Detroit Lions drafted the guys they coveted. Now they must win with 'em

Shawn Windsor
Detroit Free Press
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The Detroit Lions want to act like the New England Patriots. That's obvious in both who’ve they’ve hired and how they operate.  

It should be obvious in how they draft, especially after Friday night.  

Thursday, too. 

In fact, if there is a common denominator among the three players the Lions selected in the first three rounds, it’s this: versatility.  

What does it mean? 

Nothing if the Lions lose 10 games again this fall. But everything if they win 10 instead.  

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Bob Quinn made it clear last week he felt free to draft the best player available heading into the first round. And maybe he did when he took Iowa tight end, T.J. Hockenson, with the No. 8 pick.  

Yet it’s not for nothing that Hockenson was the most complete tight end in the draft. He blocks. He catches. He adapts. 

He’s smart.  

Quinn said similar things of the two guys he took Friday night — linebacker Jahlani Tavai and safety Will Harris.

This isn’t surprising. It’s what he wants above all else. Well, that and physicality, which he got with Tavai and Harris.  

Did he reach on Tavai, an inside linebacker regarded by many analysts as a third-round pick at best? 


[ Lions 'totally fine' with Jahlani Tavai's character after 2018 arrest ]

Then again, so what? The folks who know the game better than anyone disagree all the time.  

What matters is that this is the player Quinn wanted, and worried he might lose to a team early in the second round. 

Besides, said Quinn, "it's a position we wanted to address."

The Lions identified Tavai as a target back in October. It didn't take long for them to realize he was their kind of linebacker.

One that was big, could rush, could set the edge, could slide into the middle and attack the line of scrimmage. 

He’s convinced Tavai is that guy. That there wasn’t anyone else in the draft quite like him.  

“He’s unique,” said Quinn. 

Thick but long, especially in the arms. Good speed relative to his size — he's 250 pounds and ran a 4.83-second 40-yard dash at his pro day. He's perfect for what Patricia aims to do. 

Now he’s got to do it. To take these players and not just develop them but plug them into the flexible and forceful unit he envisions. 

He struggled to do that last season. Whether because of tone or method of teaching or lack of a certain kind of player, his defense never resembled the kind of quick-twitch, nimble units he helped oversee in New England. 

After the first three rounds of the draft — not to mention the free agents Quinn’s already signed — Patricia should have the players. It’s his turn to adapt. 

Detroit Lions head coach Matt Patricia, first-round draft pick T.J. Hockenson and GM Bob Quinn, Friday, April 26, 2019, at the practice facility in Allen Park.

[ 10 players Lions can target on Day 3 of NFL draft ]

This is what the Patriots do better than anyone. And while it’s unrealistic to think Quinn and Patricia will replicate what they learned under Belichick, at least there is a plan. 

That was clear Thursday and Friday night.  

“We’ve got a lot of guys that do a lot of different stuff,” said Quinn.  

Guys he said he was excited to get. Guys that aren’t like everyone else. 


Now it’s time to prove it.  

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