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Posts of category  "Lions"

 

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – The 2017 NFL Draft may be over, but that didn’t stop Alabama State University tight end Brandon Barnes from reaching his goal of being a professional athlete.

Barnes was one of 12 free agent signees for the Detroit Lions.

Brandon Barnes exemplifies perseverance after all he has been through,” Alabama State head coach Brian Jenkins said. “He is truly a phenomenal athlete and we wish him the best of luck in his professional career.”

The 6-foot-5, 255-pound native of Phoenix City, Ala., donned the black and gold jersey all four years at tight end. He amassed 436 yards on 29 receptions in 39 games. During that span he found the endzone four times. His biggest season came during his junior campaign when he played 11 games and caught 13 balls for 199 yards and three scores.

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Tennessee linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin’s injury concerns didn’t matter to the Detroit Lions, who took him in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL draft.

There were questions about Jalen Reeves-Maybin‘s NFL draft status after he missed most of his senior season with a shoulder injury.

The former Tennessee star linebacker’s talent answered them, though.

The Detroit Lions selected Reeves-Maybin, an All-SEC performer and team captain for the Vols, in the middle of the fourth round with the 124th overall pick on Saturday afternoon.

Reeves-Maybin starred on special teams as a freshman for the Vols in 2013 before becoming a defensive stalwart as a sophomore. He recorded two straight seasons with at least 100 tackles to lead Tennessee in the category in both seasons. In 2015 Reeves-Maybin recorded 105 tackles, six sacks, 14 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four pass break-ups.

After electing to return to Tennessee instead of entering the draft last season, Reeves-Maybin endured a final season to forget.

He underwent shoulder surgery last spring and was ejected in the first half of the season opener against Appalachian State. He made 13 tackles in Tennessee’s win against Virginia Tech before hurting his shoulder against Ohio while covering a punt. He tried to play the following week against Florida, but couldn’t go and wound up undergoing another surgery.

At the NFL scouting combine in March, Reeves-Maybin only did position-specific drills, but he showed more of what he can do with a strong showing at Tennessee’s pro day.

Reeves-Maybin became the fourth Tennessee player taken in the 2017 draft after defensive end Derek Barnett (14th overall), running back Alvin Kamara (67th) and Cameron Sutton (94th).

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With the 21st overall pick, the Detroit Lions select linebacker Jarrad Davis.

The Detroit Lions needed help in a big way along their front seven on defense, and help is now on the way.The Lions selected Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis with the 21st overall pick in Thursday night’s first round of the NFL Draft.

It turns out Lions general manager Bob Quinn and his staff did a lot of homework on Davis, including a trip down to Gainesville for a private meeting and workout.

“I felt like we did a really thorough job and got a player that is really going to help us,” Quinn said. “It’s a player we targeted, it’s a player we wanted and we were fortunate to get him.”

Davis notched 60 tackles, six tackles for loss, five quarterback hurries and two sacks for the Gators last season, despite missing four of the team’s last five games, including the Outback Bowl on Jan. 2 with an ankle injury.

As a junior, Davis had 98 tackles (11 for loss), 3.5 sacks and four pass breakups playing the entire season.

After sitting out of the NFL Scouting Combine to give his injured ankle more time to heal, Davis wowed scouts, coaches and personnel people at his pro day with his testing and on-field workout.

Davis (6-1, 238) ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds, had a 38.5 inch vertical and 10’9’’ broad jump at his pro day.

Quinn said Davis has position versatility, and can play both the WILL and the MIKE in Detroit’s scheme.

“He’s a passionate football player,” Quinn said. “He’s got very good playing speed. Very good tackler. Good blitzer. Good coverage player. This guy is a really well-rounded linebacker. As a freshman, he was the Special Teams Player of the Year for Florida when he was a backup linebacker. So he’s got four-down value. I think he’s a real well-rounded guy with position versatility.”

Davis said he was comfortable playing both the MIKE and WILL, but played more MIKE. It sounded like it was his position of preference.

“I played strictly MIKE all the way through my junior and senior year,” Davis said via conference call. “To play that and lead the defense and have an opportunity to make almost every play, every snap, being in the middle of the defense, it was a position I really enjoyed and really thrived on.”

Davis is a sideline-to-sideline run defender with explosive closing speed, and should be a three-down player in Teryl Austin’s defense.

The Lions signed veteran linebackers Paul Worrilow and Nike Bellore in free agency this offseason, but Quinn knew he had to add young talent to that group at some point early in this draft.

“It’s a position where I really think you need a guy in the middle of your defense that can be looked upon to call the defense, hopefully become a leader in time, and really be that gel between the secondary and defensive line,” Quinn said. “It was a position of need, for sure.”

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Colin Kaepernick has found a home – in the Motor City.
Kaepernick, who has spent his entire NFL career with the San Francisco 49ers, has reportedly signed a two-year deal worth $16 million. According to sources, he will compete for the starting quarterback job with Matthew Stafford.
Kaepernick made news last season by boycotting the national anthem, taking one knee during its playing before kickoff. He has been much maligned for his choice.

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One of the biggest criticisms of the Detroit Lions 2017 draft class is that they didn’t select a runningback. The Lions had a chance at landing some of the top backs in the class, but decided the current crop of Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, and Dwayne Washington are more than serviceable. Or maybe not.

Yahoo! Sports’ Charles Robinson reports the Lions are one of two teams in play for former Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount. From Robinson:

LEAGUE SOURCES SAID AT LEAST TWO TEAMS ARE SQUARELY IN PLAY FOR BLOUNT NOW THAT THE DRAFT HAS ENDED: THE DETROIT LIONS AND NEW YORK GIANTS, TWO FRANCHISES THAT ARE STILL MULLING THE ADDITION OF A BELL-COW RUNNING BACK TO EAT UP SOME EARLY-DOWN AND SHORT-YARDAGE CARRIES NEXT SEASON.

Blount, 30, has been on a lot of Lions fans radars the entire offseason. The Lions sturggled picking up first downs in short yardage situations last year, and there may be no better 3rd-and-short runningback in the league then Blount. He is also a beast near the goal line, evidenced by his league-leading 18 rushing touchdowns last season. To put it in perspective, the Lions have only had 16 rushing touchdowns combined the past two seasons. His 3.9 yards per carry last season would have rated him second on the Lions behind Abdullah, who carried the ball just 18 times last year.

There should be an err of confidence for Lions fans seeing as how Detroit does offer a better chance to win than the Giants do, and Blount would have a clearly defined role here in Detroit, and a sizable one at that.

 Blount would offer a nice change of pace and a three-headed monster of him, Abdullah, and Riddick in the backfield is something that no opposing defenses want to see. We’ve already spent our offseason upgrading the offensive line, which should help the running game regardless, but being able to convert those 3rd-and-4th-and-ones will extend drives, keep the defense off the field, and add wins.

Bob Quinn should sprint to the podium if Peppers is available at No. 21

I’ll take “Most polarizing NFL prospects” for 500, Alex. What’s that? Over-trodden cliches is not an actual category? “Take that for data” – Jabrill Peppers probably.

Hey, cliches are cliches for a reason and polarizing is basically just a synonym for most misunderstood. Flipping on film and trying to dissect why so many critics miss the dominant wrecking ball flying all over the field is puzzling at first. Even diehard Michigan fans are divided – often misled by the already misled media. Then you add context. It’s hard to take in a player’s talent if you don’t understand what you’re watching and it’s easy to get lost in the film if you’re unfamiliar with Michigan football and Jabrill Peppers’ ever-evolving roles.

Enter Brett Kollmann, savior of the benighted whom seek education. Kollman is a former NFL Network Assistant, SB Nation writer for the Houston Texans Battle Red Blog, regular on SportsRadio 610 Houston, and by far the best YouTube NFL analyst around.

But why should you care? Because Kollmann eloquently explains why everything you think you think about Jabrill Peppers is incredibly wrong and he has the film the prove it. Talking at length about a player’s impact outside of the box score is often lip service to justify something without empirical evidence – until it isn’t.

Meet the REAL Jabrill Peppers

I could write ten of these and still not expound Peppers’ impact as well as Kollmann. Those of you who don’t buy into Peppers’ ability and refuse to watch today’s free lecture need not read further. This article is not for the stubborn and lazy.

It’s for enlightenment.

And if Jabrill Peppers is sitting there at 21 when the Detroit Lions are on the clock (*spoiler alert* he won’t be) Bob Quinn might look like Peppers sprinting to the podium.

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a player in this draft with more instant impact potential – especially one that fits so well into Detroit’s needs.

A defense that was 30th in yards per drive allowed in 2016 is in desperate need of talent. Peppers brings not only that talent and playmaking ability to an oft-overmatched defense but the versatility that is invaluable in today’s NFL.

Peppers would project as a day one starter as an in the box safety that would never have to come off the field regardless of personnel. He can slide to the weak side of a porous linebacking unit or shift as a nickel to mask a deficient cornerback room. He’ll shut down an opposing backfield and eat up bubble screens at an incredible rate.

Peppers is the ultimate chess piece for Teryl Austin’s defense. He’ll be one of the top blitzing safeties in the league the day he’s drafted and some of the hardest decisions will be how often to send him.

The best part? Peppers can and will be whatever Teryl Austin wants him to be. As he showed at Michigan, he’s selfless and will sell out for whatever role helps the team WIN.

Master of All?

Many have knocked Peppers as a player without a defined role. Someone who can do a lot of things well but nothing great. Those people haven’t watched much football.

I could write a book on Peppers’ defensive ability but you wouldn’t read it and Kollmann covered enough already. He’d be a first rounder on that side of the ball alone… but wait, there’s more!

Peppers brings an ELITE game-breaking return ability with him to the NFL. Vision, speed, agility, elusiveness, he possesses every trait to turn the Lions inept return game into one of the league’s best. (Andre Roberts? Bye, Felicia!) Those hands that many perceive as subpar sure had a knack for plucking line drive punts from the air and giving opposing coaches heart problems.

That same return ability can be harnessed as an offensive weapon as well whether out of the backfield, wildcat, or as a receiver. The Lions aren’t likely to use him on this side of the ball often but the option alone – especially in a pinch – is comforting.

Would Bob Quinn Take Him?

Queue fastest 40-yard dash by an NFL GM in league history as Quinn personally delivers the card to Roger Goodell.

We KNOW Quinn has an eye on team needs and a leaky defense.
We KNOW Quinn has an affinity for athletic freaks of the speedy variety.
We KNOW Quinn likes versatile players that can fill multiple roles.

Basically, Bob Quinn might have a poster of Jabrill Peppers in his room.

Will he be there at 21?

And that is really the only question that matters isn’t it?

Unfortunately, it will probably take more than a dilute sample at the combine from possible over-hydration for Peppers to fall to 21. It’s not the longest of shots but I doubt he makes it far past the Baltimore Ravens at 16. Oblivious media pundits might not know where he fits in the NFL but every single team in the league knows exactly how they’d use him and there’s not one that wouldn’t like to add him to their roster.

For the Lions sake, let’s hope that’s not in the top 20.

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The Detroit Lions have had a great offseason so far improving their offensive line to help Matthew Stafford. The Lions now need to focus on the draft and solidifying the defensive side of the ball.

The Lions did not have a solid defense last season. They finished 18th in total yards given up per game (354.8). It’s time to focus on the defense and that can start with the 2017 draft. If one of these three players remain at No. 21, The Detroit Lions will select one of them.

1. MARLON HUMPHREY CB ALABAMA

Detroit needs help in the secondary immediately. They gave up 248.4 pass yards per game last season, which was good enough for 19th in the league.

Darius Slay is already CB1 in Detroit, but the Lions need a solid CB2 to help him out on the other side. That’s where Marlon Humphrey could fit in.

In 2015, Humphrey started all 15 games for Alabama and earned All-SEC consideration. He recorded 45 tackles, 3 INTs and eight PD’s. In 2016 he had 26 tackles, two interceptions (one for a TD), and added five PD’s. He is a very physical CB that will attempt to strip the ball away at times (Three forced fumbles in 2016).

 Humphrey is very athletic but sometimes has problems covering the deep ball, allowing 19 yards per completion in games he started. That issue could cause him to fall to the Lions.

If the Lions are looking to add depth to their secondary, which they should, Humphrey would be a great fit.

2. JARRAD DAVIS LB FLORIDA

With the release of DeAndre Levy, the Lions will look to add another linebacker through the draft. Jarrad Davis would be a good start if he is available at No. 21.

During his junior year at Florida, Davis recorded 94 tackles (11 for loss), 3.5 sacks and one interception. He has great acceleration which is a huge factor during the blitz. He also has the ability to step back into coverage when needed (8 PD’s over the last two seasons). Davis has the ability to finish his tackles and eliminate the big play. He had 50 solo tackles in 2015. Davis was limited to only nine games last season due to injury but still impressed with 60 tackles, 6.0 tackles for loss and 2.0 sacks.

Davis at times will have trouble coming off blocks and needs to learn to take better routes to the ball. Those issues may cause him to fall to No. 21 and if he does the Lions should snag him up.

3. T.J. WATT DE WISCONSIN

There are about to be three Watt brothers in the NFL after this week. That’s terrifying considering T.J. Watt could be another defensive threat. The Lions need to improve their defensive line and Watt could help.

Watt was finally healthy in 2016 and he made his presence known. He recorded 63 tackles, 38 solo tackles, 11.5 sacks, one interception and one forced fumble. Watt received second-team Associated Press All-American and first-team All-Big Ten honors.

 Watt has quick hands and tries to keep blockers off balance. He had great numbers against the rush and pass in one season. The Lions gave up 106.3 rushing yards per game last season which was good enough for 18th in the league. That needs to improve and Watt would be a great addition opposite of Ezekiel Ansah.

He doesn’t have the best foot quickness and will have to rely more on his hands to win in the trenches. That could cause him to fall in the draft.

According to his draft profile, many experts have Watt going in the second round. Don’t be surprised if the Lions draft him at No. 21 because of their defensive needs.

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The Lions are being a little more transparent about their drafting process.

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Both the Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Jim Caldwell have shrouded their tenure in Allen Park with secrecy. Injury news has been on lockdown since Caldwell joined the team in 2014. Quinn has put the clamps on training camp reporting, ensuring that anything resembling strategy is embargoed from reaching the public via the media.

That’s why it’s a bit surprising to hear that—for the first time ever—NFL Network will actually have cameras in the Lions’ draft war room. Via SI.com’s Richard Deitsch:

The NFL Network is a big believer in having cameras in team draft war rooms. The network will be at 20 team facilities this year, including the Browns, 49ers, Titans, Jets, Chargers, Panthers, Cardinals, Colts, Buccaneers, Broncos, Lions, Texans, Seahawks, Chiefs, Cowboys, Packers. Steelers, Falcons, Rams and Vikings.
The war room camera should give us an interesting look into the live reactions of Detroit’s front office as they make their selections throughout the draft.

But if you’re hoping for a peak at the Lions’ draft board, don’t bank on it. Teams are very careful about the placement of those cameras, and we typically don’t get much, if any, audio to go along with the video feed.

However, you may remember last year that the Lions themselves gave us a little peak into their war room after the draft had finished. They posted a video of the moment they called and selected Taylor Decker in the first round, and we even saw a blurry draft board in the background. From there, we tried taking a closer look at what the draft board revealed, though it was hard to make any clear conclusions from the video.

Regardless, it’s nice to see the Lions being a little more transparent and allowing their fans to have a little behind-the-scenes coverage on draft day.

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Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey is one of the year’s best running back prospects, though could be off the board before Detroit has a chance to consider him. (AP File Photo)

This is the fourth of an seven-part series previewing the Detroit Lions’ positional needs and priorities heading into the NFL draft. The installments are ordered by need, starting with where help is needed the least and ending where it’s needed the most.

Running back

Current starter: Ameer Abdullah
Current reserves: Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Dwayne Washington, Mike James
Best in class: LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Stanford’s Christian McCaffreyFlorida State’s Dalvin Cook
First-round possibilities for Detroit (21st overall): McCaffrey, Cook
Day 2-3 fits: Tennessee’s Alvin Kamara, Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon, Toledo’s Kareem Hunt, Oklahoma’s Samaje Perine, Texas’ D’Onta Foreman
Late-round possibilities: Pittsburgh’s James Conner, Wisconsin’s Corey Clement, San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey, Wyoming’s Brian Hill, Utah’s Joe Williams, UL Lafayette’s Elijah McGuire
Breakdown: The running game was brutal last year. Overmatched. Outplayed. Underwhelming. However you want to put it, it was bad. But while the backfield wasn’t great, the line was just as bad and often worse. Detroit gained the fewest yards before first contact last year, and led the league in runs that failed to gain yardage at all. Which is to say, the offensive line was getting blown away far too often.

So when Bob Quinn embarked on the offseason determined to improve the running game, his first priority wasn’t to throw money at Eddie Lacy or Latavius Murray or another running back. It was to fortify the offensive line, and he did it by landing two first-rate big uglies in T.J. Lang and Rick Wagner. Throw in the return of Abdullah and Riddick, and the running game has already improved.

That gives the Lions a lot of flexibility as they proceed trying to find a running back in the draft (and is a big reason why running back isn’t among our three biggest priorities for Detroit). They could take one of the first-round prospects, especially if a difference-maker like Christian McCaffrey were to fall to 21. The Stanford star is a freak athlete who is tremendous as a receiver as well, so much so that he doesn’t get enough credit for what he can do between the tackles. (He faced more loaded boxes than any of the other top draft prospects, yet still averaged 6.3 yards per carry and ranked fourth in the country in rushing.)

McCaffrey is probably is going to be off the board, though, along with top 10 prospect Leonard Fournette. More than likely, Dalvin Cook will be the best back available to Detroit, but he has character issues after being investigated multiple times for crimes at Florida State. Some analysts have said there’s more concern about Cook than Joe Mixon, who broke a woman’s face.

If the Lions were to go running back in the first round, they would be adding a difference-maker to a rotation that already includes the talented but injured duo of Abdullah and Riddick. But they feel good enough about Abdullah and Riddick that they don’t need to take a tailback so early either. Especially this year, when there is stunning array and depth of talent at the position.

They could wait until Day 2 or even Day 3 to complement those guys’ speed with a power back such as Samaje Perine or D’Onta Foreman. Or they could go for athleticism instead, acquiring injury insurance for Abdullah and Riddick by drafting another speedster like Alvin Kamara or Donnel Pumphrey. And that would give them another option at returner as well.

A name to watch in the middle rounds is Kareem Hunt, the outstanding running back out of Toledo. The 5-foot-10, 216-pounder is a brawler between the tackles, but has some nice elusiveness as well. He forced 98 missed tackles last year, according to ProFootballFocus, which was second in the country. And on 855 career touches, he fumbled just once. He recovered it too. As Kanye West would say, that’s cray.

Then there’s the Mixon dilemma to consider.

The Oklahoma star averaged nearly 7 yards per carry for his career, and is one of the best pure talents in the draft. He might have been a first-round pick. But he also was convicted of assault after punching a female student in the face in 2014, and is expected to fall (though maybe not as far as initially expected). Bob Quinn has expressed interest in the running back as well, though declined to say in recent weeks whether he remained on the team’s board. If the Lions don’t take a running back in the first round and Mixon’s still there when they’re back on the clock at 53rd overall, it’ll be fascinating to see what they do. Because there’s no doubt he would upgrade the running game, but Detroit would also catch serious flak for talking tough about violence against women, then drafting the year’s most notorious perpetrator of exactly that.

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Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon could be an option for the Lions in the middle rounds of next week’s draft. (AP File Photo)

Defensive back

Current starters: CB Darius Slay, CB Nevin Lawson, NB Quandre Diggs, FS Glover Quin, SS Tavon Wilson
Current reserves: Joe Hayden, Johnson Bademosi, Alex Carter, Ian Wells, Charles Washington, Rolan Milligan, Miles Killibrew, Don Carey
Best in class: Ohio State CB Marson Lattimore, Washington CB Kevin King, Ohio State CB Gareon Conley, LSU S Jamal Adams, Ohio State S Malilk Hooker
First-round possibilities for Detroit (21st overall): King, Conley, Alabama CB Marlon Humphrey, LSU CB Tre’Davious White, Michigan S Jabrill Peppers
Day 2-3 fits: Colorado CB Chidobe Awuzie, Washington CB Sidney Jones, USC CB Adoree’ Jackson, Utah CB Brian Allen, Colorado CB Ahkello Witherspoon, NC State S Josh Jones
Late-round possibilities: Houston CB Brandon Wilson, Central Florida CB Shaquill Griffin, Middle Tennessee State CB/S Jeremy Cutrer, Oklahoma State S Jordan Sterns
Breakdown: At cornerback, the Lions have better depth than many realize. Darius Slay is a rising star who is under contract for another four years, giving the defense a shutdown corner around which to build. And Nevin Lawson was good last season opposite him. Not great — especially when Slay went down with hamstring injuries, forcing Lawson to be the No. 1 guy — but good. He’s an ascending player.

But there are long-term considerations to think about as well. Lawson is entering a contract year, while Quandre Diggs languished through a sophomore slump in the slot. D.J. Hayden was signed to offer him some competition there, and he could get some run on the outside too, but even he’s on a one-year deal.

Luckily for the Lions, this draft is brimming with quality cornerback play. They could use their first-round pick on a variety of corners, like the long Kevin King (6-foot-3) out of Washington. Or there’s Gareon Conley, who’s a little smaller but even stickier in coverage (13.6 QB rating allowed when he was on the outside). Or Tre’Davious White, maybe the best ballhawk of the bunch with six interceptions and three TDs on punt returns.

Or they could wait until the middle rounds and add some length in 6-foot-3 corners like Ahkello Witherspoon, who grew an extra foot in his senior year of high school, or Brian Allen. Or if they prefer a smaller, speedier option, USC’s Adoree Jackson is one of the draft’s best all-around athletes and could be a Day 1 starter at kick/punt returner.

At safety, the Lions are in even better short-term shape. They return both starters in the always dependable Glover Quin and the quietly productive Tavon Wilson, plus expect big things from Miles Killebrew after he turned in a promising rookie season. He should be ready for an expanded load after working mostly out of subpackages as a safety-linebacker hybrid last year.

But just like at corner, there are long-term needs that must be addressed. Quin played every defensive snap for the Lions last year and has been ultra reliable since joining the franchise in 2013, but he also turned 31 this offseason and is entering a contract year. Wilson is in the final year of his deal as well. In fact, Killebrew is the only safety under contract beyond 2017.

The Lions probably won’t use their first-round pick at the position — yes, Jabrill Peppers is a possibility, but I don’t see it happening with Miles Killebrew already on the roster — but this safety class is an exceptional one, which could give them a great opportunity to address a long-term need without burning an early-round pick to do it. One name to keep an eye on is Obi Melifonwu. The UConn freak is 6-foot-4 and won every event he entered at the combine. If he’s there when Detroit’s back on the clock at 53rd overall, he’ll be awfully hard to pass on.

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