Lions have been top-5 in NFL in drafting WRs and OL but brutal at RB and LB, study finds

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Jeff Risdon
·2 min read
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The Detroit Lions have consistently drafted offensive linemen better than just about any NFL team, but they’ve been among the worst at running back and linebacker. That’s among the findings from a draft value success study from Pro Football Focus.

The study encompasses the past 10 draft classes, from 2011-2020. That era goes through the heart of the Martin Mayhew tenure as GM and also includes the entire Bob Quinn reign.

First, the offensive line draft success. As PFF notes in the explanation, higher picks are weighted heavier in the equation than late-round selections.

Hitting on Frank Ragnow, Taylor Decker and Larry Warford help spike the Lions up to the top. Only the Patriots and Cowboys have done a better job at drafting linemen.

Detroit was also very good at wide receiver dating back to 2011. This is heavily propped up by the success of 2017 third-round pick Kenny Golladay.

The team was squarely in the middle on the defensive line and at defensive end in the heat maps. Then came linebacker. Look down. Way down…

The relative misses on Jarrad Davis, Jahlani Tavai, Kyle Van Noy and Ronnell Williams really hurt the Lions here. The PFF valuation goes over the entire NFL career of the players, not just their time in Detroit.

The Lions also didn’t fare well at tight end. Detroit finished seventh from the bottom there, though T.J. Hockenson’s upward arc can push the Lions up fairly quickly if he continues to improve.

Running back was also poor return on investment. Just five teams got less value from running back draft picks from 2011-2020 than the Lions. As with Hockenson at TE, 2020 second-rounder D’Andre Swift does give Detroit some upward mobility here. There wasn’t enough sample to make it at quarterback, where the Lions have only made two picks (Jake Rudock and Brad Kaaya) since 2009.

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Watch: Detroit Lions Podcast draft discussion with Kyle Crabbs of The Draft Network