Detroit Lions draft RB D’Andre Swift out of Georgia in the second round

When running back D’Andre Swift was drafted by the Detroit Lions he thought of Barry Sanders, his favorite back of all time.

Sanders, the Hall of Famer, last played in 1998 and Swift, who grew up in Philadelphia, was born in 1999. Doesn’t matter.

“Everybody would always talk about him. I started watching film, highlights and looking at his stats and they were remarkable and unbelievable,’’ Swift said on a conference call on Friday night. “As I got older I tried to make my game to be like his in any way possible. I just love watching him.’’

No one would dare compare the two, but Swift does know a good running back when he sees one. He was ranked by many draft experts — including ESPN’s Mel Kiper — as the best running back in the draft.

The Lions nabbed the Georgia running back with their first pick in the second round (35th overall) on Friday night.  Swift ran for 1,218 yards on 196 carries last season (his junior year) for the Bulldogs, averaging 6.1 yards per carry with seven rushing touchdowns.

Swift said he had talked to the Lions a bit more than some other teams, but he had no idea if they were going to draft him.

“I didn’t know it was going to be, that’s the most crazy exciting part about it,’’ Swift said.

He said fans should know that he is “somebody who’s versatile, somebody’s who going to compete everyday, somebody who can do whatever the coach asks him to do.’’ He also said he’s first and foremost a leader.

He will join Kerryon Johnson (Auburn) and Bo Scarbrough (Alabama) in the all-SEC Lions’ backfield.

Detroit did not draft a running back in 2019, but selected Johnson in the second round (43rd overall) in 2018.

Johnson was the leading rusher in 2019 despite playing in just eight games with 3.6 yards per attempt, 403 total yards and three rushing touchdowns. Scarbrough was second averaging 4.2 yards per carry, 377 total yards and one rushing touchdown.

The Lions featured the 21st best running game in the NFL last season, averaging 103.1 yards per game. 

Athlon Sports ranked Swift as the top running back prospect calling him the most complete back in the draft class with outstanding vision and patience.

More from Athlon: “He shows good initial burst and runs with excellent balance through contact and enough speed to hit the home run after he slips a tackle. He’ll be an immediate contributor in the passing game as well. Swift has natural hands …”

ESPN’s Mel Kiper had mocked Swift to Green Bay late in the first round.

Swift joins three other Georgia Bulldogs on the Lions’ roster — Matthew Stafford, Isaac Nauta and John Atlkins.

Up next for the Lions on Friday night are two third-round picks — 67th and 85th overall.

Detroit started the draft on Thursday night by choosing cornerback Jeff Okudah with the third overall pick. Rounds four through seven will take place Saturday starting at noon.

 

Detroit Lions draft CB Jeff Okudah out of Ohio State at third overall

No trades, no big surprise.

With the third overall pick in the NFL draft on Thursday night, the Detroit Lions selected cornerback Jeff Okudah out of Ohio State.

He becomes the first cornerback that the Lions have drafted in the first round since 1998 when they selected Terry Fair.

Okudah has all the measurables (6-1, 205 pounds) and intangibles too.
He can make an immediate impact but the Lions will have a chance to work him in slowly since they signed free agent Desmond Trufant.

Remember, Darius Slay only started four of the 13 games he played as a rookie. Obviously it didn’t mean the Lions had given up on him, but rather they gave him time to soak it all in. 

Cornerback one of the toughest positions to learn in the NFL, but no reason to think that Okudah is not up to the task. 

The Lions will have three picks on Friday night in the second and third rounds — 35th overall (second), 67th overall (third) and 85th overall (from the Eagles.) Friday night’s festivities start at 7 p.m. The final rounds on Saturday begin at noon.

Five reasons the Detroit Lions will draft cornerback Jeff Okudah at third overall

Lions GM Bob Quinn has pulled a few surprises in his first four drafts with the Detroit Lions.

He opted for tight end T.J. Hockenson a year ago who was not a popular mock draft pick for the eighth overall pick. In 2018 offensive tackle Frank Ragnow was his top pick at 20th overall. In 2017, he drafted Jarrad Davis at 21st overall and in his first-ever draft in Detroit Taylor Decker got the nod with the 16th pick.

So what does Quinn have planned for this draft which starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday?

Good question. He has never drafted this high — the Lions own the No. 3 overall pick, along with eight other picks.

Cornerback Jeff Okudah seems to be the popular pick for the Lions in the first round. That doesn’t mean Quinn will necessarily draft him, but he certainly looks like the top contender in that spot.

Here are five reasons the Lions will draft Okudah:

1. The cornerback has the ideal size — he’s 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds — and the Ohio State credentials. He is set to become the 14th Buckeyes’ cornerback to be drafted in the first round since 1991. He’s also got speed. Scouts say he’s exceptionally quick and can close in on the ball. Face it, the kid has it all.

2. Quinn wants an impact player with that third overall pick. “We have enough guidance in that range that we think we can do that. … Our goal is to get impactful players throughout the draft, whether they’re starters in the middle rounds or just backup and role players and special teams players later in the draft. Our goals haven’t changed, the circumstances have obviously,’’ Quinn said in his pre-draft press conference via Zoom.

3. With the trade of Darius Slay to the Eagles, the Lions have a big need at cornerback. They signed free agent corners Desmond Trufant and Tony McRae. Trufant is not a match for Slay one-on-one. 

4. It’s not common to draft a cornerback early. In the past 19 drafts only five cornerbacks have been drafted in the top five. Quinn said he had no problem with doing so (he wasn’t talking about a specific player) if the prospect was worth the pick. “If we go back to free agency a year ago, we signed Justin Coleman to play nickel and we paid him like a starter because we feel like you need three starting level corners to have a productive defense. So, why teams have shied away, I can’t really answer that. You have to ask the teams that have passed. I’ve never been this high in the draft to experience that,’’ Quinn said. 

5. Okudah is the top of the deep class at cornerback. CBSSports.com says, “(He’s) the best coverage CB in this class and it’s not even close.’’ If Quinn doesn’t grab him with the third overall pick, he’ll have a chance to draft corners later in the draft. But Okudah is a game-changer and could step in right away. Remember Slay only started four of 13 games he played in his rookie season. He wasn’t Big-Play Slay out of the gate, but turned into one of the best in the NFL. That’s exactly what could happen with Okudah.

 

Detroit Lions president says team wants to re-connect with Calvin Johnson

Also, updates on bringing draft to Detroit and ‘Hard Knocks’

DETROIT — One thing on Rod Wood’s to-do list is to get Calvin Johnson back in the fold — not on the field — but to have the former wide receiver as a part of the organization like Barry Sanders.

The Detroit Lions president spoke at the Taste of the Lions, an annual charity event, on Wednesday night at Ford Field.  

“I had it on my agenda today to talk internally about some things  to approach (Johnson) about getting back and involved,’’ Wood said. “It’s on the agenda to reach out to him. We have Barry (Sanders) coming in this week for a couple of events. I want to kind of try and find a way to do something similar with what we’re doing with Barry, if Calvin would be interested.’’

Johnson retired unexpectedly in March 2016 after nine seasons with the Lions.

“It’s a very high priority. I would expect in a couple years he’ll be considered for the Hall of Fame and I really want to have a relationship at that point that’s productive for both sides,’’ Wood said. “We could be there celebrating with him and find ways to have him here to celebrate as well.’’

Also on Wood’s agenda is bringing an NFL draft to Detroit.

The draft held in Nashville a few weeks ago seemed to be a success from all angles.

“I wasn’t down there obviously, but we had people down there. I saw it on TV. I think they did a great job,’’ Wood said. “Obviously they have a special area there with Broadway and the bars and the restaurants. I think what we learned is we need to do something, if we do it here, that’s iconically Detroit. We have a few ideas of how we may do that. We’re in the running for a couple years from now to bring the draft here.’’

His thoughts would be to showcase all of downtown Detroit, using multiple venues. He’s uncertain about the timeline but thinks the 2021 draft location could be announced next spring.

One more thing:  Wood said no word yet on whether the Lions will be featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” this preseason. He expects a decision to be announced soon.

Since the Lions have missed the playoffs for two straight years, they are one of the teams eligible for the behind-the-scenes, NFL reality show.

“So far I’ve not heard anything. I don’t know if that means we’re under consideration and no one has told us or it’s such a top secret thing they didn’t want to leak it out,’’ Wood said.

The tight-lipped organization would just as soon pass, but they won’t have a choice.

“The consequences of ending the season the way we did makes us eligible. We’ll deal with the consequences,’’ Wood said. “I’d much rather be here a year from now saying we’re not eligible.’’

The Taste of the Lions has become a major charity fund-raiser for the team.

“During the offseason it’s one of the big things we do to get the fans close to the players and the coaches,’’ Wood said. “When you’re in the building every day you kind of get immune to how special this is for a fan to get a chance to talk to one of our players or get a picture with coach, or Mrs. Ford is downstairs – get a picture with her. It’s a great opportunity to get close to the fans, raise some money for charity and showcase some of the great restaurants around town.’’

Detroit Lions GM Bob Quinn follows draft board not the advice of fans, media

Quinn wants what the fans want

Bob Quinn doesn’t let fan expectations or sentiment drive his draft decisions.

That shouldn’t even be questioned. He has worked all his professional life to learn the draft process.

The Lions general manager just completed his fourth draft weekend in Detroit.

On Day 3 of the draft Saturday he added three players on defense and three on offense. He was all smiles taking the podium afterward.

“Good mix of skill guys and big guys – felt like good value. Kind of made that one trade with Atlanta, moved back a couple spots, thought that was good business to acquire that other pick for really just moving down six spots, I think. I thought it was a good day,’’ Quinn said.

And it wasn’t just a good day.

“Thought it was a really good weekend for us overall as a team, got the team better,’’ Quinn added.

T.J. Hockenson, his first-round pick, filled a need at tight end and seemed to go over well.

It was the second-round pick, linebacker Jahlani Tavai, who raised a few eyebrows.

Why? Because he was not deemed second-round worthy by many NFL draft analysts and fans. That led to hand-wringing and deep sighs from many fans and short-sighted media members who thought they knew better. Ask them, they’d give you a list of players they preferred with that pick.

Tavai wasn’t as well known, in part because he played at Hawaii.

Will he be a Pro Bowl player? Maybe. It’s too early to know. No guarantees on his future.

None of this matters to Quinn. He took Tavai because he followed the Lions’ draft board which was created over the past 12 months.

With all due respect to fans, media, Mel Kiper, Todd McShay and other NFL draft analysts, Quinn knows the Lions’ needs and wants better than any one.

His first three drafts yielded good results. A year ago he made six picks and the five that stayed healthy made significant contributions to the season. His top six selections in 2017 are starters or regular players and in 2016 he drafted Taylor Decker, A’Shawn Robinson and Graham Glasgow with his first three picks. All are starters.

Quinn has proven that he can draft. With each draft he gets closer to the roster that he desires.

Still his pick of Tavai was roundly criticized.

The GM, who learned his craft while with the Patriots, won’t lose sleep over the criticism.

‘If I worry about what other people think, I’ll be up all night. Trust me. I respect the question. I really do and I understand it. But if we go into this process being scared about what other people think about our team and our evaluations, then we’ve got a long way to go,’’ Quinn said.

“We’re convicted on the guys we take. Are we going to be right 100 percent of the time? No, no team is. But I think we do a tremendous amount of work. And this is a 12-month process for us and this is something that is the lifeline of this organization in terms of players. So, I feel very confident about the evaluations and the guys we took this weekend, and also some of the rookie free agents we’re working on now,’’ he added.

Quinn wants exactly what the fans want — a team that can win in the playoffs.

Is that so hard to understand?

Let’s watch Tavai and the other picks on game days. That’s the only way to judge the draft.

Detroit Lions draft Amani Oruwariye in the fifth round

Penn State cornerback earned first team all-Big Ten honors

ALLEN PARK — The LIons drafted their fourth straight defensive player when they selected cornerback Amani Oruwariye (Penn State) in the fifth round (146th overall).

He’s a bigger, taller corner at 6-foot-1 and 203 pounds.

“(My size) allows me to use my body to my ability, really dominate at the line of scrimmage and go up with receivers and make plays on the ball,’’ Oruwariye said on a conference call.

Oruwariye was a starter in 2018, earning first-team all-Big Ten nod by leading the Nittany Lions with 12 pass breakups and tying for the team lead with three interceptions, to go along with 51 tackles (two for loss) in 13 starts.

He ranked No. 5 in the Big 10 and No. 30 in the nation with 1.2 passes defended per game. He was No. 8 in the Big Te in the FBS with three interceptions.

He’s familiar with Lions Pro-Bowl corner Darius Slay. Says he’s watched a good amount of film of him. “Darius Slay plays the deep ball really well, it’s just great technique,’’ Oruwariye said.

Oruwariye, who attended Tampa’s Gaither High School, began to show his potential as a lockdown corner his junior season in 2017, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors despite not starting in 11 games played. He intercepted four passes and broke up eight others as a reserve, making 28 tackles.

He was a reserve as a freshman (five tackles, one PBU in 13 games) and sophomore, as well, though his playing time was more significant in 2016 (23 tackles, one INT, one PBU).

Oruwariye is pronounced OH-rue-war-ee-AY.

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein wrote: “He can be an effective press-man defender, but must win at the line of scrimmage or he could become an early target for quarterbacks as he lacks makeup speed once he’s beaten. Oruwariye is a proven disruptor at the catch point and is willing to step up and take on run support duties. When all factors are considered, he’ll be considered a scheme fit for zone-heavy teams who covet physicality in press.”

Other defensive players drafted by the Lions include linebacker Jahlani Tavai (second round), safety Will Harris (third round) and defensive end Austin Bryant (fourth round).

The Lions opened the draft by selecting tight end T.J. Hockenson in the first round (eighth overall).

Detroit Lions draft DE Austin Bryant with fourth-round pick

He helped Clemson win a national title

 

ALLEN PARK — The Detroit Lions addressed a need on the defensive line when thy drafted defensive end Austin Bryant in the fourth round (117th overall) to kick off Day 3 of the 2019 NFL draft today (Saturday).

The Lions traded the 111th pick to the Atlanta Falcons for picks 117 and 186. They had given up pick 184 on Friday to move up and draft safety Will Harris.

“It feels great to be a Lion,’’ Bryant said on a conference call shortly after the pick.

Bryant (6-foot-4, 271 pounds) is the third straight defensive player drafted by the Lions but the first on the line. Three of his Clemson defensive line teammates were drafted in the first round — Clelin Ferrell (Raiders), Christian Wilkins (Dolphins) and Dexter Lawrence (Giants).

Bryant was part of Clemson’s two-deep rotation for his entire career, finishing with 153 tackles, 35 tackles for loss, 20 sacks, 32 quarterback pressures, four pass breakups, two caused fumbles and an interception in 1,807 snaps over 51 games (29 starts).

In 2018 he earned most outstanding defensive player honors in the Cotton Bowl with three tackles for loss, including two sacks, among his six tackles against Notre Dame. In the national championship game against No. 1 Alabama he contributed three tackles, one for loss.

He tore a pec muscle in November and played through the season, undergoing surgery in January.

“Recovery is going well, I should be cleared here soon. I have a few more weeks left on my rehab but everything is coming along great,’’ Bryant said. “Shouldn’t be any setbacks, I’m ready to get to work.’’

NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein’s analysis of Bryant: “Long-limbed base end with moldable potential as a rusher, but a lack of play strength and balance finds him on the ground way too often. Bryant offers potential as a rangy edge rusher with the length to separate and turn the corner, but he might not offer up enough rush talent to overcome his struggles in holding the point against the run. He has starter’s traits and backup talent, but he could end up as a future starter if he gets his strength right.”

Bryant had outstanding junior year, per NFL.com, and followed it up with another solid year in 2018 helping Clemson win a national title. He was third-team all-ACC with 44 tackles, 14.5 for loss and eight sacks.

He graduated in December with a degree in management.

In the first two days of the draft the Lions selected tight end T.J. Hockenson (Iowa) in the first round, linebacker Jahlani Tavai (Hawaii) in the second round and safety Will Harris (Boston College in the third round.