Well it’s almost that time of year again. The Lions actually showed some promise throughout the season despite having an absolute shell of a roster. They competed and played hard for the new coaching staff, which was highly encouraging, and fans should see actual results on the field in time when they add more talent. Brad Holmes did a great job in his first draft as general manager, getting contributors with five of their first six picks and Ifeatu Melifonwu showed some promise before the injury.
So what are our expectations for Brad Holmes second draft? Acquire more talent. Plain and simple. This roster needs contributors in the worst way and they have many key positions that they need to find starters at. My hope is that they do not bother drafting a quarterback this year. With two first round picks next year, and the high probability of missing the playoffs again, they need to wait until next year. They can move up the board and get into a spot to get a real quarterback, instead of throwing a dart at one of the guys from this year’s class. I’m not going to waste time and go on a rant about the QB class here, but let’s just say that the answer to the Lions’ prayers at the QB spot is not in this class. They all have warts and the ones that actually have some tools are going to need quite a bit of time to develop.
Last year did not quite go according to plan with Anthony Lynn losing play calling duties part way through the season. They eventually parted ways in the offseason but clearly this is not what either party had in mind when he first joined the staff. Dan Campbell as a play caller was an interesting move, and I’m hopeful that Ben Johnson actually takes over those duties next year. He was the slam dunk/in-house hire and while it has not been decided whether Johnson or Campbell will call plays, I would prefer it be Johnson. Whether this is a smart preference or not certainly remains to be seen.
Looking at the offense here you can see that they have some great pieces to build with…they just need to stay healthy. D’Andre Swift and TJ Hockenson need to prove they can play a full season because the offense is completely different with them in the fold. Not to mention the fact the offensive line durability needs to get better.
With how much capital has been invested in the offensive line this cannot happen. Whether Goff is the quarterback or someone else is, they’re going to have a difficult time without the presumed strength of the team intact. I’m not a big fan of Vaitai and I hope they will move on from him after the season, but if he is the weakest point in your starting group, you’re in a pretty good spot. I have a hard time seeing the Lions drafting an offensive lineman before day 3 and it would be hard to blame them. Adding DJ Chark to the mix at WR was a great move at a low risk one-year deal. Coupled with Amon-Ra St. Brown’s emergence last year and the solid depth options of Josh Reynolds, Khalif Raymond, and Quintez Cephus, they’re in a pretty good spot. But they still would benefit from adding another wide receiver at 32, 34 or 66. My guess is that the Lions will see how the board shakes out and won’t be hard pressed to take a WR early. They waited last year and Amon-Ra fell into their lap/was a guy they targeted anyways, so it’s highly likely they will take a similar approach this year after they went and signed Chark. Their WR core was horrific going into the draft last year and they waited until the 4th round…that should tell you a lot.
As for running back, I cannot imagine them taking anyone at this position. Maybe you throw a dart late…but with Swift and Williams handling the bulk, there is not a real need there. Tight end, meanwhile, is all set with a their #1 option but they have zero depth at the position. It would serve them well to add a young #2 into the mix on day 3 that can contribute if he is called upon.
Now you’re probably sitting here going, do we really have to deal with Jared Goff for another year? My preference is absolutely yes. You can get out of his contract after this season and none of the quarterbacks coming in excite me. Kenny Pickett is 24 years old and you’re probably hoping he is just as good as Goff…so what’s the upside, a cheaper contract? When you could very well go 5-12 next season and have plenty of capital to move up and get a real player. I just don’t see the need to go out and rush the quarterback issue. Do you really want to be like the Cardinals and take quarterbacks in the first round back-to-back years and then take a bath on the other QBs value? If there was a true ready-made difference maker I would be all ears.
Now the defense is where we get into the meat of the issues. I think they’re in a pretty good spot with defensive tackles and they have a couple pieces at EDGE that can contribute but they absolutely need a difference maker. Is that guy Aidan Hutchinson/Travon Walker/Kayvon Thibodeaux? Yes. Would I prefer Hutchinson? Absolutely. But assuming he goes #1 (he may not), you absolutely have to take Walker or Thibodeaux. Someone that can actually get after the quarterback and provide pressure will go a long way with this defense. Now Campbell and Holmes have said they do not worry about positional value as much as other teams or the media…which could mean they’re also taking a long look at Kyle Hamilton or Sauce Gardner.
Linebacker is also another area filled with holes. Alex Anzalone is fine and Derrick Barnes showed flashes but his rookie year was largely underwhelming after the preseason. They brought Jarrad Davis back and if he is going to do anything other than rush the quarterback or get in the backfield we’re going to have a bad time. This is a spot that I would love to see them address early on, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you…
Now that doesn’t mean things cannot change…but that is a pretty definitive statement. As for the secondary…well it seems to be a forever ongoing project. They threw a bunch of money at Tracy Walker to keep him, which I think was smart. Safety is an important piece of the Lions defense and I would anticipate them adding another early in the draft. They signed Deshon Elliott, but that should not deter them from making any sort of a move early. Especially if they’re going to continue with the Will Harris at CB experiment that Dan Campbell hinted at earlier this offseason. At corner they have a bunch of guys that can contribute/play but they do not have any real alphas. Amani Oruwariye had his best season last year and looks to be coming into his own. Jerry Jacobs looks to be a great UDFA signing and started 9 games before blowing out his ACL. I don’t see him as a long-term starter but he will absolutely be a contributor. The two wildcards right now remain Jeff Okudah and Ifeatu Melifonwu. Okudah has not lived up to the hype and has struggled mightily on the field and with injuries. I still have hopes that he can come back and be a player but his clock is ticking. Melifonwu has all the size and athleticism you could want, but with his rookie year cut short, it still remains to be seen what exactly he can bring to the table. I’m not sure if the Lions will address cornerback early on in this draft, but it would not shock me if they did.
So that’s pretty much your cliff notes look at the Lions roster and their needs…if you want some more in depth stuff, I highly recommend checking out these articles. These guys are far more knowledgeable than me and have some great insight.
Lions Draft Big Board: The Athletic
Lions Draft Guide: The Athletic
Lions Round-By-Round WR Option: The Athletic
4 Takeaways From Brad Holmes Press Conference: Pride of Detroit
So the biggest Lions needs? EDGE, Safety, Linebacker, WR, TE and CB. I would put QB on here but they’re not solving it with any of these guys so stop asking!
1st Round, 2nd Overall: Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
So let’s pretend the Jaguars draft Travon Walker or Ickey Ekwonu…the Lions will then sprint to turn in their card and grab Hutchinson. He’s the perfect culture fit for Dan Campbell’s Lions and would move the needle as a hometown guy. I’m sure half of the fan base would be hoping he stinks so they can make fun of Michigan fans…but that’s a separate issue. Is Hutchinson an elite Bosa/Watt type? I’m not sure. I would probably lean no. But he’s absolutely an NFL player and would be a Day 1 starter and contributor, which is exactly what the Lions need.
Travon Walker, EDGE, Georgia OR Kayvon Thibodeaux, EDGE, Oregon
1st Round, 32nd Overall: Jahan Dotson, WR, Penn State
Let’s assume that the Lions are not going to address linebacker until day 3 like it has been rumored. That would rule out Nakobe Dean from Georgia. Personally, I would take Dean here but it seems like they will look to safety or wide receiver in this spot. Now with all of the WR trading that has gone on, I’m not so sure Dotson will last this long. He would be a great player to add to the mix. He’s only 5’11” 180 but he catches EVERYTHING. Having consistent options like Dotson and Amon-Ra with Chark who can stretch the field would do absolute wonders for this offense.
Nakobe Dean, LB, Georgia OR Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
2nd Round, 34th Overall: Lewis Cine, S, Georgia
There has been more and more smoke leading up to the draft that Cine is going to go round 1 and that many teams like him as much as Kyle Hamilton. As this is going to be the Lions “ideal” mock, I’m just going to go ahead and have him fall to 34. Cine would be a great fit and would likely start right away. He is not shy from helping out in the run game and he is a physical man. Another guy that the Lions would love to have in their locker room. It also wouldn’t shock me if they took a long hard look at David Ojabo in this spot. He tore his achilles and is going to miss his rookie season, but he has a ton of tools and was going to go Top 15 despite being very raw before the injury.
Jaquan Brisker, S, Penn State OR Christian Watson, WR, NDSU OR David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan
3rd Round, 66th Overall: Chad Muma, LB, Wyoming
I would almost just pencil this in as the best linebacker available when they are on the clock. Muma would be an instant starter with his size and range. He plays hard down hill and can still actually drop back in coverage…which is critical. The Lions want physical, rangy players as their off-ball linebackers and Muma fits the mold.
Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin OR Brian Asamoah, LB, Oklahoma
3rd Round, 97th Overall: Coby Bryant, CB, Cincinnati
This would be the spot I would expect the Lions to take a shot on a corner. Bryant is a big body with solid athleticism and he’s got very good ball skills. Tackling being an issue probably isn’t a great feature considering the coach he would be going to…not to mention he’s 23…but he would be worth taking a shot at here.
Jelani Woods, TE, Virginia OR JoJo Domann, LB, Nebraska OR Tyreke Smith, EDGE, Ohio State
5th Round, 177th Overall: Charlie Kolar, TE, Iowa State
Going this long between picks would be far from ideal and I would expect the Lions to make a move of some sort to shore up the 80 pick gap between 97 and 177. Once you get into this portion of the draft, you’re really hoping to take guys that can make your roster. Whether it’s just being a depth piece or a special teamer, it doesn’t really matter. The best teams go best player available at this point and figure it out later. Going into last year Charlie Kolar was highly thought of and for whatever reason his stock has only dropped throughout the past 8 months or so. For a 5th round pick, you could do far worse. He’s not dynamic but he is a consistent pass catcher and a willing run blocker. I think he would be great to pair with Hockenson.
Cade Mays, OL, Tennessee OR Zyon McCollum, CB, Sam Houston State
6th Round, 181st Overall: Zyon McCollum, CB, Sam Houston State
At this point in the draft, you’re not going to find a guy with a better height/weight/speed combination. He’s an older player but if you’re chucking a dart at a guy that can contribute somehow, let’s choose the guy that is 6’4″ with a 4.33 and a 39.5″ vertical. You can try to teach someone to cover or tackle, you cannot teach that athleticism.
Smoke Monday, S, Auburn OR Haskell Garrett, DL, Ohio State
6th Round, 217th Overall: Nephi Sewell, LB, Utah
I mean, why not pick Penei’s brother? He can be a physical special teamer for you and if he’s anything like his brother, he would be a great locker room addition.
Sincere McCormick, RB, UTSA OR Chris Paul, OL, Tulsa
Obviously it is hard to know how the Lions actually feel about any of these players and plenty of teams could like guys like Cine or Dotson enough to take them earlier than 32/34 so the Lions don’t even get a crack at them. But a draft like this, where the address EDGE, Safety, Wide Receiver and Linebacker early on could go a very long way. Add in a couple corners and a tight end late and fans should feel very good about all of the Lions needs being addressed in some form or fashion.
Here’s the list of players the Lions had in for visits from Pride of Detroit:
- QB Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh (source) POD article
- QB Malik Willis, Liberty (source)
- WR Treylon Burks, Arkansas (source) POD article
- DL Eric Johnson, Missouri State (source)
- EDGE Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan (source) – also at local pro day ($ource)
- EDGE Kayvon Thibodeaux, Oregon (source) POD article
- EDGE Travon Walker, Georgia (source) POD article
- EDGE Jermaine Johnson, Florida State (source) POD article
- LB Nakobe Dean, Georgia (source) POD article
- LB Quay Walker, Georgia (source)
- LB Brian Asamoah, Oklahoma (source)
- LB Devin Harper, Oklahoma State (source)
- CB Derek Stingley, LSU (source)
- CB Ja’Quan McMillian, East Carolina (source)
- SAF Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame (source)
- SAF Lewis Cine, Georgia (source) POD article
- SAF Kerby Joseph, Illinois (source)
- SAF Delarrin Turner-Yell, Oklahoma (source)
Local Pro Day
- QB Connor Sampson, Western Illinois ($ource)
- RB Hassan Haskins, Michigan ($ource)
- RB Bryant Koback, Toledo ($ource)
- WR Chad Gilliard, Saginaw Valley State ($ource)
- WR Daylen Baldwin, Michigan, via Jackson State ($ource)
- WR Jalen Martin, Pittsburgh State ($ource)
- TE Thomas Odukoya, Eastern Michigan ($ource)
- OL Andrew Stueber, Michigan ($ource)
- OG Zein Obeid, Ferris State ($ource)
- DT Chris Hinton, Michigan ($ource)
- LB, Jeremiah Tyler, Princeton ($ource)
- CB Sauce Gardner, Cincinnati (source)
*Note: It’s unclear if this was a top-30 visit or a local visit. PFN’s Aaron Wilson referred to it as a top-30 visit, but Dave Birkett refuted that and listed him as a local day visit. So that’s what we’re going with.
- SAF Daxton Hill, Michigan ($ource)
- SAF Brad Hawkins, Michigan ($ource)
- SAF Scott Nelson, Wisconsin (source)
- SAF/LB A.J. Thomas, Western Michigan ($ource)
- P Jake Julien, Eastern Michigan ($ource)
Having had a first hand look at a bunch of guys at the Senior Bowl and actually being able to bring players in for a visit instead of just zoom calls, I would expect the Lions to have a tremendous grasp on this draft class. After what Brad Holmes did last year, I’m inclined to trust him this year. And frankly, the only thing he could do to wreck that trust right now would be to trade up from 32 and take a quarterback or to just flat out take a quarterback at 32. We are firmly Team No Quarterbacks at The Daily Traub.