TIM AND MIKE: Breaking down the 2014 Draft

Posted May 12, 2014

The curtain has closed on the 2014 draft, and it was another great show for football fans.

The curtain has closed on the 2014 draft, and it was another great show for football fans, as demonstrated by the television ratings for Thursday night’s first round.

It’s more than a show for the teams and prospects involved, though. It’s serious business for teams building and improving their rosters, and for players who hoped to hear their name called and begin a career.

It is the nature of the draft that picks spark debate and controversy, and the Lions encountered some of that when they took tight end Eric Ebron of North Carolina with the 10th pick in the first round.

After that, they took four defensive players – linebacker Kyle Van Noy, cornerback Nevin Lawson and defensive linemen Larry Webster and Caraun Reid – along with center Travis Swanson, wide receiver T.J. Jones and kicker Nate Freese.

What stood out in a three-day draft that started two weeks later than usual?

Mike: Starting with the Lions, the phenomenon of the draft is that people react to the first pick, positive or negative, and it can set the tone for all seven rounds. That happened to some degree when the Lions took Ebron.

Fans questioned the wisdom of drafting a tight end, when the reality of Ebron’s skill set is that he’s a big slot receiver, not a traditional tight end. And the Lions desperately needed another skilled receiver.

Just as in every draft, the proof is in how they perform.

Tim: Ebron will be a terrific weapon in that offense. He’s a big receiver who just so happens to play tight end. I’m not worried about that pick at all.

I like the Van Noy pick even better in the second round. He’s just a football player. When vice president of player personnel Sheldon White told season ticket holders at the town hall meeting the team was looking for closers, Van Noy is the type of player he was thinking of. He turns the ball over and makes plays.

He said his favorite player growing up was Derrick Brooks. If he’s anything like Brooks the Lions hit a home run in the second round.

Who’s your favorite Day 3 (Saturday) pick?

Mike: I like Larry Webster, the defensive end drafted in the fourth round out of Bloomsburg, for a lot of reasons.

Larry WebsterDE Larry Webster (Photo: AP Images)

I like the whole draft process  -- interviewing prospects at the combine and during their pre-draft visits, trying to match wits with GMs in mock drafts.

Webster was one of the players I interviewed early on and had no idea where he would be drafted. All I knew was that he played basketball at Bloomsburg because he got a scholarship, played four years of basketball and then two years of football, and was a terrific athlete whose workout results were close to those posted by Jadeveon Clowney.

When the Lions drafted him, it completed the chain of his draft process. Now he goes on to another realm – proving he’s worthy of a fourth-round draft position and starting a career.

What stood out for you?

Tim: I’m interested in seeing how they plan to use Nevin Lawson, the cornerback taken in the fourth round. He’s a bit smaller (5-foot-9) than they’ve been signing, but at 190 pounds, he’s physical and plays bigger than his height. If they view him as a slot guy, what does that mean for Bill Bentley?

I agree with you about Webster, too. He’s a VERY interesting prospect. They plan to use him as a defensive end.

How about an overall reaction to the class?

Mike: First, an overall reaction to the reaction to the class.

The fan reaction would have been considerably different if the Lions’ first pick was a linebacker and the second one was the receiving tight end. Strictly from a psychological standpoint, it felt like a lot of people thought the Lions were playing catchup in the draft after taking Ebron.

Overall, I like the mix of players – Ebron first, linebacker Kyle Van Noy second, center Travis Swanson in the third round and then the rest of the picks on Saturday.

Every player drafted has a background that gives him a chance to contribute in some way. That’s probably a reflection of the pre-draft projection that this is one of the deepest drafts in years. There was good, solid talent deep into the draft.

Tim: The Lions wanted to get three starters, three contributors and three developmental players out of this draft.

Ebron and Van Noy will start Day 1 and Freese has a great shot to start, too. Swanson will compete for a starting spot at center and at the very least be the team’s swing C/G on game days. Nevin, Webster, Reid and Jones could all slot in as role players and contributors.

The biggest thing I take from this class is that it filled needs. I wrote on the team’s biggest needs before the draft and I came up with defensive end, linebacker, receiver (pass catcher), interior offensive lineman and cornerback. The Lions drafted every one of those positions, with the idea that Ebron will be a big factor as a pass-catching tight end.

What was the effect of the draft being pushed back two weeks?

Mike: If the answer is in the TV ratings, then it was the right move. The first round had the biggest ratings in draft history, and it was watched by more people than watched most of the games in last year’s NBA Finals.

However, Johnny Manziel has to take some of the credit – or blame – for the boffo ratings. I’m sure he’ll take the credit. He was on the board until the Browns drafted him with the 22nd pick, and ESPN and the NFL Network made sure the cameras were focused on him as often as possible.

There also has been speculation about pushing the start back even further to the end of May.

Whenever the NFL schedules the draft, people will watch it.

I know I will, and imagine you will too, right?

Tim: It’s kind of in the job description. Maybe one positive effect for the Lions is the extra homework they were able to do on some small-school players and undrafted free agent prospects. The Lions drafted Larry Webster from Bloomsburg and Nevin Lawson from Utah State and added some guys via free agency after the draft from small schools.