Deshon Elliott thought he would go much higher than he did in the 2018 NFL draft.
A Thorpe Award finalist who ranked among the nation’s leaders in interceptions during his junior season at Texas, Elliott left school early believing he was a mid-round pick. When those rounds came and went without him being selected, the new Detroit Lions safety cut his TV off and started playing the video game “Call of Duty.”
“My draft-day story was actually very upsetting,” Elliott said Thursday. “When I got the call I wasn’t even watching the draft anymore. I was just like, ‘I don’t even care, it’s ball. Wherever I go, I’m going to play regardless. ‘ But yeah, at this point it is what it is. That’s the past. You just got to start over. ”
A starter when healthy the past two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, Elliott said his draft-day experience can be a lesson for young players waiting to hear their name called next week.
“I know there was (16 safeties) called before me,” he said. “Now, it doesn’t matter, but at the end of the day I still am about it just cause I want to prove like, ‘All right, man, I’m one of the top ones out of that defensive back class. ‘ But I feel like the first couple of years it goes from it fueling (you) with anger to it fueling (you) with figuring out a way to make that a positive situation, and I think I turned it into a positive. ”
Elliott is expected to play a significant role in the Lions secondary this fall. He and Will Harris should compete for playing time at the starting safety spot opposite Tracy Walker, though Harris also could see time at cornerback.
Elliott exceeded expectations in Baltimore as a sixth-round pick, but struggled to stay on the field.
He missed his rookie season with a broken arm and played just six games as a backup in 2019 because of a knee injury. After a productive 2020 season in which he started all 16 games, Elliott missed 11 games last year with a torn pectoral muscle.
Just 25 years old, he said coming to Detroit is a fresh start and a chance to prove himself once again.
“You can’t predict injuries,” Elliott said. “It sucks, and you have to realize like, the best ability is availability. So I already got that injury bug out of the way and hopefully with this fresh start, new beginning, I can work that out cause when I’m on the field I’m very productive and hopefully I can bring that to Detroit and compete for a starting role and just be able to make this defense better, make this team better and bring in the culture that I learned from all the vets when I was in Baltimore. ”
Elliott played three seasons under new Lions safeties coach Brian Duker, then a Ravens defensive assistant and analyst.
He said his experience playing against the Lions last fall – the Ravens beat the Lions on Justin Tucker’s NFL-record 66-yard field goal as time expired in what Elliott called “a slobberknocker” of a game – and advice he heard from ex-Lions safety and fellow Texas alum Quandre Diggs helped convince him to come to Detroit
“The way they play here just kind of gives you the character of the city,” Elliott said. “Gritty, hard-nosed, hard-working people, and that reminds me a lot of Baltimore so that was another reason why I came here, cause I wanted to go somewhere where I feel like it matched my game. I’ve heard people being saying like, Coach said bite kneecaps off people, I feel like that kind of matches a little how I play. “