ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Detroit general manager Bob Quinn was asked if it gives him pause when the Lions seem to be valuing a player more than various analysts.
The answer was no surprise.
“No,” Quinn said Saturday after the conclusion of the NFL draft. “If I worry about what other people think, I’ll be up all night.”
When this draft is evaluated in the coming years, Detroit may be judged on the performance of its top two picks — tight end T.J. Hockenson of Iowa and linebacker Jahlani Tavai of Hawaii.
Both players seem to have plenty of potential, but it remains to be seen if they’re worth what the Lions invested. They took Hockenson with the No. 8 overall pick — the highest slot for a tight end in over a decade. Then Detroit selected Tavai in round two .
“If we go into this process being scared about what other people think about our team and our evaluations, then we have a long way to go,” Quinn said. “We’re convicted on the guys we take. Are we going to be right a hundred percent of the time? No. No team is. But I think we do a tremendous amount of work.”
The Lions ended up drafting nine players, three more than last year. They would probably love for one of their top picks to have an impact like Kerryon Johnson, their second-round pick from 2018. He came in as a rookie and rushed for 641 yards, giving a boost to a moribund running game before an injury cut his season short.
WHO THEY GOT
After taking Hockenson in the first round, the Lions used their next four picks on defense, adding Tavai, defensive back Will Harris of Boston College, defensive end Austin Bryant of Clemson and cornerback Amani Oruwariye of Penn State.
“I think our defense, when I look at it, is a lot of pieces that the coaches can use in different spots,” Quinn said. “In this defense, versatility is key.”
Detroit didn’t turn back to the offensive side of the ball until the sixth round, when the Lions picked wide receiver Travis Fulgham of Old Dominion and running back Ty Johnson of Maryland. Detroit’s seventh-round picks were spent on tight end Isaac Nauta of Georgia and defensive tackle P.J. Johnson of Arizona.
Taking Tavai certainly qualifies, after NFL.com’s analyst had him going 2-3 rounds later. Quinn said he was a player Detroit had been targeting for a while.
HOW THEY DID
The Lions definitely addressed needs at tight end, receiver and on defense, but fans can quibble with how they went about it. For example, it appears the Lions could have taken tight end Irv Smith in the second round and defensive lineman Ed Oliver in the first if they’d been willing to wait for a different tight end.
Oruwariye, the team’s fifth-round pick, was ranked as the No. 36 overall prospect in the entire draft by ProFootballFocus.com.
“He was a guy that we talked about in round four, to be honest,” Quinn said.
The Lions, who cut guard T.J. Lang after an injury-shortened 2018 season, did not use a single pick on an offensive lineman.
“Once you get into the third day in the draft, you’re never going to reach for guys. You really have to follow the board,” Quinn said. “Just because you might have a little bit of an opening on the depth chart, you don’t want to reach for a player, grade-wise. So we stayed very, very true to the board today. That’s kind of how it fell to us. People are asking, all right, well, why the other tight end in the seventh round? Well, he was the highest-graded guy, by far.”
The Lions were a huge disappointment last season under new coach Matt Patricia, who will be under pressure to turn Detroit around quickly. While this wasn’t a flashy draft, it’s consistent with the Lions’ desire to run the ball and stop the run. Hockenson could contribute right away on offense, but it was Detroit’s earlier work in free agency — such as signing defensive lineman Trey Flowers and cornerback Justin Coleman — that may make or break 2019.
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister
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