The Detroit Lions have begun to see their play slip in recent weeks, making the playoffs more and more of a long shot for the team in the second half. If the Lions do keep losing on the field, that will merely sweeten their draft placement, as has been seen in recent weeks as Detroit has moved all the way up as high as the No. 7 pick in the draft with a recent flurry of losses.
What will the Lions look to do with that pick, and what needs to they have coming into focus? Here’s a look at some of the biggest takeaways and projections as mock draft season officially gets underway a bit early this year in Detroit.
1. Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan. Wilson: “The Lions defensive line ranks first in rushing the passer, according to Football Outsiders, but Ziggy Ansah is on the franchise tag and his future in Detroit remains a question after the season. Gary, who plays down the road in Ann Arbor, can play both interior and on the edge, though he’s probably best suited inside.”
(DeMara): Indeed, this is a move most Lions fans would eat up, as Gary has huge pass rush and interior upside to a team which has been devoid of that for a long time up front and has struggled to get pocket pressure from the front four. As a result, he’s someone to remember for the team, and Wilson sends him to the Lions with a top 10 pick.
2. Mike Renner, Washington Post: Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama. Renner:“Thompson has the potential to be the type of player who is very hard to find in today’s NFL: a playmaking single-high safety. Many teams that run single-high coverages treat the center field safety as a placeholder who basically cleans up messes for other defensive backs. When you have one who can shut down the seams and break up passes on the sideline (think Earl Thomas), it’s a game-changer for the defense. Thompson has forced seven incompletions from a primarily deep role and made two spectacular interceptions this season. He’d be the perfect addition to a limited Lions secondary.”
(DeMara): The Lions have lacked depth at safety this year given the decline of Glover Quin and others at the position, so it might be time for them to make another addition to a stable which has Quandre Diggs in addition to last year’s third round pick Tracy Walker. Thompson, from pro-scheme Alabama, could be as good a fit for the team’s secondary as Da’Shawn Hand has been for the defensive front thus far this season. Matt Patricia likes safeties and the three safety look, so this is one to remember.
3. Walter Football: Devin White, LB, LSU. Walter Football:“The Lions have one of the worst linebacking corps in the NFL. They can’t cover anyone over the middle of the field. They need to add a player who can become the leader of their defensive unit at the position. If they do so, perhaps they’ll finally be able to compete with some of the top teams in their division. Devin White was extremely productive this past season, logging 133 tackles. A projected running back, White is still learning the position, which is crazy considering how great he was in 2017. White is already generating a buzz for the 2019 NFL Draft, as Charlie Campbell reported in the NFL Hot Press.”
(DeMara): Detroit’s linebacking group was renovated heading into 2018, but still appears to be quite thin after depth and play issues have plagued the group. If White is there, he could be the type of thumping playmaker who could thrive with Matt Patricia. Another name to remember in the months ahead from a defensive perspective.
4. Darryl Slater, NJ.com: Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson. Slater: “A potential pass rushing replacement for pending free agent Ezekiel Ansah. Ferrell has 12.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks.”
(DeMara): The Lions could need a pure pass rusher from this class, and Ferrell is a guy who has a ton of upside and should be there for the taking for the Lions if they do end up with a top 10 pick. It’s hard to disagree with his college production and not think Matt Patricia could help make him into something great with Detroit’s team up front in the needy trenches.
5. Dan Parr, NFL.com: Needs analysis. Parr: “A secondary that was without its top player (Darius Slay) was exposed by the Bears on Sunday. In addition to corner/strong safety, the pass rush has to be a consideration for Detroit this offseason with Ziggy Ansah playing on the franchise tender. The need for a playmaker in the slot becomes even greater with Golden Tate’s departure at the trade deadline — Detroit could go get a wide receiver or tight end (or maybe both) to help fill that void.”
(DeMara): Lions fans will be scared to see an offensive playmaker high on the list of needs, but there is one at tight end and perhaps wideout. Still, the defense Parr mentions is probably the biggest concern, which is why that could be slotted in for early picks. A ton of this will depend on what the Lions decide to do in free agency as well. That will be something to watch very closely first before the draft even begins.