Detroit Lions 2014 redraft: Fortune teller and just better editions

(Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images) /
3 of 3
LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 26: Larry Webster #79 of the Detroit Lions looks on during the NFL match between Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons at Wembley Stadium on October 26, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – OCTOBER 26: Larry Webster #79 of the Detroit Lions looks on during the NFL match between Detroit Lions and Atlanta Falcons at Wembley Stadium on October 26, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images) /

Round Four: Nevin Lawson and Larry Webster

Lawson has been a solid selection. Getting a player who is not the team’s biggest problem in the starting line-up in the fourth round is a good pick. There will be no second-guessing from me on that pick. Larry Webster, however, made no impact of any kind in the NFL. There were certainly better options.

Telvin Smith would have been the right choice here, all things considered. 2014 was DeAndre Levy‘s final productive season. He would play only six more games in the NFL over two seasons. Smith has been a solid outside linebacker for the Jaguars, registering more than 100 tackles each year he has been in the league. Tackles often mean that a linebacker has done poorly in coverage, but as Smith’s career has progressed he has become a very good coverage linebacker. His open field tackling would have filled the gap left by Levy’s absence. Of course, there was no way to know what was coming.

At the time I was screaming at the television for A.J. McCarron. The Lions backup quarterbacks were Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore. A legitimate backup quarterback would have been a very good decision. The Lions have always been one injury away from a top-five draft pick. McCarron would have changed that.

Round Five: Caraun Reid

Caraun Reid has had about the career that one can expect from a fifth-round pick. Reid has never been a starter in the NFL, but he has been good enough depth to find a job. He played his only significant role for the team in 2015, in the wake of losing both Suh and Fairley. The Lions fifth-round pick in the 2014 draft moved on from the team in 2016. He spent a year with the Chargers, and he has a contract for 2018 with the Indianapolis Colts. Reid is a litmus test for a team’s roster. If he can make your team, you have a bad defensive tackle group.

Zach Fulton is a solid starting interior offensive lineman in the NFL. He would have been the best choice for the Lions with this pick. He started his career with the Kansas City Chiefs and recently signed with the Houston Texans for $7.5 million per season. Fulton is a versatile and skilled player that would have solved a lot of the Lions problems in the interim.

It is a bot of a cop out, but A.J. McCarron was still on the board when the Lions drafted Caraun Reid. A round later, he was still the best option on the board in my opinion.

Round six: T.J. Jones

T.J. Jones had to sit out his entire rookie season with pre-existing nerve damage. It is difficult to call a player that wasn’t ready to compete for two seasons a good pick. With that said, Jones did well enough in his fourth year as a Lion to earn a restricted free agent tender. Under 30% of sixth-round picks manage that.

Allen Hurns has been a productive receiver from the moment he entered the NFL. How different might the career of Calvin Johnson have been with another big-bodied receiver to take some of the punishment? Alas, we will never know, because Martin Mayhew did not see enough value in Hurns to spend a draft pick on the player who has never had a season as unproductive as T.J. Jones best.

We are getting into some difficult territory for looking at what would have been a reasonable choice at the time. Fewer than 30% of sixth-round picks make it to the fourth season with their original team. Shamar Stephen has had a solid if unspectacular career in Minnesota. The Lions had just hired a defensive coordinator coming from a 3-4 scheme in Baltimore. The team did not have the personnel to run that kind of defense but was clearly in transition toward it based on their draft picks, at least Martin Mayhew was. That transition never materialized after Mayhew lost his job. Stephen would have been a reasonable choice, as he was regarded as a moldable prospect.

Round seven: Nate Freese

I can’t even discuss Nate Freese without getting angry. The 2014 Detroit Lions should have had a bye or a home playoff game at the very least. Freese cost them at least one game, if not two before leaving town. I hope the door hit him on the way out.

Christian Jones went undrafted in 2014. I am not just saying this because he is a Detroit Lion now, but he would have been the best pick. Jones came into the league as a decent depth linebacker and the Lions could have used one every year after his rookie season. Revisionist history would have had Jones step into a nickel linebacker role in 2015 and never relinquish it.

The Lions needed a kicker. Cairo Santos, Chandler Cantazaro, and Chris Boswell were all available. All of those are players that are still in the NFL. Nate Freese did not even make it out of his rookie season. Boswell, on the other hand, has a, 89.5% career field goal rate playing in Pittsburgh. He clearly would have been a better choice. Boswell could have been grabbed either in the draft, as an undrafted free agent. He was also cut as a rookie but the Texans and could have been Freese’s replacement in season. Luckily the Lions eventually found Matt Prater.

How would that have looked?

Each of these picks was done in a vacuum. It was not really meant to be a re-mock draft in context. Here are two lists, anyway. One is the “what could have been if Mayhew was a fortune teller” the other “what Mayhew could have done if he wasn’t terrible at his job.”

Psychic Mayhew would have drafted Aaron Donald, Devonta Freeman, Trai Turner, Nevin Lawson, Telvin Smith, Zach Fulton, Allen Hurns, and Christian Jones. Reasonable GM Mayhew could have selected Taylor Lewan, Tim Jernigan, John Brown, Aj. McCarron, Nevin Lawson, A.J. McCarron again (or Devon Kennard who has been a better player than Kyle Van Noy, the Lions second round pick for a similar role), Shamar Stephen, and Chris Boswell.

Next: Lions roster predictions: Quarterbacks

The 2014 draft marked a turning point for the Mayhew era Lions. This is where the wheels fell off. Bob Quinn came to deliver us from mediocrity two seasons later. The seeds for the revolutionary teardown of the Lions front office were sewn with this terrible draft.