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Lions Ink Five Rookies Including First-Round Pick Frank Ragnow

The Lions signed five draft picks as rookie minicamp opens, including first-round pick Frank Ragnow, Kevin Patra of NFL.com reports.

The No. 20 overall selection, Ragnow signed a four-year deal expected to be worth around $11.8 million total. As with all first-round selections, the deal comes with a team option for a fifth season.

The Arkansas offensive lineman became a hot name as the draft approached and was the first center selected.

Lions general manager Bob Quinn said after the draft he fielded several trade offers for the 20th pick but felt he couldn’t pass on a chance to add a rock like Ragnow to the middle of the offensive line.

“Everything we’re about is kind of what he is,” Quinn said, via MLive.com. “So at that point in time, it was a real easy pick. He was a guy we kind of had our eyes on for a while, and it kind of worked out that way.”

Two Former Lions Employees Sue the Organization, Clam Discrimination

Two former Lions employees who claim they experienced unequal treatment and disparaging comments because of their race have filed suit against the team, alleging they were fired because of racial and age discrimination, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports.

Robert Yanagi, the Lions’ long-time director of video operations, and assistant video director Michael Richardson filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court last month seeking damages in excess of $25,000 for being terminated in January “without justification.”

The Lions released a statement on Tuesday afternoon, saying, “we are aware of the report. Because the report involves ongoing litigation, it would be inappropriate for us to comment at this time.”

Yanagi, a 58-year-old man of Japanese descent, responded to requests for comment Tuesday. Richardson, a 52-year-old African-American, could not be reached for comment.

The Lions fired both Yanagi and Richardson in January, while retaining two video assistants, and replaced them in February with former Syracuse and Indianapolis Colts video director Erik Kunttu.

According to the suit, which also names the NFL as a defendant, Richardson complained to the Lions’ human resources department last December that he was subjected to “racist comments by an employee in the Detroit Lions scouting department and disparate treatment by an employee” of the team’s operations department.

In the same meeting, Richardson said that Yanagi previously asked the same employee to “stop making jokes about his race,” the filing says.

Days after Richardson’s complaint, Lions general manager Bob Quinn met with Richardson and acknowledged his complaint of race discrimination, the suit says, while also raising “concerns about Richardson’s work performance.”

Lions Deal DT Akeem Spence to the Dolphins for a 7th Round Pick in 2019

The Lions on Thursday traded defensive tackle Akeem Spence to the Dolphins for a 2019 seventh-round draft choice, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports.

Spence, 26, had a career-high three sacks for the Lions last season and started the final 11 games of the year after Haloti Ngata suffered a season-ending injury.

Spence, 6-foot-1 and 307 pounds, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

In Miami, he’ll be reunited with former Lions defensive line coach, Kris Kocurek, who accepted the same position with the Dolphins in January.

Lions Earn an ‘B-‘ for Their Draft According to ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr.

The draft grades from ‘Draft Guru’ Mel Kiper Jr. are out, and one team that got a good grade is that of the Lions, who according to Kiper got an ‘B-‘ for their collection of players over the two days.

Here’s what he had to say:

Matt Patricia’s first draft as coach of the Lions could be defined by whether they finally find a consistent running game. The O-line and running back focus were clear. Detroit moved up eight spots to No. 43 (and surrendered pick 117) to take Kerryon Johnson, who had 20 total touchdowns last season. Johnson was my ninth-ranked back, and I had higher players on my board, plus the injury concerns at Auburn give me pause. There’s no doubt that he’s talented, but is he going to be a three-down back? Can he be relied upon in pass protection? Detroit finished last in rushing yards and yards per rush last season, so it’s impossible to get worse. If Johnson can make an instant impact as a rookie — and maybe break the streak of 68 straight games without a 100-yard rusher — that deal might be worth it.

Detroit helped the running game with center Frank Ragnow in Round 1 (20), and got a potential steal at 153 in offensive tackle Tyrell Crosby, who played left tackle at Oregon and had a foot injury in 2016. And fullback Nick Bawden late in the seventh round is going to help there, too. The best true blocking fullback in this draft should make that team. Safety Tracy Walker (82) went higher than I thought he’d go, but the four-year starter impressed teams at the combine. Da’Shawn Hand (114) is a Patriots-type pick — he has all the traits in the world to be a great player, and he could play defensive tackle or defensive end. The Lions gave — who else? — the Patriots a 2019 third-round pick to trade up to get him.

The NFC North is a tough division, and a running game really matters. If Detroit found its workhorse — and players to help him — this could be a good class. But that’s no certainty.

Round/Pick Name Pos College
1/20 Frank Ragnow C ARKANSAS
2/43 Kerryon Johnson RB AUBURN
3/82 Tracy Walker S LOUISIANA
4/114 Da’Shawn Hand DE ALABAMA
5/153 Tyrell Crosby OT OREGON
7/237 Nick Bawden FB SAN DIEGO STATE

Lions DE Ziggy Ansah Expected to Ink Franchise Tender and Report for Workouts

The Lions were hopeful that Ziggy Ansah would take part in a portion of voluntary workouts this offseason so first-year coach Matt Patricia could get to know his star pass rusher.

It appears, they’ll get their wish, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports.

NFL Network reported Monday that Ansah will sign his franchise tender and report for workouts on Tuesday when he returns from his trip to Ghana.

Ansah spent more than a month in his homeland this offseason, visiting family and making media appearances.

He led the Lions with 12 sacks last season, and general manager Bob Quinn said last week it was a no-brainer for the team to use the franchise tag on Ansah before the start of free agency.

“That’s something when we were going through the process, Matt got on board and Ziggy was the No. 1 conversation,” Quinn said. “What are we going to do with Ziggy? I had my thoughts. It didn’t take long for me to show Matt why we should do what we did. To have an outside edge rusher that can be as dominant as Ziggy was something that was really appealing to Matt because Matt has had a lot of great players in New England and I think Ziggy would rank right up there with some of the best players that Matt has ever coached.”

Lions Announce 2018 Preseason Opponents

The Lions announced today the team’s 2018 NFL Preseason opponents, which includes a nationally-televised game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Friday, August 24 (Week 3, CBS). The Lions open with a road contest against the Oakland Raiders in Week 1 before hosting the New York Giants in Week 2 and Cleveland Browns in Week 4 at Ford Field.

Additional dates and times for Lions preseason games will be announced at a later time.

Preseason Week 1 at Oakland Raiders (August 9-12)

In the 2018 NFL Preseason opener, the Lions head to Oakland to face the Raiders in the teams’ third preseason clash since 2012. The Lions and Raiders have met only seven times in the preseason, with Oakland winning the most recent matchup 27-26 in 2014. The Raiders hold the edge in the all-time preseason series with record of 6-1-0.

Preseason Week 2 vs. New York Giants (August 16-19)

In Preseason Week 2, Detroit welcomes the New York Giants to Ford Field for the first time in the preseason since 2008. The teams have faced off against each other 15 previous times in the preseason, with the Lions holding a 10-4-1 record against the Giants. Detroit won 13-10 in the most recent meeting in 2008.

Preseason Week 3 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (August 24, 8:00 p.m. EST)

The Lions conclude their preseason road schedule in Week 3 when the team travels to Tampa Bay to face the Buccaneers. The contest, which will be broadcast nationally on CBS, will mark the first time the two clubs have ever met during the preseason.

Preseason Week 4 vs. Cleveland Browns (August 30-31)

Detroit closes out the 2018 NFL Preseason at home against the Cleveland Browns, marking the first preseason meeting between the two teams since 2014. The Lions and Browns have squared off in the preseason more than any other Lions opponent with 46 meetings to date. Detroit leads the preseason series with a record of 25-20-1.

Lions WR Restricted FA TJ Jones Inks His Tender to Return to the Team

TJ Jones has signed his free-agent tender and will be back for a fifth season in Detroit, Kyle Meinke of Mlive reports.

Jones, a restricted free-agent, had been offered an original-round tender. He’ll make $1.7 million in 2018, a well-earned pay bump for the former sixth-round pick.

After not playing as a rookie in 2014 because of nerve issues in his arm, then catching just 15 passes the next two seasons combined, he enjoyed something of a breakout in 2017. He served as the top wideout off the bench, earned six starts while Kenny Golladay dealt with an injury and finished with 30 catches for 399 yards and one touchdown.

Jones did miss the final two games of the season with a shoulder injury, though, and underwent offseason surgery. He’s not expected to participate in the conditioning program while he focuses on his rehab, and it remains unclear when he’ll be able to return to the field.

Lions Gab 2018 NFL Draft Scouting Report: USC QB Sam Darnold

The hype for USC quarterback Sam Darnold has b3en growing by leaps and bounds the last few weeks, to the point where many feel he’s going to be the first overall pick in the NFL Draft in April.

At 6-4, 220 pounds, he’s got the look of a player who with some time learning could be a very good to excellent quarterback in the NFL, but time will tell when he might get that chance.

In his final season at USC, Darnold threw for 4143 yards, with 26 touchdowns to go along with 13 picks. This after throwing 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions the season before.

Here’s a look at Darnold and what various places are saying about him in our latest scouting report.

Walter Football

Strengths:
Naturally accurate passer
Fits passes into tight windows
Excellnt ball placement
Throws a catchable ball
Pocket presence
Has poise
Advanced anticipation; instinctive thrower
Throws with good timing
Can accelerate his throwing motion
Quality arm strength
Pushed team to wins
Good internal clock
Mobility
Throws very well on the run
Throws accurately off platform
Displays some feel in the pocket
Not easy to sack
Can hurt defenses on the ground
Can make all the throws required
Can pick up yards on the ground
Threads passes into tight windows

Weaknesses:
Ball security
Too many interceptions
Too many fumbles
Had some confidence issues in 2017
Doesn’t secure the ball well when getting sacked
Good enough not doesn’t have elite arm strength
Throwing mechanics are a bit unorthodox
Needs to start games faster

Summary: Darnold took college football by storm during the 2016 season, and even though he wasn’t eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft, the redshirt freshman had scouts buzzing about his pro potential. After a 1-2 start to the 2016 season for USC, Darnold was made the starting quarterback. For his debut season, he was an extremely efficient passer who led the Trojans to a 10-3 record. Darnold lost his first-ever start against a good Utah team, but after that he led his team to ripping off a nine-game win streak to close out the year, including impressive wins over Colorado, Washington, and a comeback Rose Bowl win over Penn State. Darnold completed 67 percent of his passes in 2016 for 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

The 2017 season was more of a mixed bag for Darnold. The redshirt sophomore completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,143 yards with 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He had an up-and-down season with too many turnovers – fumbles were a particular issue beyond the interceptions. Darnold also made some beautiful anticipatory throws with excellent accuracy in just about every game.

There is a lot to like about Darnold as a future starter in the NFL. First and foremost, he is an accurate pocket passer who throws with good ball placement and is very precise in the short to intermediate part of the field. Darnold has excellent anticipation to know when and where receivers are going open. With his feel and timing, Darnold hits receivers on the run, leading them to picking up yards after the catch. He also regularly will throw receivers open and help them to find space to beat tight coverage. Darnold is a natural rhythm thrower who would fit best in a West Coast system to maximize his ability to throw accurately in the short to intermediate part of the field. He is a smooth precision passer who can be deadly when he gets into a good groove.

Darnold is comfortable in the pocket, but also has the ability to move around to buy time. While he is not a running quarterback, he is functional to avoid sacks and will move around to help his offensive line and receivers. Darnold made a number of really nice plays during the past two years when things went off script as he got creative to move the ball for his offense. Routinely, Darnold would buy time with his feet and then make an accurate throw downfield with the rush closing in on him.

The Drafster

In my eyes, Sam Darnold is a very odd prospect. Talked about as a number 1 overall draft pick. Talked about as the best Quarterback coming out of college this year. However, I am not seeing any of this. When I watch Darnold, I see one of the most streaky Quarterback play I think I have seen in awhile. At time looks very hesitant to throw, missing an opportunity. Other times he looks too eager and makes a bad decision. He has his good moments, but then a play later he will have a combination of bad plays. Moving in the pocket too early and too often, inconsistent accuracy, and staring down a play for too long are major turn offs to me.

The first thing I notice about Darnold when watching him is that he seems to ignore his dump off routes. He seems so locked in on making a big play, he forgets about the guys that are 5 yards away from him. I can respect wanting to make a big play for the team, but after staring downfield for eternity it’s time to hit your shallow routes. At least LOOK at them to see if they are open. There is no shame in taking an easy three to five yards. Not every throw has to get the crowd on their feet.

The second thing I notice is how much he likes to move around in the pocket. And that is just not his style. I get running to avoid a sack, but too many times I saw him run with a clean pocket. Multiple times he would take off to the outskirts of the pocket, making it easier for defenders to get off their block. He seems to just panic unless he has the cleanest pocket one could possibly have. If he would stand tall in the pocket and deliver, his accuracy issues would go down as well. His deep balls are inconsistent, and the times he does go to dump it off, those are not always pretty either. His best throws come from his 10-15 yarders. Which always happen to be when he stands his ground.

I will say though, 4th quarter Sam Darnold seems to be a better player than in other quarters. He reads the field better, has better ball placement, and doesn’t try to run around as much. It just seems something clicks a bit better for him during the 4th. Like he has calmed down. He just needs to be able to play similar to that all game if he is gonna be the number 1 overall pick this upcoming draft.

I think Darnold has a lot to work on. Personally there are 4 other Quarterbacks I would take before drafting him. He does good things, unfortunately, his good things just are not consistent enough and are overshadowed by his flaws. I believe if he can work on sitting in the pocket longer instead of trying to escape right away (while not holding the ball for too long), a lot of his issues will start fading. I think Darnold will have a real rough start to his career, but if keeps his confidence and keeps fixing his game, it will work out for him in the long run.

Cover 1 Scouting Report

Strengths:

Darnold’s entire game is predicated upon his ability to create. Darnold is an athletic player; he is able to pull the ball down and gain chunks of yardage with his legs. His agility and change of direction catch many defenders off guard.

That is why offensive coordinator Tee Martin built an offense that maximized his legs. USC ran a heavy dose of run pass options (RPOs), a concept that gave Darnold many options pre- and post-snap, and he absolutely flourished. On a majority of their plays, Darnold had the ability to give the ball to star running back Ronald Jones, keep it as a runner, or throw it to one of his many weapons outside. This multi-dimensional structure of a play was obviously super productive. His decision making was very good all season, especially on these RPOs. He can process the coverage, find the conflict defender, and distribute the ball quickly.

But what is often overlooked is the accuracy and velocity needed on these kinds of concepts. At times, after the mesh with the running back or play fake, the passing lane is cluttered with defenders coming downhill to defend what they perceive to be a run. Once they realize that it is a pass, they immediately try to get their hands up in the passing lanes. Darnold makes these throws look easy. Standing at 6’4? and 220 pounds, he is able to place the ball in optimal locations, allowing his weapons to make plays.

At the next level, Darnold is going to make his money in the short area. While his elongated release and sloppy footwork will cause issues at times, something I will cover later, it isn’t an issue from 0-9 yards. That bodes well for Sam, because that is where football is won and lost on Sundays. His mechanics aren’t an issue because he is throwing in rhythm and not having to worry about mechanics.

According to SportsInfo Solutions (SIS), Darnold’s short game is phenomenal. From 0-9 yards, he had the highest completion percentage (75.4%), the 4th-most passing yards (1,534), 12th-most touchdowns (10), the 3rd-highest yards per attempt (7.6), and the 5th-highest rating (107.2).

Weaknesses:

As productive as Darnold was over his 27 games at USC, he has some serious flaws that need to be addressed, the first of which is turnovers. Darnold threw 22 interceptions over two years and added another 20 fumbles. This lack of ball security will get you benched quickly.

While the offense surrendered an average of 2.14 sacks a game and a grand total of 30 sacks in 2017, he admitted that he was pushing it too much.

Many of his turnovers are linked to his mechanics. Darnold has some of the worst mechanics I have ever seen from a quarterback. Let’s start with his delivery. Typically, a quarterback with an elongated delivery like Darnold’s will struggle at the next level. From the time he begins his delivery to the time of release is often the difference between a tight window completion and an interception. Defensive backs are just too good on Sundays. If he is slightly late anticipating a throw and needs to drive a pass, the split second longer that it takes to release the ball due to his delivery could lead to an interception, much like it did versus Washington State. The safety bails post-snap, baiting Darnold to throw the speed out as he gets the 1-on-1 coverage. The defensive back reads the route, breaks, and picks him off.

What Matt Miller says about Darnold – Ranking him as the #1 QB on the board

1. Sam Darnold, USC

A two-year starter at USC, Sam Darnold is widely praised for his toughness, football IQ and leadership. A coach with the Trojans told me Darnold only cares about football and not the benefits of being a star quarterback. He did turn the ball over 22 times in 2017, which should at a minimum send scouts back to the tape to find the context of each turnover. But Darnold’s tangible and intangible traits are tops in the class.

Scout’s Quote: “Crystal clean off the field. Smart, poised, tough, accurate. He might be the only one that could work in Cleveland because he won’t let the pressure go to his head.”

Coach’s Quote: “The release and turnovers bother me, but he has the makeup to be good. He’s better than [Mitch] Trubisky was last year but he’s not on the level of [Carson] Wentz or Jared [Goff].”

Scout’s Comparison: Tony Romo, retired

Darnold impressed at his Pro Day, throwing in the rain back on March 21st