MIKE O'HARA

O'HARA'S MONDAY COUNTDOWN: A look back at the Lions' 2013 NFL Draft

Posted Jan 13, 2014

Re-drafting is popular this time of year, and the question for the Lions and the other 31 teams is whether their drafts could have been better

For this exercise in this week’s Monday Countdown, the NFL draft clock is ticking in reverse. It’s not a countdown to May 8 and the first round of this year’s draft, but a count backward to when the 2013 draft began on April 25.

As of today, the clock is at 263 days – since the Lions started their 2013 draft by using the fifth pick overall to take Ezekial Ansah, a talented but relatively inexperienced defensive end from Brigham Young.

On April 26, the Lions drafted cornerback Darius Slay of Mississippi State and guard Larry Warford of Kentucky in the second and third rounds respectively.

Larry WarfordG Larry Warford (Photo: G. Smith/Detroit Lions)

And on April 27, the Lions close out the draft by taking six more players – from defensive end Devin Taylor of South Carolina in the fourth round to linebacker Brandon Hepburn of Florida A&M in the seventh.

All in all, it was a good draft for the Lions. All nine draft picks made either the 53-player roster or spent the season on the practice squad. Ansah, Warford and punter Sam Martin (a fifth-round pick) made at least one all-rookie team of note.

Re-drafting is popular this time of year, and the question for the Lions and the other 31 teams is whether their drafts could have been better.

My conclusion is that the Lions had one of their best draft classes in years, with only one serious argument on how they could have made a better pick in a round. That would have been the second round, where Slay is still a development project.

There have to be some rules and boundaries to make re-drafting valid. For example, it’s not fair to say that the Jacksonville Jaguars would have been better off taking offensive tackle LaAdrian Waddle second overall instead of Luke Joeckel, who sustained a season-ending injury in the fifth game.

Waddle was an undrafted free agent who got a chance to play early and started eight games. The Jaguars didn’t draft him, but neither did the Lions – or any other team. It’s too much of a reach to compare a high first-round pick with a player who wasn’t drafted.

The rule for the Lions’ 2013 re-draft is to compare how a pick in a particular round compared with the next five players drafted, or the next player drafted at his position if it isn’t in the top five.

Here is the Lions’ 2013 re-draft. As always, feel free to disagree.

Round 1: DE Ezekial Ansah, Brigham Young, fifth overall.

Next 5: DE Barkevious Mingo, LSU; G Jonathan Cooper, Oklahoma; WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia; CB Dee Milliner, Alabama; G Chance Warmack, Alabama.

How they performed: Ansah is a powerful, athletic force at right defensive end. He had eight sacks and was strong against the run, particularly pursuing down the line. Mingo is a lightweight with exceptional athletic skill who fit the Browns’ 3-4 scheme. Cooper missed the season with an injury. Austin had big-play potential. Milliner struggled at times but improved, and Warmack was a solid guard who started all 16 games.

Outcome: The Lions got the right player.

Round 2: CB Darius Slay, Mississippi State.

Next 5: RB Giovani Bernard, North Carolina; ILB Manti Te’o, Notre Dame; QB Geno Smith, West Virginia; TE Cornelius Carradine, Florida St.; WR Robert Woods, Southern Cal.

Next at position: CB Johnthan Banks, Mississippi St.

How they performed: Slay has talent, and he tackles, but he looked overmatched and started only four games. He needs experience and development. He also had knee surgery in the offseason and late in the regular season.

Of the next five picks -- running back, inside linebacker, quarterback, tight end and wide receiver – none were at positions the Lions were looking to fill high in the draft either because of who they signed in free-agency or veterans returning at those positions.

Banks started all 16 games on a good Tampa Bay Bucs defense and intercepted three passes.

Outcome: Banks was a more productive rookie. Slay’s potential has to be proven.

Round 3: G Larry Warford, Kentucky.

Next 5: OLB Sio Moore, Connecticut; DT Bennie Logan, LSU; CB Leon McFadden, San Diego St.; S Tyrann Mathieu, LSU; CB Bidi Wreh-Wilson, Connecticut.

Next at position: Brian Winters, Kent State.

How they performed: Warford started all 16 games at right guard and helped solidify the interior as a run-blocker and pass protector. Moore and Logan both started at least half the games, and Mathieu was a playmaker before going out late in the season with an injury. McFadden had two starts and Wreh-Wilson none. Winters started 12 games for the Jets, but he wasn’t as good as Warford.

Three cornerbacks went off the board after Moore went to the Raiders, and the Lions already had taken Slay in the second round.

Outcome: Warford was the right pick. He’s a Pro Bowl candidate for the next decade.

Round 4: DE Devin Taylor, South Carolina.

Next 5: TE Levin Toilolo, Stanford; CB  Sanders Commings, Georgia; WR Denard Robinson, Michigan; S Earl Wolff, North Carolina St.; DT Jesse Williams, Alabama.

Next player at position: Lavar Edwards, LSU.

How they performed: Toilolo had 11 catches for the Falcons. Commings played in two games. The Jaguars listed Robinson as OW – “Offensive Weapon” – but must have forgotten to add the power and firing pin. Wolff started six games for the Eagles. Williams went on injured reserve late in the exhibition season.

Edwards went to the Titans 10 picks after the Lions took Taylor. He played in seven games with one start and did not have a sack.

Outcome: No draft pick in this scenario performed better than Taylor. He was a development player with size – 6-8 and 267 pounds who will get bigger and stronger. Taylor showed play-making flashes, with two sacks and two forced fumbles and took advantage of increased playing time late in the season.

Round 5: Punter Sam Martin, Appalachian St.

Next 5: K Caleb Sturgis, Florida; DE Josh Boyd, Mississippi St.; OT Ricky Wagner, Wisconsin; S Josh Evans, Florida; C Eric Kush, Cal-Pa.

Next at position: None.

How they performed: Sturgis made 26 of 34 field-goal attempts for the Dolphins; Boyd played nine games as a backup; Wagner and Kush were primarily backups; Evans started 11 games for the Jaguars.

Outcome: The Lions wanted to improve the punting game and kickoffs, and Martin did both. Evans might have been a good choice if the punting position had been filled some other way, but it wasn’t. Martin was a solid pick who’ll get better.

Round 6: Corey Fuller, WR, Virginia Tech.

Next 5: TE Nick Kaas, Colorado; OT Vinston Painter, Virginia Tech.; WR Ryan Swope, Texas A&M; S Jamoris Slaughter, Notre Dame; OT Davis Quessenberry, San Jose St.

Next at position: Swope.

How they performed: Kasa played 16 games and caught one pass and was the only one in this group who played in a game.

Outcome: Fuller spent the entire season on the practice squad while the Lions signed players off the street during the season to beef up the receiver position. Kasa might have provided depth at tight end. Fuller was strictly a practice-squadder.

Round 6: RB Theo Riddick, Notre Dame.

Next 5: DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, Notre Dame; TE Ryan Griffin, Notre Dame; CB Khalid Wooten, Nevada; OT Ryan Jensen, Colorado State-Pueblo; FB Braden Wilson, Kansas St.

Next pick at position: RB Jawan Jamison, Rutgers, 29 picks after Riddick.

How they performed: Riddick beat out Mikel Leshoure for a spot on the game-day active roster and contributed enough in a limited role to have a future as a backup; Griffin had 19 catches for Houston; None of the others played in a game.

Outcome: A case could be made for Griffin over Riddick, but Joseph Fauria had seven TD catches as an undrafted free agent for the Lions to fill the backup spot at tight end.

Round 7: TE Michael Williams, Alabama. Entire rookie season on injured reserve.

Next 5: DE Joe Kruger, Utah; ILB Michael Mauti, Penn St.; G Travis Bond, North Carolina; FB  Tommy Bohannon, Wake Forest; WR Charles Johnson, Grand Valley St.

Next at position: D.C. Jefferson, Rutgers, eight picks after Williams.

How they performed: Only Bohannon had any real stats – 17 carries, 11 catches for the Jets. Mauti played in 14 games and Bond 2. Jefferson played in 4 games.

Outcome: Williams can prove his value in 2014.

Round 7: ILB Brandon Hepburn, Florida A&M. Entire season on practice squad.

Next 5: OT Carter Bykowski, Iowa St.; CB Marc Anthony, Cal.; S Daimion Stafford, Nebraska; QB Sean Renfro, Duke; S Don Jones, Arkansas St.

Next at position: None.

How they performed: Stafford and Jones were active for 16 games with no impact. When Travis Lewis was suspended late in the season, Hepburn was not brought up to fill his roster spot. Julian Stanford, who’d been out of football since being cut in August by Jacksonville, was signed to fill the linebacker vacancy.

Outcome: Jones and Stafford, two young safeties, at least made a roster.