The Detroit Lions made three picks in the first half of the third day, including a trade.
The first pick is Utah State cornerback Nevin Lawson with the 133rd overall pick in the fourth round. This is a fantastic pick.
Lawson is a slot corner, but what makes him a great pick is that he’s already played in the slot. Most times, the slot corner is a guy who played outside in college but has to learn how to play inside. Not Lawson.
It sets up an interesting competition with Bill Bentley. Lawson is a more natural cover man, though like Bentley he can be grabby. Both are aggressive against the run, though Lawson rates as a more effective tackler in my book.
Here’s my scouting report on Lawson, where I gave him a late 2nd/early 3rd round rating.
To reinforce that, here’s my skinny scouting report from RealGM.com:
Notes: Cat-quick ballhawk with long arms and excellent burst in any direction. Steadily improved his route recognition and technique thru his four years, shows savvy and coachability. Productive with 24 PDs and 9 TFLs in ‘12/13. Stood out in both Shrine and Senior Bowl weeks for his quickness and ball skills, although he doesn’t catch well. Ideal slot corner with rare experience pressing and blitzing from there already.
Projection: 4th-5th round sleeper you want on your team
As excited as that pick made me, the Lions followed that up with one of the most Millen-esque picks of the Mayhew regime. Defensive end Larry Webster from D-II Bloomsburg wound up being the selection three picks later at 136 overall.
I’ll let my tweet from last week speak for itself:
@espn961 to answer about Larry Webster: I was at Shrine Game week & he was EASILY the worst player there. Lost puppy, completely unphysical
— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) May 7, 2014
What I saw was a young man who did not appear interested in football. He’s a former basketball player whose father played in the NFL.
From my notes that week:
Bloomsburg DE Larry Webster III is built like a volleyball player. He’s a lanky 6’5.5” and 249 pounds, with long arms and massive hands. He really lacks any sort of reputable base strength, struggling to not get blown over when they did a double-team drill. His long arms were a problem on one rep in the pit drill, as he brought them from out wide and completely exposed his chest to BYU tackle Charles Leno, who got both hands on the bottom of his chest pad and rocked him easily out of the way. Webster is miscast as a defensive end; he has the build of a 3-4 OLB. There unfortunately has not been any chance to see him operate in space to see if he could make that move.
During those practices he was dramatically outplayed and outshined by the more athletic, hungrier Ethan Westbrooks of West Texas A&M, who alternated reps with him against the same competition. It wasn’t even close, like a free throw shooting contest between Mark Price and Shaquille O’Neal.
His athletic traits are certainly impressive. He was second to Jadeveon Clowney in the 40-yard dash at the Combine among all defensive ends, and Westbrook’s got long arms and good movement skills.
He’s just not a football player. Here’s an example of a typical Larry Webster play. He’s #99, the left defensive end:
Some have suggested he is a convert to tight end, where some teams worked him out as well. That may very well be his better path to NFL success, but the Lions already have four tight ends on the roster who are demonstrably better than him.
Webster will be a practice squad or injured reserve stash as a rookie while the Lions take an extended look to see what they have and where he might eventually fit.
Given some of the other players on the board, it’s just a waste of a pick. Taylor Hart, Ryan Grant, Kadeem Edwards, Shaq Richardson, and Wade Keliikipi are among the multitude of better options for that draft slot. Webster figures to start his Lions career behind last year’s 7th rounder, Brandon Hepburn, as a developmental pet project for DL Coach Kris Kocurek.
The Lions got more work for Kocurek a few picks later with Princeton DT Caraun Reid. He was the selection after the Lions dealt the 146th pick (acquired yesterday in the Van Noy deal) to Dallas for the 158th pick, as well as two seventh-round picks.
Reid was also at the Shrine Game, and he’s got a much better chance to make a dent in the NFL. He’s got compact size at 6’2” and 302, and he’s stocky and a little top-heavy. He’s light on his feet, quick off the snap, and can find the ball well.
The big knock, and it’s easy to see on game film, is that his game lacks aggression and physicality. That’s not to say he isn’t strong, but he tends to let the blocking dictate the action and he counters off it, instead of dictating the action.
If you know Coach Kocurek at all, you know that won’t fly. He’ll beat it out of him with chaw-filled, profane-spewing tirades to get Reid to bring the aggression. If he catches on, the Lions have themselves their third defensive tackle to take over for CJ Mosley, who is in the last year of his contract. That’s a worthy risk of a fifth-round pick.