[Editor’s Note: Version 1.0 below was originally published on January 29]
If there was a prime trade down candidate in the top-5 of this year’s NFL Draft, it has to be the Detroit Lions. The Lions are a team with holes up and down the roster, but without a pressing need at quarterback. Lacking that need will have their phones ringing off the hook with teams looking to leapfrog up the board to get their QB of the future. The bounty would be a staggering amount and could be too much to pass up.
The Lions could also be a prime candidate to move up on Days 2 and 3 of the draft. As previously stated, the team has a lot of holes to fill. It would behoove them to package their two 5th-round selections to a team in order to move up into the early part of Day 3, or even the late stages of Day 2. The player they’re likely to snatch at the bottom of round 3 is worth at least the two players they’d select in round 5, if not more.
However, what could the NFL Draft look like for the Lions if they stand pat with their picks? Here is my prediction with this Detroit Lions 7-round mock draft.
The Lions are a team that, despite their record last season, is relatively set at the offensive skill positions. Matthew Stafford is getting up there in age, but he’s still one of the better quarterbacks in this league. Kerryon Johnson has provided the Lions with a spark at the running back position they haven’t had in years. They have a really solid receiving corps, though they could look to strengthen the position even further. You can never have too many weapons in this league, after all.
So what, then, do the Lions need in this 7-round mock draft?
Defense, defense, and more defense.
That’s going to be the name of the game for the Lions at the third spot in this 7-round mock draft, and it’s going to be a theme throughout its entirety. The team could stand to strengthen the offensive line and protect Stafford more than they have in year’s past, but that’s a secondary need.
It may also be time for the Lions to start thinking about what life after Stafford will look like. Back-up quarterback David Blough served admirably in his five starts this season, but he’s very clearly not the heir apparent.
So the question is, who will eventually replace Stafford?
I don’t think any of us know this answer quite just yet. I personally don’t think he comes from this draft, but that doesn’t mean you can’t draft a QB to strengthen what’s behind Stafford in case of injury.
Now that we’ve got our team needs covered, let’s see how I’ve addressed them as we kick off the Detroit Lions’ 7-round mock draft.
Round 1, Pick 3: Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
We start this Lions’ 7-round mock draft off the best way we can, on defense! If the Lions don’t accept any offers for their third overall pick, they should have their pick of any prospects. There’s a ton of defensive talent available in this draft, and there’s a massive amount of really good players at the top of it.
I’m sure the Lions will be tempted to use the selection on offense with Andrew Thomas sitting there staring them in the face, but the pick MUST be on defense. I believe that pick is going to be Jeffrey Okudah, cornerback from Ohio State, and arguably the best cornerback in the country.
Much like the Lions need to start thinking about life after Stafford, they also need to start thinking about life after Darius Slay. Slay has been unhappy in Detroit for a while, and pairing him with another high-quality corner like Okudah might just be what it takes to get him to stay. If it’s still not enough, Okudah has the talent to slide into Slay’s spot with a minimal — if any — reduction in play. This would be a home run for the Lions to kick off this 7-round mock draft.
Other possible picks: DL Derrick Brown, OT Andrew Thomas, S/LB Isaiah Simmons
Round 2, Pick 35: Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville
We take a brief pause in our defensive deluge that is this Lions’ mock draft to address a hole on the offensive side of the ball. The offensive line isn’t a massive area of need for the Lions, but to pretend like it’s not one at all would be foolish, especially if a player of Mekhi Becton’s caliber is available with pick 35.
I’m admittedly not the foremost authority on offensive line play, but everything I’ve seen and everything I’ve heard from people I trust tells me this guy is going to be special. He has all of the physical tools you want at the position, and — while already playing at a high level — seems to be growing into and learning the position daily. That’s a player you can work with, and a player you can’t pass up at this stage of the draft.
Other possible picks: EDGE Terrell Lewis, C Cesar Ruiz, S Xavier McKinney
Round 3, Pick 67: Anfernee Jennings, EDGE, Alabama
Back to the well once more! We come back to defense with our second pick on Day 2 of this Lions 7-round mock draft to grab a high-quality player at one of the league’s premier positions. The Lions have been struggling to produce a consistent pass rush for years, so EDGE is absolutely a position of need.
If Washington somehow doesn’t select Chase Young with the second pick in the NFL Draft, the Lions could easily snatch him up and make this selection moot. I don’t think that’s going to happen, though. I’m also not sure about the value at the position in the previous round vs. the need for another offensive lineman.
I like the value here in the third, and Jennings is a solid rusher who is going to produce admirably wherever he goes. I don’t think he’s ever going to be a consistent double-digit sack guy year-in and year-out, but I think he’s a player who could reach the cusp of that, giving a team 8-9 per year, with a few forays into 10+ sacks.
Other possible picks: DL Rashard Lawrence, LB Malik Harrison, C Matt Hennessy
Round 4, Pick 106: Zack Baun, LB, Wisconsin
Day 3 of our Lions’ mock draft starts on defense yet again! We’re going to the well once more to shore up the Lions’ linebacker group with a guy who I think brings a lot of versatility to the position for the team. I’m not sure Zack Baun from Wisconsin is a perfect fit for what the Lions typically like in a linebacker, but I think what you can do with him may override that.
Baun is good — not great — in the coverage aspects of playing outside linebacker, and it’s something he can grow into as he gets more experience at the position. He’s also a guy that you can ask to rush off the edge occasionally to help supplement the pass rush we addressed earlier in this draft. Baun can be a nice pick to start off the last day of the draft.
Round 5, Pick 149: Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty
If one Kenny Golladay is good, two Kenny Golladay’s has to be better, right? I’m not someone who typically likes to throw player comparisons out there, but I really like the Antonio Gandy-Golden/Kenny Golladay fit. They both have similar body types. They have similar play styles and strengths. Both of the receivers also come from the relative obscurity of being small-school standouts.
Gandy-Golden is a receiver I’ve liked throughout the process, who I have cooled off on a bit after what many would deem a less-than-ideal Senior Bowl performance. I still think that he’s going to be a solid receiver in this league for years to come. Getting him in the fifth round for a team like Detroit could wind up being one of the steals of the draft.
Round 5, Pick 172: Julian Blackmon, CB/S, Utah
Much like the Baun pick before, selecting Julian Blackmon from Utah in the fifth round is all about versatility and being able to play the match-up game. Blackmon is at his best when he’s asked to play a strong safety role while being allowed to be in the box around the line of scrimmage. However, as a former cornerback, he does possess the skills to give you a solid option in your dime packages.
I’m not sure if Blackmon ever elevates his game to starter-quality levels, but having that versatility if someone ahead of him goes down is exactly the kind of value you look for on the third day of the draft.
Round 6, Pick 182: Nathan Stanley, QB, Iowa
There really isn’t a whole lot that needs to be said about the final pick in our Lions’ 7-round mock draft. Nathan Stanley isn’t going to be the guy who comes in and takes the torch from Stafford when he finally hangs up his cleats.
However, he’s a guy who’s going to come in and provide an instant upgrade — at least in my eyes — over what you already have backing up Stafford. Any time you can upgrade your team with a pick in the sixth round, it’s a no-brainer. Bring the kid in and see what he has. Maybe he surprises you and can take the reigns in the future.