Well here we are again. Another year, another new Lions regime. I’m going to hold off on passing judgement on either hire this time around. I was far too bullish on the hiring of Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia, which very clearly did not work out. Looking at a broad scope, the Rams have been pretty good at drafting despite not having a first round pick in quite some time. They often use their draft capital in a questionable manner (repeatedly drafting running backs and wide receivers early spring to mind), but so far it has not seemed to hurt them. Not to mention we do not know if that has all been at Les Snead’s direction or Brad Holmes’. Everything I’ve read so far indicates that Brad Holmes was a great hire, and I cannot say that I remember the same praise when Bob Quinn was hired. It’s going to be interesting to see how the first draft plays out for the new group, but I’m intrigued by what I’ve read about Holmes. The roster is absolutely abysmal so they’ve got a long road ahead of them and hopefully they do the prudent thing and trade down and acquire more capital. In a situation like this, the best solution is to give yourself as many bites as the apple as possible. When your team sucks, you need more than six draft picks.
With the hiring of Dan Campbell, you have the ultimate football guy at the helm. A player’s coach for sure…something that Matt Patricia was not. I’ve heard great things about Campbell and my cousin even worked with him when he was with the Dolphins and said he was awesome. I’m not totally sure how he will be as a head coach, but I like the hiring of Anthony Lynn and Aaron Glenn for his coordinators. But, as I said, this roster is abysmal and this team is a long ways off. I think it’s only fair that we give the head coach and GM three years before we evaluate this team. I think right now it would be hard to expect this team to win more than 3 or 4 games next year or even the year after that. Scheme and development from coaches can only do so much if the players do not have any ability.
The good thing about having an absolutely terrible roster is they can draft just about any position at any point and it would be justified…except for a running back in the first round. I’m not sure I would agree with them taking a QB or Kyle Pitts in the first round, but I certainly would not blame them. Pitts is a unicorn and I have a hard time seeing Jared Goff as more than a stop-gap. It’s possible Jared Goff could revive his career, but as far as I’m concerned, I would let him start while the roster is a mess. While he’s taking his licks, you draft and develop the rest of the roster and once you have that sorted out, you draft your QB of the future (say DJ Uiagalelei from Clemson) in two years. I would hardly hold it against them if Justin Fields fell in their lap and they pulled the trigger, though Goff’s contract makes him effectively immovable for two years. In the end though, the prudent thing would be to trade down and acquire more draft capital (yes I sound like a broken record but please for the love of god do it). As I said, they have very few starters entrenched at this point and they need talent absolutely everywhere. Look at the offense they’ve got right now…
Halapoulivaati Vaitai will certainly be expected to start at RG or RT, and Logan Stenberg might compete for the RG spot. I don’t forsee Tyrell Crosby starting at RT…but drafting a Penei Sewell or Rashawn Slater for that RT spot would be nice. It would allow you to kick Vaitai in to RG for a year until his contract becomes cuttable. He’s been a disaster of a free agent signing and cannot stay healthy, but I think he at least has a chance to not be a waste at RG.
Obviously WR is also a mess, so picking up JaMarr Chase would be ideal, but I think he will be long gone before they are on the clock. If you can manage to solidify the offensive line, I think it will give the offense/Jared Goff a greater chance for success. It should help the Swift in the run game and allow Goff to not have to run for his life every time he drops back. Building from the trenches would be a good way to start off this rebuild. When you have this many spots open with question marks, only having six draft picks is a problem (again broken record, I get it). For my money, the Lions need to trade down enough times to end up with 9 or 10 picks in this draft class to help accelerate the rebuild.
Looking at the defense and you see more of the same…just a total disaster. Linebacker is an absolute tire fire courtesy of Bob Quinn and the secondary needs work. I have faith in Jeff Okudah, but they need help in the secondary. There is absolutely no spot on the defense that they can say “oh no we’re good there,” which is wildly unsettling. EDGE, linebacker, and corner are all in desperate need of some help. They could try to skip safety and see if Tracy Walker can rebound, but I’m not a big believer in Will Harris so that leaves at least one spot open back there as well. Frankly, I’m not even sure Harris will beat out Moore or Marlowe. Alex Anzalone adds some depth at linebacker, as well as familiarity with scheme, but other than him, Collins and maybe Reeves-Maybin, I’m not sure there is an NFL player left on the roster at LB. And Anzalone and JRM are not exactly impact guys. Jahlani Tavai may go down as the absolute worst draft pick of Bob Quinn’s tenure. Frankly, the only way the Lions can fail this upcoming weekend in the Draft for me is if they do not trade down at all. Whether it’s the first round or later on is irrelevant…they need more darts to throw.
In year’s past we would have more public knowledge on who exactly they have met with and which prospects have come to town for in-person visits, but with the whole pandemic going on, that information has gone by the wayside. Not only that, but with a new regime in town, it also makes it a lot tougher to guess which players and which type of guys they will target (Bob Quinn loved Senior Bowl players). I will say that the Rams had a propensity for identifying small school guys and they are most certainly not married to testing numbers. So who are they going to take? I really do not have the foggiest idea, but I would be willing to bet it is going to be heavy on defense with at least one WR sprinkled in. This is easily one of the most intriguing Lions’ drafts in a while because I truly do not know how Holmes and Co. will operate and they may not yet either. With a pandemic going on and scouts still under contract through the draft, their systems will not be completely in place so it will be interesting to see how everything shakes out. I’m sure Holmes is playing this pretty close to the vest as well until he can get all of his scouts hired that he wants.
A time honored tradition in this post is for me to throw out my ideal draft where guys with great talent fall and I can pick anyone I want so long as it’s not too out of the realm of possibility. Obviously the first player listed would be my ideal choice and the guys in italics are some other options that I’m game for.
1st Round, 7th Overall: Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
Gimme gimme gimme. Ideally the Lions trade down from this spot and snag more picks from a team that is desperate for a quarterback, but if they can’t…give me the athletic freak tackle that is not legally able to drink yet. Micah Parsons, Jaylen Waddle and Rashawn Slater would be great candidates if they are able to move down, but let’s assume they cannot, I would love Penei Sewell here. Ja’Marr Chase would also be ideal but there is no shot that Chase and Sewell are both on the board when the Lions pick and I think Chase is going to go to the Bengals. I don’t foresee the Bengals AND the Dolphins passing on Sewell when they need help on the offensive line, but hey, dare to dream?
Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU OR Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern OR TRADE DOWN OR Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
2nd Round, 41st Overall: Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Slim to no chance he makes it out of round 1 at this point, but every mock draft machine I’ve done has him still there so I’m going to hope that he slides a bit and this helps the Lions start to rebuild their linebacking core. Davis has been shooting up draft boards this offseason and he would be a day one starter. After taking either a WR or offensive linemen in the first round, I’m hoping that the Lions shift their focus to the defensive side of the ball and snag as many guys as possible.
Carlos Basham, EDGE, Wake Forest OR Richie Grant, S, UCF
3rd Round, 72nd Overall: Nico Collins, WR, Michigan
Criminally underutilized at Michigan. Whether you want to blame QB play or scheme, that’s up to you. But Nico Collins tested through the roof and has all the makings of a player that will be better at the next level than he was in college. There should be some good defensive players on the board at this spot, but they are going to need someone other than Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman and Quintez Cephus at WR. Nico gives you a guy that has some mismatch ability and a large frame for contested catches.
Pete Werner, LB, OSU OR Chazz Surratt, LB, UNC
3rd Round, 101st Overall: Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, FSU
As I said, I’m not a Will Harris fan and you cannot be sure that Tracy Walker will reach the potential everyone saw a few years ago. That’s not to say that Nasirildeen is some sort of guarantee, but you need to bring in competition and I think his potential gives him a chance to start.
Jay Tufele, DT, USC OR Cam McGrone, LB, Michigan
4th Round, 112th Overall: Patrick Jones, EDGE, Pittsburgh
So far in this optimal draft we’ve addressed a lot of needs but still haven’t looked at the EDGE rushers. Time to take a stab and hope for the best. Jones has some twitchy tools and will need to learn more technique, but give me the athleticism to try and mold. I like the Okwara brothers and Trey Flowers is fine, but they still have to add juice to this spot.
James Hudson, OT, Cincinnati OR Talanoa Hufanga, S, USC
5th Round, 153rd Overall: Shaun Wade, CB, Ohio State
As I said, I like Okudah and I think Oruwariye took major steps last year, but they still need to keep adding talent to that CB room. Wade was thought of very highly going into the year and dropped like a rock throughout. This would not be the first time Holmes took a shot on an OSU DB that fell in the draft and it panned out, so perhaps he goes this route again.
Daelin Hayes, EDGE, Notre Dame OR Dylan Moses, LB, Alabama
I’ve included a mock draft below that allows trades just to show you what can happen and how many more impact players you can pick up.
Easy, right? Let’s hope Brad Holmes knows what he is doing.
[Photo via: Pro Football Network]