If winning ways return to the Motor City, we might have to thank the 2016 Draft Class.
The Detroit Lions were at the very beginning of their current transition back in 2016. Bob Quinn was hired as the team’s general manager in January of that year and this would be his first draft for the Motor City since leaving the New England Patriots after a very long tenure within their scouting department. Quinn placed his signature on the franchise early, selecting an offensive lineman with his first pick as general manager.
In fact, four of his first five selections in the 2016 draft were investments in the trenches as it was clear he had a plan to rebuild the Lions from the inside out.
Round 1 (Pick 16)
Some would argue that outside of quarterback, left tackle is the most important position in football. The Detroit Lions, and especially new general manager Bob Quinn, certainly made it a priority when they selected Ohio State’s Taylor Decker 16th overall.
The move was made as an investment to help prolong the career of franchise passer Matthew Stafford under center. And the Lions’ front office continues to invest highly into their offensive line to this day.
Decker has been a solid player in Detroit. After starting all 16 games for the Lions his rookie year, an offseason shoulder injury forced him to miss the first eight games of the 2017 season. He returned last year and was once again able to be a full 16-game starter. Decker is the centerpiece of the offensive line rebuild in Detroit, which appears to be nearly complete.
Round 2 (Pick 46)
Touted as having first-round talent, A’Shawn Robinson slipped to the second round as questions about his lack of production at Alabama tainted his draft stock. And those questions have lingered in Detroit as Robinson’s inconsistent play had some speculating that he could be yet another second-round bust in Motown.
But under new head coach Matt Patricia, Robinson seems to have found new life. He posted his best season in Detroit in 2018 and is poised to have an even bigger impact next season after spending another year learning Patricia’s defensive scheme.
Round 3 (Pick 95)
Initially a primary backup in Detroit, Glasgow’s excellent play has earned himself a starting role, spending all of last season as the team’s primary starting center. The former third-rounder has become a real steal for the Lions as his versatility allows him to play either center or guard at a high level.
Being a plug-and-play option along the interior of the offensive line makes him very invaluable as a genuine Day Two find.
Round 4 (Pick 111)
Killebrew has become a primary special teams player in Detroit while also providing some valuable depth to the safety position. During his first three years in the Motor City, he’s only started in two games. But with the recent release of safety Glover Quinn, Killebrew might have a chance to play a more significant role for the Lions’ defense in 2019.
Unfortunately for the former fourth-rounder, he’s coming off his worst season as a professional and there’s more competition than ever at his position.
Round 5 (Pick 151)
Going into his fourth season with the Lions, Dahl provides depth along Detroit’s offensive line. He’s played in a total of 22 games and has garnered four starts since being drafted. Dahl is a role player who could have a bigger impact in 2019 due to the recent release of two-time Pro Bowl right guard T.J. Lang.
Round 5 (Pick 169)
Despite showing some early promise, linebacker Antwione Williams only played one season in Detroit. His lack of scheme versatility and inability to play special teams forced the Lions to part ways with the fifth-rounder after his rookie season. Williams is currently a member of the Carolina Panthers after short stints with the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks.
Round 6 (Pick 191)
After some solid preseason performances, the Detroit Lions appeared to have found a solid backup for starter Matthew Stafford in Jake Rudock. But during his three seasons in Detroit, Rudock played in just one regular season game, throwing fives passes, three completions and an interception. The hiring of head coach Matt Patricia and signing of former Patriot quarterback Matt Cassel all but ended the sixth rounder’s run in Motown. Rudock is now a member of the Miami Dolphins.
Round 6 (Pick 202)
The Lions appeared to find a real gem in sixth rounder Anthony Zettel. After showing flashes his rookie season, Zettel’s production exploded for 6.5 sacks as a 16-game starter in 2017. He replaced injured defensive end Kerry Hyder on the starting line, who had led the team in sacks the previous season.
Zettel figured to be a key piece in new head coach Matt Patricia’s defense in 2018. Instead, he found himself waived during final cuts and picked up by the Cleveland Browns. It was a shocking move that has been chalked up to simply a bad scheme fit. The good news for Detroit is they released Zettel to make room for waiver-claim defensive end Romeo Okwara, who actually led the team in sacks last season.
Round 6 (Pick 210)
Brought in to compete with longtime Lions’ long snapper and two-time Pro Bowler Don Muhlbach, Jimmy Landes never stepped on the field for Detroit. The rookie injured his shoulder which landed him on Injured Reserve his rookie season and he was released by the team the following June.
Round 7 (Pick 236)
Although there was some excitement about Washington’s potential in Detroit after he started two games his rookie season, the seventh-round running back would only play two seasons total in Detroit. After getting 90 rushing attempts in 2016, that number dropped to 20 carries the following year. Washington spent last season in New Orleans.
The Detroit Lions landed themselves several key members of their current offensive line including two starters in Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow in the 2016 NFL Draft. And their first five selections are still part of the current team and all solid contributors. Although some of the selections who might have been late round gems have now fizzled out, this was still a very successful haul for general manager Bob Quinn in his first year.
The fact the first five players selected in the Bob Quinn era are still on the current roster proves it was a strong first draft for the Detroit Lions and their young general manager. Although none of the selections have emerged as Pro Bowl players, they are young, talented and play a significant role on a team that figures to be much improved in 2019 under second-year head coach Matt Patricia.