Traverse City Record-Eagle

Sports

May 12, 2014

Dennis Chase: Lions did well, but secondary still a concern

The NFL draft grades are in.

And, for the most part, pundits gave the Detroit Lions a B. The major criticism, of course, was that the Lions waited until late in the fourth round to pick a cornerback.

Fair criticism.

I wanted the Lions to focus on defense, too. But I wanted a linebacker in the first round — trading up to nab Khalil Mack or taking Anthony Barr at No. 10. Barr, though, went off the board to Minnesota a pick ahead of the Lions.

That came as somewhat of a surprise, as did Cleveland’s selection of cornerback Justin Gilbert at No. 8.

Now, we might never know — unless Lions GM Martin Mayhew slips up — if Detroit would have taken Gilbert and/or Barr if they had been there, but it’s certainly possible.

In retrospect, the draft went as advertised through seven picks. The first seven players off the board — Jadeveon Clowney, Greg Robinson, Blake Bortles, Sammy Watkins, Mack, Jake Matthews and Mike Evans — were pretty much the ones you expected. I would have just subbed Johnny Manziel for Bortles, who I thought would go to Minnesota.

Then the Browns — who had traded down, then back up — threw a curve and picked Gilbert. The Vikings followed with another curve, selecting Barr. It would have been interesting to be in the Lions war room about then.

So with the top two linebackers and the best corner off the board, the Lions went with a receiver in Eric Ebron. Given the circumstances, I like the pick. Everybody talks about his big deficiency — that he’s not much of a blocker for a tight end — but I think he’ll be a slot receiver in Detroit. Blocking will not be his primary responsibility.

The Lions did pick a linebacker in the second round, BYU’s Kyle Van Noy. I think he’s a good fit and like Ebron will be an immediate contributor.

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