While the season may not have ended the way many Lions fans had hoped, we can now look forward to the off-season and the crown jewel of that period: the draft. With numerous potential positions to fill on a team poised to take a leap to the next level Detroit needs to have some strong selections if they hope to meet their goals, making this one of the more critical Lions off-seasons in recent history. Luckily the Lions have Bob Quinn calling the shots in their front office as he hopes to provide a concrete direction for a team that hasn’t had much consistency really ever in it’s long history. The 2017 draft in particular will tell a lot about what Quinn’s vision for the team is and the direction he’s going to take it for the long term, so strap in and be prepared for some exciting new additions. I have staff writer Cory Hayes and contributor Adam Klepp with me in this pre-Combine addition of the DLP mock draft to profile who we believe the Detroit Lions could be targeting in this years draft. Let’s jump into it:
Round 1 (Pick 21)
Adam K: Forrest Lamp, OL, Western Kentucky
Cory: Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida
Adam O: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Detroit has numerous potential needs they can target in the first round of the 2017 draft, and while the most obvious (linebacker) is not present here, these guys all fill clear holes on the squad. Adam K had potentially the most surprising target in Forrest Lamp, the little-known lineman out of Western Kentucky. While he hasn’t attracted much of the national attention yet, Lamp has been quietly rising up boards due to his light feet, refined technique, and the versatility to play all five positions on the O-line. On top of this he comes from a zone blocking scheme and is much better suited to playing in the Lions’ scheme than some of the other power based guys from last year’s roster. While he is probably built best to slide inside to guard due to his short arms, having the versatility to play both inside and outside could become a very important trait with Larry Warford and Riley Reiff both hitting free agency this off-season and only one or the other being likely to return. If Detroit comes to the conclusion that it wants to finalize its offensive line in the 2017 draft, Lamp would be a phenomenal final piece to add that can tie the whole group together and provide needed flexibility that wasn’t available to Detroit in the same way when injuries began to hit last year.
Quincy Wilson, the confident cornerback out of Florida, was Cory’s pick for the Lions at 21. Despite Nevin Lawson’s excellent coverage ability last year, he’s simply too short to be an effective outside corner in the NFL. Should Wilson fall to the Lions he would serve almost without question as a long-term upgrade. Wilson is one of the top tier corners in this draft, and while he may not have top end speed he more then makes up for that with his physicality off the line and quality size for a cornerback, pushing receivers around all game and letting them know about it. On top of this toughness and desire to lay the wood, a rare trait in a cornerback, Wilson has displayed quality ball skills as well taking calculated risks when he has position and coming down with the interception. While he’s still a bit raw and needs to refine his technique, Wilson could form a great long-term pairing with Slay as dueling lock down corners in the Lions’ secondary.
I decided to go with Derek Barnett out of Tennessee with my selection to upgrade Detroit’s lacking pass rush. Should Barnett fall to the Lions as has been starting to happen in various mock drafts, they would have a hard time finding a reason to not take him. He’s one of the most productive defenders to come out of the SEC in decades and has shown the ability to completely take over a game. While he’s on the small side for a 4-3 end he is relatively mobile in space and has great play awareness, making him perfect for Teryl Austin’s exotic blitz packages. While he certainly has strength to power through blockers his phenomenal hand fighting and technique are his true strong suit. Combined with his tenacious hustle he forces opposing linemen to show up every play as he will capitalize as soon as he gets an edge. He needs to work on making adjustments at top speed to get mobile quarterbacks to the ground but outside of that there are no real flaws to his game. Adding a speed element opposite Ansah combined with a rotation of Hyder, Bryant, and Zettel – all healthy and with another year of development under their belts – the defense would be very fun to watch.
Round 2 (Pick 53)
Adam K: Obi Melifonwu, SS, Connecticut
Cory: Demarcus Walker, DE, Florida St
Adam O: Tre’davious White, CB, LSU
The second round of the 2017 draft has some real substance to it and you can effectively fill several spots even sitting outside the top 50. I went with cornerback Tre’davious White as my pick, one of the stickiest cover guys in the draft. While his value may skyrocket past this position with a good combine, White is just one of many great potential corners that could slide to the mid/late second round due to the depth of talent in this class. He’s not very physical with receivers, but he can out jump and out position them on a regular basis, showing that he can go toe to toe against top talent on numerous occasions. With some refinement in his technique he might make for one of the best corner pairings in the league with Slay.
Adam K decided to go with Obi Melifonwu out of UConn which would be an absolute steal in this position. A massive 6’4, 220 lb safety, Melifonwu is bigger then Kam Chancellor with the athleticism and cover skills of a half decent cornerback. He is a phenomenal downhill tackler that can make big plays if he’s in the right place, but has issues with actually getting in the right place. Certainly he’s raw with regard to his football IQ but if you can fix that the sky is the limit on what he can do at the next level. I would believe that after he shows up to the combine his stock is going to fly into the first round but I will gladly go with Adam’s optimism here.
Finally Cory has Detroit selecting defensive end DeMarcus Walker at 53. Walker was a very productive player for Florida State, illustrating that he knows how to use his size well with strong technique and play recognition. He has a great power move, and follows through with heavy tackling that generally brings players down without help. Despite this though there are some issues with his transition to the NFL, namely that he’s a huge tweener with an odd body type. While the Lions will view him as a strong side defensive end in this spot, he will definitely have to lose some weight to stick there and his poor motor and slow feet for the outside might lend itself better as a 3-4 end or three tech. It’s a major boom or bust selection here.
Round 3 (Pick 85)
Adam K: Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson
Cory: Eddie Jackson, FS, Alabama
Adam O: Anthony Walker, MLB, Northwestern
In the third round there are still a few guys that can become really good starters in the mix at lower value positions while you can start to take chances on some riskier or developmental options. Cory looked to add a future behind Glover Quinn with Eddie Jackson out of Alabama. Jackson is a phenomenal over the top safety who would have probably been much higher in this draft if he didn’t break his leg in October. He’s a rangy ball-hawking safety with quality hands and the ability to make teams pay for being careless with the football. He’s returned several picks for touchdowns and was a quality return man for Alabama on top of being a strong cover safety. I believe his injury history should push him further down a lot of teams boards but he’s not out of question in the mid-late third.
My selection for the 85th pick was middle linebacker Anthony Walker out of Northwestern. Heading into the season I had Walker as a first round option for Detroit, however his value has sagged significantly after a poor season caused primarily by some poorly advised weight gain. If he drops back down to 235 lbs, Walker has sideline to sideline speed combined with one of the highest football IQ’s in this draft, above average cover skills, and quality leadership ability. I believe he would be under the radar value at this pick if you get the guy from two years ago as opposed to the player that showed up last season.
Adam K looked to address the tight end position with Jordan Leggett out of Clemson. Leggett has ideal size and potential, with elite receiving ability combined with quality blocking skill, providing a nice complement for Ebron going forward. The primary issue Leggett presents though is effort. If he shows up he will be a phenomenal in-line tight end for Detroit, however if he does not his blocking falls off and he has been known to break off routes early on occasion. Calling himself lazy openly is a concern that can hopefully be turned around at the next level, but outside of that he is a great prospect that offers everything the Lions need at the tight end position and more.
Watch out for day three’s picks tomorrow!