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National NFL experts grade the Detroit Lions' draft class

Here’s what they’re saying nationally about the Detroit Lions draft class. Of course, it’s way too soon to tell for sure but these are early observations. Others have rated winners and losers in the draft and the Lions don’t seem to fit either category.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper: "The pivot point for how we see this draft in three years will be (Ezekiel) Ansah. If he's great, then it looks good. If he's not, and Dee Milliner thrives with the Jets, fans will wonder."  Grade: B.

Rob Rang, The Sports Xchange/ Jim Schwartz and his staff coached Ziggy Ansah at the Senior Bowl and, as such, know him as well as anyone. The BYU product has a terrific upside, especially considering he'll have the defensive tackles in Detroit to complement him. I liked Detroit's second day, as well. While not flashy, highly athletic cover corner Darius Slay and earth-mover Larry Warford could compete for starting roles immediately. I wasn't as high on the Lions' third-day selections, however. Devin Taylor has the length and motor to earn a role but lacks flexibility. Similarly, wide receiver Corey Fuller (vertical threat) and tight end Michael Williams (blocker) were viewed as one-trick ponies who might have to find niche roles as specialists. Grade: C-plus

Evan Silva, Left tackle seemed to be GM Martin Mayhew's biggest need entering the draft, but his selections indicate he feels otherwise. Mayhew must have a lot of faith in 2012 first-rounder Riley Reiff. He bypassed Menelik Watson for Slay. Rather than Terron Armstead, Mayhew selected Warford to add a mauling presence at right guard. I still found this to be a value-heavy draft. Ansah, Slay, and Warford are Week 1 starters. Taylor, Fuller, Williams, and even versatile Riddick could make year-one impacts. Ansah has been knocked as a possible bust by some observers, but the Lions' coaching staff has special insight after coaching him in Mobile. I thought Mayhew stayed true to his board and -- aside from perhaps the punter -- drafted the best available at each pick. Grade: B-minus Hits: The Lions hit on every one of the needs we identified, and they made a particular point of addressing defensive end, taking Ansah in the first round and Devin Taylor in the fourth. After losing both of last year’s starters, Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, that was a high priority.
Misses: Although they drafted one offensive lineman, a third-round guard, tackle remains a need for the Lions: They lost last year’s starting left tackle, Jeff Backus, to retirement and lost last year’s starting right tackle, Gosder Cherilus, to the Colts in free agency. It was a surprise that the Lions didn’t draft an offensive tackle, and it appears that they’ll rely on some combination of Riley Reiff, Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox to give them their two starters. Matthew Stafford can’t feel great about that. (No grades given.)


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