Quinn Explains Thinking Behind Lions' Puzzling Third-Round Pick

Most pundits agreed Walker was a fifth- or sixth-round selection.

Will Burchfield
April 28, 2018 - 1:37 am
Feb 24, 2016; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn speaks to the media during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

© Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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If Frank Ragnow was surprised to hear from the Lions on Thursday night because he hadn't spoken with them since the combine, Tracey Walker was taken aback on Friday night because, well, it was the third round. Never did he think he'd be drafted so high. 

"I expected to be fifth round, to be honest with you," Walker told local reporters after the Lions selected him at No. 81 overall. "I’m definitely blessed. I'm the type of person (who's) very conservative, I expect the worst."

Most pundits agreed Walker, a safety from Louisiana-Lafayette, was a fifth- or sixth-round pick. The Lions clearly thought otherwise. In fact, judging by the vigor with which Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia high-fived when they submitted the pick -- their reaction was caught on TV -- they felt Walker was a steal. 

"We were excited about the pick because there were a few teams in front of us that we were a little nervous about," Quinn said. "Not to name names, but we do all our research and we know who visited with which teams, and there were two teams in the 10 or 12 picks (before) us that had visited with him." 

It was enough to make Quinn wonder if the Lions were going to lose out on a potential diamond in the rough. But Walker fell to No. 81, and Detroit was there to scoop him up. 

The Lions, to no surprise, love Walker for his versatility. Quinn listed off just about every asset possible -- ball skills, toughness, tackling, etc. -- when appraising his strengths. In Patricia's defensive scheme that relies heavily on subpackages, Walker, who's best described as a safety-cornerback hybrid, could be an impact player in year one. 

Quinn suggested drafting Walker wasn't so much a move for the future -- the Lions have three safeties headed for free agency within the next two years -- as it was for right now. 

"Listen, everything we do to add to the team we're doing it for a reason, whether it’s to add competition to the position group, to draft a starter, to draft whatever, but it all comes into the equation. Tracey's a versatile guy that can play in the deep part of the field, he can come down and cover man-to-man, so he’s got a lot of things going for him, on top of special teams," Quinn said. 

Walker notched six passes defended, two interceptions and 97 tackles in 12 games in his senior season at Louisiana-Lafayette. Quinn said he performed especially well against Louisiana's top competition, especially Texas A&M, but Walker didn't receive much recognition around the league. His third-team All-Sun Belt selection is hardly a distinction worth nothing for a third-round pick in the NFL Draft. Quinn bristled at this notion and said, "Who votes for that?"

Well, the conference's 12 head coaches and select media members. Walker, for his part, doesn't pay those opinions any mind. Not anymore. 

"The way the Sun Belt voted me, that doesn’t determine how great of a player I am," he said. "The NFL coaches saw something, the Detroit Lions saw something in me that those coaches didn’t see." 

Walker, who's second-cousins with Darius Slay, fully believes his cover skills are up to NFL standards. 

"Oh, of course. I feel like I can compete with the best of them, that’s without a doubt," Walker said with Slay's characteristic self-confidence. "If I wasn’t able to compete and cover guys, I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in, so I definitely feel like I have the talent and the capabilities to be a great NFL star." 

Whether he fulfills that aspiration will go a long way in determining if the Lions' gamble was worth it.