Football / Sports

Lions shift focus to defensive help

DETROIT -- It took a couple of days, but the Lions finally turned their full attention to fortifying the defense on the last day of the NFL draft.

The Lions used their first three picks Saturday on defensive players. With their first two picks in the fourth round, they drafted Utah State cornerback Nevin Lawson and Bloomsburg defensive end Larry Webster. In the fifth round, they picked Princeton defensive tackle Caraun Reid.

None of these players is expected to be a starter, immediately or even eventually. These picks were more about depth and, with some luck, getting meaningful contributions around the field on special teams or through rotational play.

The Lions never landed a standout defensive player like Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert or Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald. They did draft BYU outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the second round. But their most concerted effort on defense came with their final picks, perhaps trying to find a raw but promising project like they did with Willie Young and Devin Taylor.

The biggest knock on Lawson is his smallest attribute: his size. At 5-feet-9 and 190 pounds, he is small even for a speedy cornerback. He might contribute faster than any other day-three selection for the Lions, with touted versatility to play inside or outside and in any scheme.

But Reid might have the biggest chance at being that diamond-in-the-rough player for the Lions, maybe like Sammie Hill was when the Lions selected him in 2009 from tiny Stillman College.

Reid is academically gifted. His father is a school principal, his mother is a clinical hematologist, and that could help him smooth out the learning curve while he studies under Ndamukong Suh and the vaunted defensive line.

"Oh, man, they're great," Reid said of the defensive line. "I actually watched some of them, their film this off-season, just watching them go to work. I know Ndamukong is always great and is just a great physical player. I've always admired his play, as well as (Nick Fairley's).

"So, yeah, it's an unbelievable opportunity to be able to play with them and learn from them and be a part of that unit."

The Lions traded down with Dallas, moving down 12 spots in the fifth round and picking up a seventh-rounder, which they used on Boston College kicker Nate Freese. That filled one of the team's biggest areas of need. Freese converted all 20 of his field-goal attempts and was 6-for-6 on attempts from at least 40 yards last season with the Eagles.

The Lions also added some depth in the receiving game by drafting Notre Dame receiver T.J. Jones in the sixth round. Jones is considered a good route runner with good hands who could help out in the slot and as a dependable third-down option for Matthew Stafford.

Jones has strong pro football bloodlines. His late father, Andre Jones, played linebacker briefly for the Lions, his uncle was Chicago Bears defensive end Philip Daniels and his godfather is Notre Dame great Raghib (Rocket) Ismail.

"Football's really in my blood," Jones said. "From the time I was born, my father played with the Lions, so I was a couple months old out on the practice field at the Lions practice with my mother. My godfather, Rocket, who has been through the process, my uncle, Philip Daniels. They've showed me and allowed me to go through the process with knowledge that I would have had to figure out on my own if I didn't have them to lean on."

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