expectations. I see them spending a number of their picks on that side of the ball. Help with a stagnant pass rush will be needed early on, as does the secondary. Darius Slay can't do all the work himself as opposing offense routinely throw away from his side of the field.

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Top Three Projected Selections

First Round- Greedy Williams, CB LSU (8th overall)
Second Round- Zach Allen, DE Boston College (43rd)
Third Round- Josh Oliver, TE San Jose State (88th)

Remaining Picks
Fourth Round- 111th
Fifth Round- 146th
Sixth Round- 184th, 204th
Seventh Round- 224th, 229th

With their first pick in the draft, the Lions may have the perfect player falling right into their laps in Greedy Williams. Without a doubt the top cornerback in this draft, Williams will slide right into the Lions starting lineup. A long, athletic corner, He can play a variety of coverages but is perfectly suited to play a press-man scheme that the Lions use frequently. He has a knack for the ball and can rarely be found out of position on a given play. Paired with Slay, the duo could become formidable very early in Williams career. But in terms of fantasy for 2019, the Lions defense will be no more than a matchup play for streaming.

The other question mark surrounding this defense is the lack of a pass rush. Selecting DE Zach Allen could help to improve those numbers. What he lacks in strength and athleticism, he more than makes up for in his relentlessness and effort. His football IQ allows him to quickly diagnose a play to get to the ball carrier. He may not light up the stat sheet in terms of overall production in the sack department, but his ability to pressure the QB will help this defense as well.

Josh Oliver gives the Lions an option at tight end that they are sorely lacking. An athletic player, Oliver was a heavily used option as a receiver in his college career. He can play at any level on the field and has above-average ball skills. His crisp route-running skills are among the best in this year's class and something that the Lions should take advantage of. As is the case with most rookie tight ends, don't expect a lot of production from Oliver in year one as his scoring could come in bunches. But in terms of dynasty potential, Oliver could reach the level that the team thought they had in Eric Ebron a couple of years ago. He should be targeted in rookie drafts around the fourth round.

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