To say that this year has taken a strange turn would be the complete understatement of the century. We have already surpassed 30 days without sports and my watch list is dwindling. Fortunately, the NFL is pushing ahead with the NFL Draft (whether you think that is good or bad is another topic for discussion) and will give sports fans a much needed distraction. I’m going to go on record and say that this will be the most watched NFL Draft ever. It’ll be a production that is tremendously different than what we have grown used to seeing, but something is most certainly better than nothing. Frankly, having a broadcast that has less glitz and glamor and more football content might be better.
As for what the Lions will do in the draft, I have a few ideas and hopes. And if you want the Lions to dump Matthew Stafford and take a massive dead cap hit to draft Tua Tagovailoa, please stop reading. If a QB is hurt that much in college, it’s hard to believe he will stay healthy in the pros. He’s only four months removed from the injury/surgery so no one knows if there will be any long term implications or residual problems yet. The doctors can tell you that he will be fine and he is on track, but it will likely be August before he’s close to a clean bill of health. Not to mention that Stafford is wildly underrated as a quarterback and the dead cap hit would cripple the team. This is a team and an organization that needs to win now, and moving on to a rookie QB is not the way to do that.
That being said, if the Lions miss the playoffs and Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia get fired…then moving on from Stafford can be brought up. His dead cap hit is much lower next year and Trevor Lawrence would be coming out. That is a topic I will entertain if this year is a complete disaster…Tua, I will not.
So what do I want the Lions to do?
Well, first and foremost, I would love for Chase Young to somehow fall into their laps. I think that is tremendously unlikely, but there’s always hope. Next, I would like them to trade down. I do not care how far down they go, but anything to acquire some more picks for more talent would be great. And if those first two options are not available, they should draft Jeff Okudah. I would have preferred the Lions hang on to Darius Slay, but since they traded him and added Desmond Trufant, they still have a hole at cornerback that needs to be addressed. Trufant is a good stop-gap, but they need a guy of the future, a true franchise corner to build off of. Amani Oruwariye could develop into a key contributor in the future, but you should not pass up the opportunity to snag a franchise corner.
Alright, so that concludes the brief version…if you want, scroll down to the seven round mock and move on with your day. If you want to go more in-depth, then let’s ride.
This past season for the Lions was a complete unmitigated disaster. Once Matthew Stafford went down, the team folded like a cheap suit and became a total doormat. I think towards the end they started to tank…you cannot tell me that David Blough was the best possible QB option, or even Jeff Driskel for that matter. At any rate, they got extremely close to getting the 2nd overall pick and snagging Chase Young, which would have been a fantastic prize for such a bad season.
The Lions have had a lot of turnover this offseason and they still have holes all over the place. They need a guard, a defensive end and a 2nd corner…and that’s just in terms of starters. They need a young wide receiver to potentially replace Marvin Jones, another running back and they desperately need to add depth to the interior of the defensive line. They signed Danny Shelton and Nick Williams, but these are merely stopgaps. They need a defensive tackle of the future and they still need to add depth, badly.
So, taking a look at this, it’s abundantly clear that RG is an issue. Perhaps Beau Benzschawel could turn into a starter for them, or Josh Garnett, but I’m not sure either will step up to the plate. They paid a big UDFA price for Benzschawel so they obviously saw something in him. They could kick Tyrell Crosby inside but I think they like having him as their backup swing tackle. I do not particularly care for Oday Aboushi or Kenny Wiggins and it would be my preference for them to draft a guard in the 3rd or 4th round to come in and start over them. For the right tackle spot, they decided to cut Rick Wagner and signed Vatai to a big contract to fill Wagner’s spot. Now, Vatai’s contract looks crazy because it was a 5-year $50 Million deal but there is an out after the 2nd year of the deal. Personally, I would rather have kept Graham Glasgow to play right guard and addressed tackle in the draft because of his versatility, but it was clear all year that the Lions were not going to pay market value for Glasgow.
After Kerryon Johnson, the runningbacks face a drop off and I hope they add depth at some point, but it would not shock me if they did not make it a priority. They seemed to like Bo Scarbrough and they drafted Ty Johnson last year. Quinn and Co may decide to let the draft play out and if someone falls into their lap then maybe they will pull the trigger. It would not shock me to see them skip addressing running back and then sign a veteran like Devonta Freeman. It may cost them more money, but then they can address other needs with their draft capital.
Wide receiver is a spot that absolutely must be addressed during the draft. After Kenny Golladay, there is no one worth a damn signed to a contract past this season and they desperately need to add some talent, even if they decide to extend Marvin Jones, which seems to be far from a guarantee. Michael Pittman Jr is a personal favorite of mine and I am hoping they snag someone between the 2nd and 4th rounds. There is enough depth that they could get a real player in that range to form a nice young tandem with Golladay.
The good news for the Lions offense is that other than the right side of the offensive line, the whole offense returns. The offense looked good while Stafford was healthy and so long as he stays healthy, the offense could return to form and put points on the board. If Stafford gets hurt, then my personal hero Chase Daniel is handed the reigns to the offense and God only knows what will happen then. That man has made more money off of nothing than anyone ever and I hope he continues to do the same next year.
Now, looking at the defense you see that this is where most of the turnover has happened. Ever since trading Quandre Diggs, it has almost been a revolving door. Mike Daniels, Snacks Harrison, Darius Slay, Devon Kennard, and A’Shawn Robinson are all gone. It’s going to be a very different looking defense and after their performances for most of last year, it should be. Paul Pasqualoni is out as defensive coordinator and Cory Undlin is in. I do not know much about Undlin, but I have heard nothing but good things. As for scheme, I’m sure they will continue to be flexible and try to adjust based on their opponents and use their personnel to dictate the actual scheme they’re running week in and week out. At least, that’s what they should be doing.
They’ve got a lot of talent to replace and they spent a lot of time bringing in more New England Patriots cast offs. They added Danny Shelton, Jamie Collins and traded for Duron Harmon. Harmon is a good player and Shelton and Collins were good in New England, but have proven to struggle in other organizations. It’ll be interesting to see how Collins performs after being such a colossal flop in Cleveland and then rebounding during his second stint in New England.
Looking at the defense, another pass rusher, another defensive tackle and a corner are must-haves. Outside of Trey Flowers there are a bunch of dart board throws at defensive end. I like Okwara and Hand, but they need another real player. Okwara can contribute and will be a nice rotational piece and Hand provides valuable depth/versatility when he is healthy. At corner, as I have said many times, they need a franchise player. Adding Trufant to replace Slay is a good stop-gap, but I cannot say it is going to be an upgrade. I thought Slay was tremendously average last year, but he is not an average player…yet. Justin Coleman was a flop of a free agent signing last year and Jamal Agnew is really just a return man. Oruwariye showed some potential, but he is not going to be the answer. The first two picks should be a corner and a pass rusher to make everyone happy and help the defense.
They’re basically set at linebacker and safety, and I cannot imagine them adding another player at one of those spots early on in the draft. I’m fully expecting them to move Jarrad Davis outside to get Jahlani Tavai on the field more this year. I’m sure they will look to add a linebacker for depth later on in the draft, but it should be far from a priority with the significant investment they have there. IF they draft a linebacker early, then there is basically no way they are going to pick up Davis’ 5th-year option. At safety, they have made a decent investment with the drafting of Tracy Walker and Will Harris and then trading for Duron Harmon. Signing Jayron Kearse adds depth and he will be a key special teams contributor…for me, this position does not need to be addressed anymore this year.
As for special teams, as much as I do not want the Lions to draft a punter, I’m assuming they will draft one in the 5th or 6th round. They let Sam Martin walk and have not addressed the position in free agency. I would prefer they wait until the 7th round or sign an undrafted free agent, but that seems tremendously unlikely.
So what players might the Lions target this year besides the obvious guys? Great question.
It’s tougher this year than ever before to know who the Lions might be interested in with most pro days canceled and all of the top 30 player visits canceled. Some agents and players have been letting media members know which teams have met with their clients or them, but it’s even more secretive than before. The Lions perhaps had the best timing ever to be one of the Senior Bowl teams so they could get an inside look at those players. They’ve always favored Senior Bowl players and I think that will be the case this year more than ever before.
Normally I go to Walter Football for their list that breaks down which players have met with which teams but this year their list was extremely lacking for the Lions. Logan Lamorandier over at the Lion Lowdown has done a tremendous job and put together a great list.
- COM – Formal Combine meeting
- COMi – Informal Combine meeting
- EW – East-West Shrine meeting
- LOC – Local visit
- PRI – Private visit
- PRO – Pro Day meeting
- WO – Workout
- VM – Virtual meeting
- UM – Unspecified meeting
- Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah (VM)
- Joe Bachie, LB, Michigan State (VM)
- Ross Blacklock, DT, TCU (COM)
- Joe Burrow, QB, LSU (COM)
- Daniel Bituli, LB, Tennessee (COMi)
- Lawrence Cager, WR, Georgia (COMi, WO cancelled)
- Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State (COM)
- Kamren Curl, S, Arkansas (COMi)
- DeeJay Dallas, RB, Miami (COMi)
- Cameron Dantzler, CB, Mississippi State (COM, VM)
- Carlos Davis, DT, Nebraska (COMi)
- Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama (COM)
- Jeremiah Dinson, S, Auburn (EW)
- Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama (COM)
- J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State (VM)
- Rico Dowdle, RB, South Carolina (COMi)
- Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne (COMi)
- Darrynton Evans, RB, Appalachian State (COMi, VM)
- Leki Fotu, DT, Utah (COMi)
- Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU (COM)
- Jonathan Greenard, DE, Florida (COM)
- Javelin Guidry, CB, Utah (COMi)
- K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State (COMi)
- Jake Hanson, C, Oregon (COMi)
- De’Jon “Scoota” Harris, LB, Arkansas (COMi)
- Jaylinn Hawkins, S, California (COMi)
- C.J. Henderson, CB, Florida (COM)
- Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon (VM)
- Alex Highsmith, DE, Charlotte (EW)
- Keith Ismael, IOL, SDSU (COMi)
- Jaylon Johnson, CB, Utah (VM)
- BoPete Keyes, CB, Tulane (COMi)
- Nigel Kilby, TE, Southern Illinois (PRO)
- Mason Kinsey, WR, Berry (EW)
- Shane Lemieux, OG, Oregon (COM, COMi)
- Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama (VM)
- Garrett Marino, DT, UAB (EW)
- Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii (COMi)
- Colton McKivitz, OT, West Virginia (SR)
- Josh Metellus, S, Michigan (WO – cancelled)
- Jovante Moffatt, S, Middle Tennessee (UM)
- Zack Moss, RB, Utah (COM, VM)
- Larrell Murchison, DT, NC State (VM)
- Kyle Murphy, OL, Rhode Island (COMi)
- Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma (COM)
- Netane Muti, OG, Fresno State (COMi)
- Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State (COM)
- Michael Onwenu, OG, Michigan (VM)
- Josh Pearson, WR, Jacksonville State (PRO)
- Michael Pinckney, LB, Miami (COMi)
- John Reid, CB, Penn State (EW)
- Giovanni Ricci, TE, Western Michigan (EW)
- Amik Robertson, CB, Louisiana Tech (COMi)
- Geno Stone, S, Iowa (COM)
- Justin Strnad, LB, Wake Forest (COMi)
- D’Andre Swift, RB, Georgia (VM)
- Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama (COM, VM)
- Davion Taylor, LB, Colorado (COMi)
- Josh Uche, EDGE, Michigan (VM)
- Kindle Vildor, CB, Georgia Southern (COMi)
- Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State (COM)
- Chase Young, DE, Ohio State (VM)
I’m sure there are plenty of players that they love that are not on this list and plenty that are smokescreens. Like Tua and Justin Herbert.
At this point you’re probably wondering what picks the Lions have, and as of right now, this is what they’re working with.
Round 2 (No. 35)
Round 3 (No. 67)
Round 3 (No. 85)
Round 4 (No. 109)
Round 5 (No. 149)
Round 5 (No. 166)
Round 6 (No. 182)
Round 7 (No. 235)
A trade down with the Dolphins or Chargers to pick 5 or 6 to still be able to add Okudah and pick up a couple extra picks is the ideal scenario. Obviously, it’s plausible they could trade down further than that, but then you have to start to consider the fact you’re missing out on a potentially elite player. The package would have to be tremendous to do so.
So, let’s move onto my ideal 7-round mock with a few potential extra selections at each spot:
1st Round, 3rd Overall: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson or TRADE DOWN
Obviously if Chase Young is magically there, they should sprint to the podium but I do not see that happening.
2nd Round, 35th Overall: Josh Uche, EDGE, Michigan
A.J. Epenesa, DE, Iowa or Marlon Davidson, DE, Auburn
3rd Round, 67th Overall: Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M
Michael Pittman Jr, WR, USC or Lucas Niang, OL, TCU
3rd Round, 85th Overall: Bryan Edwards, WR, South Carolina
Bradlee Anae, EDGE, Utah or Cam Akers, RB, Florida State
4th Round, 109th Overall: Ben Bredeson, OG, Michigan
Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan or Jonah Jackson, OG, Ohio State
5th Round, 149th Overall: Josiah Scott, CB, Michigan State
A.J. Dillon, RB, Boston College or Tyler Johnson, WR, Minnesota
5th Round, 166th Overall: AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College
Jacob Phillips, LB, LSU or Jason Strowbridge, DL, UNC
6th Round, 182nd Overall: Anfernee Jennings, EDGE, Alabama
Isaiah Coulter, WR, Rhode Island or Lamical Perine, RB, Florida
7th Round, 235th Overall: Braden Mann, P, Texas A&M
Cole McDonald, QB, Hawaii or Calvin Throckmorton, IOL, Oregon
Naturally, it’s impossible to know which players will end up where because everyone has different values and evaluations. I would be shocked if Yetur Gross-Matos was available in round 2, but every mock I did on The Draft Network had him available. So I tried to handcuff myself a bit while doing these, combining draft rankings from different places and more or less guessing who would actually be available to draft in particular spots.
I also found a place that let you do trades in mocks for free, since the places that used to be available have started charging. Can’t say I blame them, I fell down a mock draft rabbit hole for almost 3 hours. This one was my favorite though…
Based on every value chart on the planet, you should be able to flip pick #3 for pick #5 and #39 no problem but the site was having absolutely none of it so I had to drop a couple of spots in the 3rd. All in all, I was able to get all of the players I wanted, so I do not see what the big deal is.
My advice to Lions fans is prepare for at least one big time reach, either in the 2nd or the 3rd round and then pencil in Braden Mann to the Lions in the 5th. The 5th round is typically when the best punter available goes and I’m sure the Lions are just itching to pull the trigger to send fans into a tizzy.
[Photo via: Sports Illustrated]