Executive producer and analyst for NFL Matchup and senior producer at NFL Films Greg Cosell has been kind enough to break down the Lions' draft picks for detroitlions.com in each of the past six seasons, and has agreed to do so for a seventh year.
Cosell’s opinions are based on countless hours watching the All-22 film and evaluating these prospects. He is one of the most honest evaluators in the business, and is well respected among NFL circles.
You can follow him on Twitter at @gregcosell.
Here’s what he had to say about the Lions' 2019 Draft Class:
(Note: Cosell did not evaluate tight end Isaac Nauta, who the Lions drafted out of Georgia in the seventh round or defensive tackle P.J. Johnson out of Arizona, who was also a seventh-round pick.)
T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa, Rd 1 (No. 8 overall)
Cosell: “Hockenson, to me, has a complete tight end skill set. He can align all over the formation. He’s a smooth, detailed route runner, who consistently creates separation. He can effectively work all three levels of the defense. He has great hands. Very good run after catch. There’s a gliding feel to his movement that allows him to be a complete receiving prospect.
“He’s a big-time blocker, and I think that really is something that probably really appeals to the Lions as well, given that my sense is that (Matt) Patricia doesn’t want this to be a team where everything rises and falls on Matthew Stafford. I think Hockenson’s ability to be an inline blocker was really important to them.
“You know, I do a sheet that has strengths, weaknesses and transitions and I did not have any weaknesses marked down for him, which is very rare for me. I did not have any weaknesses marked down for T.J. Hockenson. Hockenson is a player without any defined weakness. Every player that transitions to the NFL obviously needs refinement and polishing, it’s a different game, but I love the player. To me, that was a really, really good pick and he’s a great prospect.”
Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii, Rd 2 (No. 43)
Cosell: “As I started to watch Tavai, I saw him as almost their version of Dont’a Hightower. I think that he’s got an excellent combination of physical and athletic traits. He played multiple positions at a high mental level for Hawaii and my guess is that really sold Patricia on him because the tape really showed Tavai handling multiple responsibilities with poise, maturity and almost always playing under control. He was assignment disciplined, yet played with high energy and competitiveness.
“He was play-speed efficient. Obviously that 40 time might have gotten some thinking, ‘Oh, he’s not fast,’ but he played fast. He was very efficient with the way he moved and he did have sideline-to-sideline range. I really liked the player when I watched him. I mean, he has really good transition and change of direction and no wasted motion at all. He triggered. He saw it and triggered. I just thought he was a really sound player.
"Tavai is assignment sound, can play multiple positions and does not make mistakes. Another player I really liked on tape. To be cliché’, everyone knows what this means, he’s a football player.”
Will Harris, S, Boston College, Rd 3 (No. 81)
Cosell: “I think he’s a good looking athlete who projects to the league as an interchangeable safety prospect. He’s got the ability to match up man-to-man on tight ends. At times he matched up over slot wide receivers as well. He’s got extensive experience playing both on the backend and in the box. He’s another guy that’s really decisive and aggressive in his reaction with a see it trigger mindset. Despite his 40 time (4.41), I wouldn’t call him a purely explosive athlete, but he had really good closing burst in pursuit. Has really good build-up speed. Good range.
“I thought he was an efficient tackler, and that’s something that is often overlooked, and I know how important that is to the (Bill) Belichick’s and Patricia’s. I mean, he’s an efficient tackler and they probably love his aggressive mentality. He’s got an outstanding playing personality. This kid is aggressive, he’s physical, there’s a competitive toughness to him and he’s an attitude player. I like the way he played. I thought overall he has a desirable mix of size and athleticism and movement and scheme adaptability and versatility.”
Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson, Rd 4 (No. 117)
Cosell: “I think he got drafted where he should have got drafted. I think he’s got the kind of measurables that teams look for at a DE prospect. He’s got size and he’s got length. He flashes as a pass rusher.
“I thought he got better this year than he was a year ago. He showed more bend at the top of his pass rush this year. Showed a little more flexibility to run the arc and flatten and close to the quarterback. Showed some more counter moves. So, I’m always impressed when a guy improves and you see the improvement.
“He still needs to – and this should come from coaching – he still needs more secondary moves and counter moves. That can be taught, but he definitely needs that. There were times I thought he was a little stiff and upright in his core and a little straight lined. He’s more measured and methodical in his movement than an explosive guy.
“I think he’s the kind of guy you draft as a potential glue guy. A guy that can play snaps for you, you can create opportunities for him, whether it’s with stunts, loops or games. Once and awhile he wins one on one. You can put him out there and he’ll be assignment sound and he’s a glue-type guy. Every defensive line needs a glue-type guy that doesn’t necessarily play 60-65 snaps a game, but plays 20-25 snaps and is effective for you.”
Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State, Rd 5 (No. 146)
Cosell: “He’s the first guy they drafted that I didn’t particularly love on tape. He’s a big corner. He’s got zone and man experience, but I thought he was clearly more comfortable playing zone. I think his size suggests he could become a press-man corner, but he’s not particularly fluid. He’s got some balance and body-control issues that need to be cleaned up. Now, all this is coachable, but this is what showed up to me on tape.
“He kind of reminds me of Rasul Douglas, when he came out of West Virginia a few years back, and who has struggled with the Eagles because he just struggles to play man coverage. I think that Amani, to me, could have the same issue. He’s not a quick-twitch guy, he’s not a sudden mover. He’s not a fluid and smooth athlete, but he’s a big athlete.
“I thought he was much, much better in zone, where I thought he had a good feel for route concepts and combinations and for spatial awareness. I thought that was the strength of his game.”
Travis Fulgham, WR, Old Dominion, Rd 6 (No. 184)
Cosell: “He’s a big-bodied wide receiver. He lined up both inside and outside in college. To me, I think he’s going to find a home more inside. I think he lacks the transitional and separation quickness to consistently separate and win on the outside on isolation routes against NFL corners.
“He’s got size, body control, really good hands, a wide catching radius and that profile will present some opportunities for him to work inside. Although on the outside people could say back shoulder throws, but I just think he lacks the short-area quickness to be effective working outside. I think he can work out of the slot, where his lack of quickness can be better masked and he can be scheme helped, especially against zone. That’s the way I saw him.
“I don’t know how (Detroit) saw him. I don’t know how others saw him. I kind of saw him and thought of Marques Colston. And again, Colston was either a seventh-round pick or undrafted and ended up having a great career because Sean Payton understood what he was and what he wasn’t and he played him in the slot. I don’t know if this kid’s going to make it, he’s a sixth-round pick, but that’s the way I saw him watching his tape.”
Ty Johnson, RB, Maryland, Rd 6 (No. 186)
Cosell: “He, to me, is a fascinating kid. I know his numbers weren’t great, and Maryland was whatever Maryland was. This kid was a really interesting prospect. I thought he presented as a complementary back in the NFL with some explosive traits. He’s got extensive experience in multiple run schemes. I think his ability as a receiver is pretty good. I think his tape suggests he can be really effective. The more I watched him the more I liked him as an 11 personnel back ...
“He also ran pretty hard. He didn’t put up big numbers, but he’s got really good lateral quickness and change of direction. He’s got stop and start ability. He’s a good runner, he’s just small. He’s obviously not going to be the guy to carry the ball 15-20 times a game, that’s not what he’s going to be, so that’s irrelevant, but he actually has pretty good running skill. I think for (Detroit), he’s a 11-personnel back and I think he can fit that. He’s got the talent to do that.”