The NFL Draft is still months away, but I will be providing a weekly Mock Draft. This will provide a brief scouting report on some players I believe will fit the Lions needs going forward. The Lions coaching staff has not undergone any changes as of yet, so I will be picking players that I like based on a continuation of the teams current offensive and defensive schemes. Links to game footage and highlight films will be provided where available.
Round One: Cordrea Tankersley, CB Clemson
This is a deep draft at corner, but I do not believe that means that the Lions should shy away from a player that brings exactly what they need to the table early. Tankersley is one of those rare corners in high end college football who is legitimately left completely on an island the majority of the time.
He is a physical cover corner with elite, game changing ball skills. The Lions have been missing that in their secondary. They came up big at the end of games, but their overall lack of turnover production was part of the reason that every game was so close. Tankersley was largely avoided by opposing quarterbacks this season but managed ten passes defended and four interceptions regardless.
In 2015 when teams were forced to target Tankersley because 2016 first round draft pick Mackensie Alexander was dominating, Tankersey responded with nineteen passes defended and five interceptions. There is work to be done by the coaches of course; Tankersley will need to learn to be more physical at the line of scrimmage. That is something that all college corners need to work on however, and not a red flag.
In both man and zone coverage, this player makes every reception difficult for his assignment, getting his hands in to the receiver’s strike zone on a regular basis. Even when he doesn’t get his head turned around for a ball, he is able to use the receiver’s hands as a target for where to put himself to disrupt a pass.
Pending his performance at the Senior Bowl, and Scouting Combine Tankersley is my preliminary choice for the Lions first round pick. This game against Virginia Tech had Tankersley’s best and worst moments of the year, so you can judge for yourself.
Round Two: Vincent Taylor DT, Oklahoma State
Taylor is a player that I can see going anywhere from 15 to 70 when this all shakes out. He is a disruptive interior lineman, and has the ability to put himself on the other side of the line of scrimmage in an instant. Taylor is exactly the kind of player that the Lions are lacking in their interior defensive line, one that moves the line of scrimmage, rather than having the line of scrimmage moved on him. None of the Lions current crop of defensive tackles have this skill set, and it is a skill set vital to the scheme that Terrell Austin employs. Taylor had seven sacks this season, and thirteen tackles for loss.
Round Three: Cooper Kupp, WR Eastern Washington
Get ready to hear this name a lot. Kupp is a 6’2″ 215lb receiver from a small school whose tape jumps off the screen and screams “I will figure out how to be in the league for a decade.” He played inside and outside in college, plays a physical game at the receiver position and is tough as nails. Vernon Adams, who played at Oregon in 2015, has called Kupp the “best receiver I ever played with.” Kupp is a team first guy that likely should have come out a year ago, but stayed to “be a part of something great.” with his Eastern Washington teammates. This game against Central Arkansas tells the story of who Cooper Kupp is, and it is going to remind you of a certain Lions quarterback.
Round Four: Tarell Basham DE, Ohio
Playing in the MAC Basham was dominant (both ON and Off the field) but the jump to the NFL is often not the most pleasant from that level. Basham has the initial burst to be a successful situational pass rusher. He would likely see action as a rookie in that role and on special teams. Basham is an extremely athletic player with a high motor that needs to build strength and learn to play with a lower pad level to be successful in the NFL. He looks less uncomfortable in coverage than any of the Lions current defensive ends. That bodes well if zone blitz concepts are going to remain a part of the defensive scheme.
Round Five: Joe Mixon RB, Oklahoma
Joe Mixon is literally the perfect running back for Jim Bob Cooter’s offense. He has great hands, his quickness and speed are elite, and he hits the hole as hard as any back I have ever seen, He also punched a woman in the face and knocked her completely unconscious. I am not going to defend Mixon’s actions, because they can not be defended. I will however say that the legal system has dealt with this issue, there are no pending charges. There are no further legal ramifications for Mixon. I would understand Bob Quinn’s decision were he to make this pick earlier. I legitimately think Mixon is the best fit in the draft for the team.
It is in round five that I will begin getting progressively more irritated if Mixon remains. An NFL team is not a church choir. Fifth round picks have a <30% retention rate beyond third year, making this the ideal spot to begin taking risks. Likely someone will have selected Mixon before this point, after all 2015’s number one overall pick had pending rape allegations against him. I just wanted to put it out there that if Mixon is available at this point the Lions should take him.
Round Six A: Fabian Moreau, CB UCLA
Moreau is a big physical corner who missed the majortiy of the 2015 season with a foot injury. He had the dreaded listfranc surgery, making him a risky proposition at the NFL level. He also has hands of stone, but he breaks up passes. The reduction in athleticism may require a move to Safety from Moreau. At 6′ 200 lbs he has the size required to make the transition.
Round Six B: Marquell Lee, LB Wake Forrest
Lee makes plays with his mind at least as much as with his athleticism. Against Florida State Lee drew the assignment of covering the running back more often than not. He succeeded in limiting Dalvin Cook to a single reception. He also ran over Cook on a blitz, for a strip sack. Lee’s tape reminds me a lot of Antwione Williams. He is a sure tackler, and sees the game well as it is happening in front of him. His first step is almost always toward where the play ends up. I will take a guy that run’s a 4.7 in the right direction over a guy who runs a 4.5 the wrong way any day. If he runs a 4.9, well then I will be moving in a new direction.
Round Seven: John Johnson, S Boston College
I could watch Johnson play the run all day. Lining up everywhere from nickle linebacker to outside corner for the Eagles, Johnson is the kind of versatile player that the Patriots always loved. I believe that Bob Quinn inherited that mentality, given last season’s defensive draft picks in the later rounds. All were players that had more than one potential role within Terell Austin’s scheme. In the seventh round you’re really just taking shots in the dark, and Johnson looks like a reasonable bet to me. At the very least he’s got the instincts and tackling ability to contribute on kick coverage at the NFL level. He has the ability to find his way past blockers and get to a ball carrier.
It’s Still Way Too Early To Accurately Predict Draft Slots
Between now and the draft, some of these players will show teams that they’re much better than where I have them, and some will likely fall. These are really just a list of players I like for the Lions. It would not surprise me at all if by the end of the process my first two picks had completely changed places on draft day, but as things stand right now, this is what I think the Lions should do in the draft. The Senior Bowl and Combine will go a long way toward painting a clearer picture of how some of the guys stack up. Weak opponents and school PR departments do not follow a player to one on one drills in Mobile. My first mock draft of last season had the Lions taking Jeremy Cash in round two. He went undrafted. Todd McShay once said that Derek Carr would never be a successful NFL Quarterback, so I am in good company. Hopefully by the next time I do one of these Getty Images will at least have pictures of all my guys.