Detroit Lions 2017 NFL Draft Retrospective

(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

How should the Detroit Lions feel about their 2017 NFL Draft class after three years? We take a deep dive into it.

Entering the 2017 season, the Detroit Lions seemed like a team destined to break their playoff curse. Despite not having won a postseason game since 1992, the team’s success under head coach Jim Caldwell seemed to indicate it was only a matter of time.

Since taking the helm of the team in 2014, Caldwell had given Detroit two winning seasons in three years as well as two playoff berths. Heading into the 2017 draft, the Lions were coming off a 9-7 season and a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks.

The Lions’ biggest needs heading into 2017 included linebacker and wide receiver. Still reeling from the sudden retirement of All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson the year before, the Lions needed a replacement for stop-gap wideout Anquan Boldin, who led the team with eight touchdowns during his single season in Detroit.

Original Grade

FanSided: B-

"“Davis is a great pick when it comes to looking at the need for a linebacker. Deandre Levy has been a major disappointment and was unable to see the field due to injury ever since he signed an extension. The team has Tahir Whitehead is slightly above starter caliber and signed Paul Worrilow who lost his starting job in Atlanta. Needless to say, the Lions were rail-thin at linebacker.”"

Draft Class

Round 1 (No. 21)

Gators . Jarrad Davis. 1. player. 840. . LB

CURRENT TEAM: Detroit Lions

In 2017, Quinn selected his lone first-round defender in Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis to help anchor the defense alongside former 2012 fifth-rounder Tahir Whitehead. Davis and Whitehead looked like the second coming of Stephen Tulloch and DeAndre Levy in the Motor City, leading the team with a combined 206 tackles in their first year together.

Unfortunately, the duo of Davis and Whitehead would only last a single season in Detroit as the team would move on from Whitehead, head coach Jim Caldwell and defensive coordinator Teryl Austin despite the Lions posting a winning record at 9-7.

Round 2 (No. 53)

2. player. 840. . CB. Gators . Teez Tabor

CURRENT TEAM: San Francisco 49ers

The selection of Florida cornerback Teez Tabor in the second round will likely go down as Bob Quinn’s biggest folly and draft misstep of his career. Tabor’s draft stock dropped after the cornerback posted pedestrian 40-yard dash times during pre-draft workouts leading up to the annual selection event.

The Lions, thinking they had found themselves a genuine draft steal, scooped Tabor up with the 53rd overall pick. Detroit believed he was someone they could pair with Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay in their secondary. But Tabor would end up playing for only two seasons in the Motor City, not recording a single pass deflection or interception in 22 games.

Round 3 (No. 96)

CURRENT TEAM: Detroit Lions

If cornerback Teez Tabor was Bob Quinn’s worst draft selection as the Lions’ general manager then Northern Illinois wide receiver Kenny Golladay could go down as his best. Despite having talented wide receivers like Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. on the depth chart already, Detroit still needed to find a replacement for veteran free agent wideout Anquan Boldin, who led the team in touchdowns (8) the previous season.

After a first year plagued by a hamstring injury, Golladay has gone about the business of taking the NFL by storm ever since. Establishing himself as a legitimate number one receiver in Detroit, the 26-year old posted his second-consecutive 1,000-yard season in 2019. Golladay also led the NFL in receiving touchdowns (11) and was invited to his first Pro Bowl.

Round 4 (No. 124)

839. . LB. Volunteers . Jalen Reeves-Maybin. 4. player

CURRENT TEAM: Detroit Lions

A special teams contributor and key reserve, Tennessee linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin has started to establish himself more in Matt Patricia’s multiple defensive schemes. The undersized Reeves-Maybin (6-0, 233) actually started in three games for the Lions this past season, a first in his three-year career so far.

Round 4 (No. 127) 

CURRENT TEAM: Green Bay Packers

After showing some early signs of potential, which included the recording of three touchdown receptions in 2018, the Lions ultimately decided to part ways with Toledo tight end Michael Roberts after two seasons (following a failed attempt to trade him to the New England Patriots).

The Lions drafted tight end T.J. Hockenson in the first round of the 2019 draft and signed former Pittsburgh Steelers tight end Jesse James in free agency, leaving the still developing Roberts on the outside looking in.

Round 5 (No. 165)

CURRENT TEAM: Detroit Lions

A first-team All-Pro selection during his rookie season as a special teams returner, cornerback Jamal Agnew appeared to be an absolute draft steal in 2017. Although Agnew doesn’t provide much depth on defense, playing in just over six percent of the defensive snaps as a rookie, his 15.4
yards per punt return average and two touchdown returns did more than enough.

Round 6 (No. 205)

Jeremiah Ledbetter. 7. player. 844. . DE. Razorbacks

CURRENT TEAM: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After playing in over 32 percent of the Lions’ defensive snaps as a rookie in 2017, defensive lineman Jeremiah Ledbetter was waived prior to the start of his second season in Detroit. Since then, Ledbetter has had stints with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Baltimore Ravens before landing back with the Bucs this past season. He ended his brief career in the Motor City recording a total of 14 tackles and half a sack in 16 games.

Round 6 (No. 215)

Brad Kaaya. 8. player. 834. . QB. Hurricanes

In the continuing search for the Lions to find a quality backup for veteran quarterback Matthew Stafford, Miami passer Brad Kaaya was just another name added to carousal. Unfortunately, Kaaya wouldn’t make it past the Lions’ final cuts his rookie season as he was waived and picked up by the Carolina Panthers.

Waived by the Panthers the following month, Kaaya landed on Detroit’s practice squad for a few days before being scooped up by the Indianapolis Colts. Needless to say, the 24-year old passer has yet to make a regular-season appearance and was not on an NFL roster in 2019.

Round 7 (No. 250)

9. player. 404. . DE. Eagles . Pat O'Connor

A seventh-round flier and the Lions’ final selection in the draft, defensive end Pat O’Connor was waived before the start of his rookie season. After O’Connor went unclaimed, Detroit signed him to their practice squad. He was released again a couple of weeks later and eventually landed on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad.

Retrospective Grade:

. . Detroit Lions. 2020 RETROSPECTIVE GRADE. C

Bottom Line: The 2017 NFL Draft class will likely be remembered by fans of the Detroit Lions because of its highest of highs and lowest of lows. In back-to-back picks, the Lions missed wildly with the selection of cornerback Teez Tabor and found a Pro Bowl wide receiver in Kenny Golladay.

A mediocre performance from first-round linebacker Jarrad Davis is equaled out by the All-Pro ability shown by fifth-rounder Jamal Agnew as a special team returner. It’s a roller coaster of a draft class whose story is still being written.

by Steven Mullenax

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