I already laid out the “what I would do” …and most everyone disliked my choices. That’s okay. I’m trying to win, not to be popular.
Hopefully Bob Quinn is taking the same approach. I’m confident that this regime has identified internally what needs to improve, what existing resources they have to make those improvements, and where the best time to address those needs in this weekend’s draft will be.
Here is my best, semi-educated guess on what Detroit does with each pick. Astute readers will note my picks here deviate from my final mock draft over at RealGM. That’s because I don’t know what’s going to happen before the Lions pick, or what will happen between them either. You don’t either, and don’t pretend that you do.
Coming out of the Combine in Indy in early March, my impression was very strong that the Lions were interested in pass rush, both up the gut and on the edge. When I talked to players in Indy and asked them about how their interviews with the Lions went, guys like Harold Landry, Marcus Davenport, DaRon Payne, Taven Bryan and Nathan Shepherd all echoed the same basic sentiment: it was intense but interesting. They all felt like the team was very into them.
I did not get that reaction from offensive linemen, notably Will Hernandez. I missed most of the RB interviews (I had to transcribe a couple) so I can’t really speak on the interest there.
When I talked with Lions staffers, people actually employed in Allen Park in personnel evaluation, the interest in defensive linemen stood out. I will freely admit I have not had any conversations since mid-March, but judging from how thick the smoke is the last month around the league, I think that might actually be a feather in my cap.
My guess on their order of preference here:
Harold Landry, though medical could be an issue
Marcus Davenport, who they expected to be drafted already when last I inquired
I will be surprised if the pick isn’t one of the first four. My final mock(s) elsewhere tabbed Payne, and when I bounced that off someone with Lions ties that I trust I got an affirmative response.
DaRon Payne, DT, Alabama
This is the sweet spot for offensive line in this draft. If the run starts earlier (say the 25-40 range) then I think the Lions will look elsewhere. I can see that happening, too. If the run starts later, I think the Lions are definitely in the market for the likes of Tyrell Crosby (who would play guard), Billy Price, Frank Ragnow (likely long gone) or Austin Corbett.
Many fans want, no, demand a running back here. My guess is many fans will be disappointed. I can’t rule it out, not at all, but unless something odd happens I just don’t see it. Not here.
The next tier of DL/EDGE and the grouping of off-ball LBs is strong in this range too. The team is higher on the likes of Fred Warner and Uchenna Nwosu than I believe has been let on, and neither would surprise me. And if they go EDGE in 1st round, my official draft crush Nathan Shepherd is definitely in play.
Having said that, the pick:
Austin Corbett, OG, Nevada
Who is likely to be on the board? Good question. My belief is this is where RB might enter the legit conversation, LB and CB are very much in play and the eventual replacement for Glover Quin could come.
It’s also where one of the trade scenarios I’ve concocted in the past could work. Namely, trading Ameer Abdullah to move up a few spots. Let’s get funky and make that happen.
Lions trade No. 82 and Ameer Abdullah to San Francisco at No. 74. With the pick the Lions end the slide of Georgia RB Sony Michel.
Why is Michel falling? Two things I’ve heard in the last few weeks: his rather lengthy injury history and the perception (which I tend to agree with) that he’s the most blocking-dependent runner of the upper tiers of RBs in this class.
Entering monkey throwing dart mode…
Oren Burks, LB, Vanderbilt. His recent gain in bulk (he’s up to 248 per an interview he did on Sirius XM NFL Radio) makes him more appealing to the Patrio, err, Lions. If he is the pick, Detroit fans are gonna love this guy. He’s one of the smartest and community-oriented players in the draft.
A player I know the Lions met with—and liked—during Shrine Game week, where he showed he could diagnose and attack quickly.
Tracy Walker, S, Louisiana-Lafayette
Pour one out for the waste that was Greg Robinson. And yes I know I defended the move at the time.
— NFL Draft Diamonds (@DraftDiamonds) March 9, 2018
I’ll throw the bone here to the developmental prospect/freak athlete folks. And the Lions interest in him is absolutely legit.
Matt Gono, G, Wesley