MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA: Questions facing Lions rookies

Posted May 14, 2018

The Lions’ 2018 draft class was out of public sight for rookie minicamp over the weekend, but it was not out of reach for inquiring minds wondering how it will perform this season.

The Detroit Lions’ 2018 draft class was out of public sight for rookie minicamp over the weekend, but it was not out of reach for inquiring minds wondering and projecting how it will perform this season.

The 2018 class is not big in numbers – six players drafted in seven rounds, with no sixth-round pick – but there are big questions that only started to be answered in what amounts to an orientation period to prepare the rookies to join the full roster for the rest of the offseason workout program.

Round by round, here are the questions facing Bob Quinn’s third draft as general manager of the Lions.

1. Frank Ragnow, Arkansas

Question: Does he play center or guard?

My take:  It doesn’t matter where he plays as long as he plays well.

Ragnow and Graham Glasgow are both listed on the Lions’ roster as OL – offensive linemen

Quinn defined Ragnow’s position as “interior offensive lineman” in his post-draft press conference. Glasgow, who began last season at left guard and finished up at center, referred to himself the same --  “interior offensive lineman” -- in his media interview last week.

Versatility is vital on the interior of the offensive line. The Lions have to beef up the interior to handle defensive linemen who are getting increasingly quicker and more explosive, and as a result better able to disrupt running lanes and get in the quarterback’s face.

Count on Ragnow and Glasgow rotating a lot between center and guard. When the Lions host the Jets in the opener, whatever makes the best combination – is the right way to go.

2. RB Kerryon Johnson, Auburn

Question: Durability, receiving.

My take: He played through some injuries in high school (Madison Academy in Alabama) and college, and will have to prove his durability over time. His pure athletic ability indicates he should be a better receiver than shown by the 37 catches he had in 55 games at Auburn.

Johnson was an all-state basketball player in high school. That usually translates to having good hands. Running routes is another matter, but if Johnson can develop as a consistent receiving threat, he’ll add an element the Lions already have in Theo Riddick as a receiver out of the backfield.

“He’s got great hands,” said Eric Cohu, Johnson’s head coach at Madison Academy. “He’s a natural athlete. He’s going to be able to catch the ball well because of his basketball experience.”

3. DB Tracy Walker, Louisiana-Lafayette

Question: Where does he fit?

My take: The Lions list him as a DB – defensive back. That’s the secondary’s version of “interior offensive lineman.” For Walker, that could be safety or cornerback, or a combination of both.

Depth in the secondary allows Walker time to develop. He looks like a pick for the future – the way cornerback Teez Tabor was when he was drafted in the second round in 2017.

4. DL Da’Shawn Hand, Alabama

Question: Does he play end or tackle?

My take: At 6-3 and 297 pounds, Hand is almost the same weight as two of the five defensive tackles on the Lions’ roster -- Jeremiah Ledbetter (295) and Christian Ringo (298). And he’s between 17 and 37 pounds heavier than the seven defensive ends.

We have a variation on a theme here: “Interior offensive lineman.” “Defensive back.” “Defensive lineman.”

There is a premium on versatility, and Hand’s size can provide it inside and as a physical defensive end in what head coach Matt Patricia has said will be a multiple defensive front.

5. OL Tyrell Crosby, Oregon

Question: Where does he play?

My take: This was probably not a player or position Quinn was expecting to add at this point going into the draft, but it was a value pick that was deemed too good to pass on.

Quinn said that on Day 3 of the draft he expected Crosby would be taken in the top 10 of the fourth round. The Lions got him 16th overall in the fifth – a full 40-plus picks lower than Quinn’s projection.

Crosby is part of a group of players who should develop to provide quality depth if the offensive line endures another injury-ravaged season like last year.

6. Fullback Nick Bawden, San Diego State

Question: What does drafting a fullback mean?

My take: The position – fullback -- not the name of the player, is what’s important here.

Quinn and Patricia want a tougher, stronger, more physical team. Restoring a fullback to the offense, after playing without one last year, is a signal the Lions want to get tougher in the trenches.

It’s the theme of this draft – from the first pick through the last.