4th Round: Derrick Barnes, LB, Purdue
With the very next pick in the draft, the Detroit Lions traded up to select LB Derrick Barnes out of Purdue. At Purdue, Barnes started off as a pass-rushing, outside linebacker but moved to an off-ball role his senior season.
Barnes is a great athlete with tremendous speed who can fly from sideline to sideline: something the Lions have sorely lacked. Barnes is still a little raw in getting off blocks and in coverage, but he has definitely shown flashes in zone coverage.
Barnes should mostly play inside linebacker, competing with Alex Anzalone but could also provide depth at outside linebacker. Both Anzalone and Barnes bring different things to the table, and both could have roles in the upcoming season.
Barnes excels in run defense, specifically shooting gaps to make plays in the backfield. Meanwhile, Anzalone is a great coverage backer who can play in both zone and man. Barnes could play on early downs to play against the run and occasionally rush the passer, and Anzalone can play in passing downs where he excels.
7th Round: Jermar Jefferson, RB, Oregon State
With their final pick, the Lions took Jermar Jefferson out of Oregon State. Jefferson is a subpar athlete, which definitely was a big reason for his drop to the 7th round despite a stellar college career. Jefferson has great vision and does a good job of taking what the defense gives him, but he isn’t going to break a ton of tackles or make a bunch of guys miss. He is a capable receiver with good hands with 43 receptions and only one drop in college out of the backfield.
Jermar Jefferson will compete with Kerryon Johnson and UDFA Rakeem Boyd for the 3rd and 4th running back spots. Jefferson might be the best runner of that group with his vision and acceleration to hit the hole.
Jefferson will need to make sure he is a good pass protector as that is highly valued by the coaching staff, and it is an area in which Kerryon Johnson excels. Even if Jefferson does not beat out Kerryon Johnson, he could still make the roster as the fourth running back as a special team contributor and change of pace back.
It appears that Brad Holmes had a very successful first draft with the Detroit Lions. Every player drafted appears to have a definite chance to contribute in year one. The Lions probably won’t be competitive next year, but this rookie class should give Lions fans some optimism as the rebuild starts in the Dan Campbell and Brad Holmes era.