Lions Mock Draft 2021: An elite receiving weapon in Round 1

Many long introductions have been written, detailing the perpetual sorrow of the woe-begotten Detroit Lions. We don’t need to write another one. The hope is that a new page is turning, with head coach Dan Campbell and general manager Brad Holmes now steering the ship through the NFL Draft. Can they start a new era for the Lions and achieve success in a place where such a thing is all too uncommon? With this Detroit Lions 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft, success is at least a little bit closer.

Detroit Lions Post-Free Agency 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

  • Round 1, Pick 7: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU
  • Round 2, Pick 41: Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse
  • Round 3, Pick 72: Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
  • Round 3, Pick 101: Jackson Carman, OL, Clemson
  • Round 4, Pick 112: Ar’Darius Washington, DB, TCU
  • Round 5, Pick 153: Ta’Quon Graham, DT, Texas

Lions 2021 NFL Mock Draft | Pick-by-pick analysis

Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

If either Justin Fields or Trey Lance drops to the seventh overall pick, I think the Lions should seriously consider picking one of them. However, if Mac Jones is the only one on the board, this could be a good spot to trade back. I like Jones in the right situation, but the Lions need many more weapons to incubate his development. I’m also not sure he’s enough of a physical upgrade over Jared Goff to warrant picking him here.

If the Lions don’t like their quarterback options and wish to stay put, however, they also have some options among the skill-position players available. Any one of Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle, Kyle Pitts, and DeVonta Smith could be available here. All have legitimate merits as the seventh selection. Chase, in particular, gives the Lions the alpha they lost this offseason when Kenny Golladay went to New York.

Chase is an elite vertical athlete with the downfield speed, otherworldly body control, and catch-point toughness to potentially dominate downfield on the boundary. He’s not quite the run-after-catch threat that Waddle is or the route running technician that Smith is. Nevertheless, Campbell knows the importance of an alpha in his receiving corps after having Michael Thomas. Chase would be a welcome presence here.

Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB, Syracuse

The hope is that new defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn can get the development of Jeffrey Okudah and Amani Oruwariye on the right track. However, the Lions shouldn’t settle for the talent they currently have, especially at one of the game’s most important positions. If they can add another high-upside cornerback, Glenn will have a lot to work with. There will also be some security if certain projects don’t work out.

In Round 2, Ifeatu Melinfowu provides excellent value. He has the athletic profile to go Round 1. Standing over 6-foot-2, with a 205-pound frame, Melifonwu has a 4.48 40-yard dash, a 41.5-inch vertical, and a 134-inch broad jump. His relation to Obi Melifonwu causes some unwarranted hesitation toward Ifeatu. Where Obi was sometimes unfocused and tentative, Ifeatu is hard-working and incredibly physical on the field.

Melifonwu is a great investment to make, physically and mentally. He can play on the boundary, but he also has the athleticism and quick reaction ability to rotate back at safety. He could even potentially file in as a big slot on occasion.

Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri

The Lions’ linebacker woes have been long-lasting. The pain was only exacerbated when Jarrad Davis left for the Jets in free agency, reminding Lions fans of yet another second-level defender that failed to pan out long-term. Detroit did sign Alex Anzalone in free agency, but they can use more security in a position group that fails to thoroughly inspire than Jamie Collins and Jahlani Tavai.

The 2021 NFL Draft’s linebacker group is a strong one. Thus, Detroit can wait until Round 3 if they so please. Here, Missouri linebacker Nick Bolton is available, and he provides excellent value. Bolton is a bit undersized, but he’s a good athlete with good instincts and a penchant for physical plays in the box. He’s not afraid to follow his keys, and his ability to swim through congestion and make decisive tackles sets him apart at this juncture.

Jackson Carman, OL, Clemson

Once mocked consistently in the first round, Jackson Carman‘s stock has depreciated considerably since the start of the 2021 draft cycle. Nevertheless, Carman is a promising offensive line prospect. He projects fairly well at both tackle and guard. Many have Carman moving to guard at the next level. However, Carman’s versatility is what’s truly appealing for the Lions here.

Detroit originally signed Halapoulivaati Vaitai to be their starting right tackle opposite Taylor Decker. Yet, as the 2020 season went on, Vaitai moved to guard, while Tyrell Crosby moved to right tackle. It remains to be seen what the exact starting lineup will look like. Regardless, adding a 6-foot-5, 317-pound blocker who can play both positions is a good way to cement the position group while also adding starting upside.

Ar’Darius Washington, DB, TCU

After adding Ifeatu Melifonwu, the Lions have a lot of high-upside talent on the boundary between Melifonwu, Okudah, and Oruwariye. Now, it’s time to get more versatility in the slot and at safety. TCU’s Ar’Darius Washington doesn’t quite have the eye-popping size, but he’s an excellent fit for what the Lions still need in this 7-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft.

At just 5-foot-8, 176 pounds, Washington is noticeably undersized. But on tape, he plays a lot bigger than his frame. He packs a punch with his hits, and he’s proactive in disrupting passes. Washington doesn’t quite have top-end long speed, but with a 37.5-inch vertical and a 127-inch broad jump, he has the short-range explosiveness and physicality to be a great fit in the slot. Additionally, he has enough experience at safety to rotate back when necessary.

Ta’Quon Graham, DT, Texas

I try my best not to repeat selections too much across mock drafts, but Ta’Quon Graham is a great fit for the Lions late if they can’t get a defensive tackle earlier. The Lions love length on their defensive line. Michael Brockers, Romeo Okwara, Austin Bryant, Da’Shawn Hand, and Trey Flowers all have arm lengths over 34 inches. The addition of Graham follows that philosophy while adding a lineman with supremely high upside.

At the Texas Pro Day, Graham earned a Relative Athletic Score of 9.68, registering a 4.89 40-yard dash with an excellent 1.67 10-yard split, a 32.5-inch vertical, a 113-inch broad jump, and 32 bench reps. Standing at 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, Graham also has nearly 35-inch arms and a massive wingspan of over seven feet.

The combination of explosiveness and reach here is incredibly enticing. It gives Detroit another exciting prospect to mold on the interior. Ideally, the Lions will trade back once or twice to acquire more picks in Round 6 and Round 7. There, they’ll be able to add more depth to their roster and fill out their offseason squad with high-potential players.

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Ian Cummings is a Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can find his writing here and follow him on Twitter: @ian_cummings_9