Mayock: Draft deep in defense can help Lions

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — The Detroit Lions need an injection of defensive talent.

While some positions groups need more help than others, there isn’t one unit that couldn’t use some sort upgrade.

Here’s the good news: NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock believes the Lions will have plenty of quality options to bolster their defense in the early rounds of the upcoming draft.

“I think it’s one of the best defensive drafts I’ve seen,” Mayock said during a Monday conference call.

The Lions are scheduled to pick 21st in the first round, where Mayock believes one of the glut of top-tier edge defenders could slide.

“Tim Williams of Alabama is more of a 3-4 outside linebacker,” Mayock said. “He has some off-field issues, those could cause him to slide. I think Derek Barnett is one of the toughest, hardest working edge rushers in this draft or any draft. I think he’ll go somewhere between 10 and 22, somewhere in that range. Solomon Thomas, of Stanford, can play inside or outside — outside on run downs, inside on pass downs. People are making comparisons to Aaron Donald. I’m not sure I see that, but I love his versatility. Then you start talking about Taco Charlton from Michigan, who is really gifted. He’s a long edge guy.”

Williams, with his smaller build and off-field red flags, might not be in consideration, but the Lions would likely be thrilled to land any of those other options mentioned by Mayock. But even if the top edge defenders are off the board by the time the Lions are on the clock, he is confident the team can still adequately fill the need later in the draft.

“The nice thing for the Lions, even if they decide to go a different direction, like a linebacker for instance — I don’t think Reuben Foster would be there, but if he was — you can get a corner in the second or third round, you can get an edge guy in the second and third round,” Mayock said. “This defensive talent at this draft at edge and corner is outstanding, and also safety.”

Mayock specifically highlighted four players in the next tier — Florida State’s Demarcus Walker, Ohio’s Tarell Basham, Kansas State’s Jordan Willis and Villanova’s Tanoh Kpassagnon as Day 2 possibilities for teams, like Detroit, which are looking for help at defensive end.

Detroit currently has two defensive ends under contract in Ziggy Ansah and Anthony Zettel. The team also controls the rights to Brandon Copeland (restricted) and Kerry Hyder (exclusive rights). After finishing near the bottom of the league in both sacks and quarterback hurries in 2016, the team desperately needs another player who can consistently disrupt the pocket.

Last year, Mayock was among the many analysts praising the depth of the defensive tackle talent in the draft. The Lions were able to benefit from this abundance when A’Shawn Robinson — projected by many as a first-round possibility — fell to the team in the second round.