Mock drafters side with Lions taking defensive end
Allen Park — With the draft two days away, we’ve rounded up the latest batch of mock drafts and given our thoughts on some of the players being projected to the Detroit Lions at No. 21.
Player: T.J. Watt, DE, Wisonsin
Analysis: The name alone is enough to generate excitement, but it’s unfair to base expectations on what brother J.J. has accomplished in the NFL. With T.J., he’s a bit undersized for what the Lions like on the edge, but has the frame to put on 10-15 pounds. He has the reputation for playing the run well, something the Lions demand, and if he bulks up to 265 pounds, he should be able to do it effectively at the professional level.
Player: Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Analysis: Another defensive end, Harris is smaller than Watt and would struggle to consistently set an edge. On the other hand, Harris would bolster Detroit’s anemic pass rush, with an impressive burst off the line of scrimmage. But the skill set isn’t well-rounded enough for the defensive scheme to justify the first-round selection.
Player: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Analysis: Hey, look, a defensive end. There’s clearly a theme developing here. With Charlton, the frame is the most ideal of the edge defenders who could fall to the Lions. At 6-foot-6, 272 pounds with long arms, his body is NFL ready. His combine 40 suggests he doesn’t have the top-speed, but he possess a strong overall athletic profile. At worst, he’s a solid starter, at best, there’s Pro Bowl potential to be tapped.
Player: Reuben Foster, LB, Alabama
Mocked by:Charley Casserly (NFL.com)
Analysis: Even with all his red flags, Foster probably doesn’t make it to the Lions at No. 21. If he does, it would be the ultimate risk-reward decision. He’s a player who perfectly fills both short-term and long-term needs. He’s a versatile, athletic linebacker who will punish opponents with his big-hitting style.
But those red flags. There’s concussion history, he’s recovering from shoulder surgery, he was sent home from the combine after an altercation with a medical official and also failed a drug test with a diluted urine sample. Given the strong locker room in Detroit, I believe the Lions could risk it, but I’m glad I’m not the one making the call.
Player: David Njoku, TE, Miami
Analysis: While defensive end is the most common position mocked to the Lions, no individual player shows up more often than Njoku. I can’t say it makes much sense. Yes, the Lions need another tight end, and yes, the team still hasn’t made a decision to pick up Eric Ebron’s fifth-year option (let alone determine his status beyond 2018), but drafting Njoku would be like hitting the reset button on the addition of Ebron in 2014.
Look at the film, and if you don’t have that kind of time, read some of the scouting reports. Njoku and Ebron’s skill sets overlap in a big way. Both are matchup problems as pass-catchers, are subpar blockers and deal with drop issues. The Lions need to diversify their tight end group and Njoku isn’t the solution.
Player: Haason Reddick, LB, Temple
Analysis: This might be a dream scenario for the Lions. Sure, Reddick is going to be used in a different way as a pro than he was in college, asked to operate more often in space than down on the line of scrimmage, but everything points to the player being capable of the transition. A playmaker at Temple, his chart-topping measurables from the combine bode well for Reddick’s ability to track down running backs sideline to sideline and hang with even the best athletes in coverage. If he’s there, which most don’t expect him to be, it’s an easy pick.
Player: Jarrad Davis, LB, Florida
Analysis: Davis is the more realistic option at No. 21. Also highly athletic, there are some concerns about his durability after a knee injury cost him much of the 2014 campaign and his senior year was derailed by a high-ankle sprain. Beyond that, the football character is off the charts. This is a guy that’s going to give you everything he has every time he steps on the field.
Player: Tim Williams, LB, Alabama
Analysis: Perhaps exposing some flaws in DraftTek’s computer-generated mock, Williams probably isn’t the best scheme fit for the Lions, plus there’s the issue of multiple failed drug tests in college. That doesn’t give you a lot of confidence he’ll be able to kick his bad habits as a professional. Williams is a dynamic pass-rusher, but at 245-pounds, he’s too small to play on the line in Detroit. He’s athletic enough to play in space, but he wouldn’t be as good as Reddick, Davis or Zach Cunningham.
Player: Tre’Davious White, CB, LSU
Mocked by:Steve Palazzolo (Pro Football Focus)
Analysis: It’s not the team’s more pressing need, but the Lions could stand to upgrade at cornerback. White is versatile, capable of playing outside or in the slot. He did a nice job shutting down opposing quarterbacks in the SEC and tackled well when he did give up a reception. He was also a pretty dangerous return man, bringing back a punt for a touchdown each of the past three seasons. It’s a relatively conservative pick, but would fill multiple needs.
Player: Marlon Humphrey, CB, Alabama
Analysis: Humphrey is a better athlete than White, with a slightly bigger frame and longer limbs. Pro Football Focus praises his work on plays in front of him, which is a significant part of Detroit’s scheme, which often concedes short throws. That said, Humphrey has struggled at times with the deep ball, giving up nearly 17 yards per completion last year. Alabama’s defensive backs plays with an unusual technique, so there’s also going to be an adjustment period, but Humphrey has the potential to be a solid No. 2 to Darius Slay with patient development.
Player: Takk McKinley, DE, UCLA
Mocked by:Todd McShay (ESPN)
Analysis: Like Harris, McKinley has a lethal first step, maybe the best in the draft. He gets off the ball in the hurry and sets up camp in the backfield. But also like Harris, you’re looking at another option that’s undersized to play three downs opposite Ziggy Ansah. That makes McKinley more of a pass-rush specialist in Detroit’s scheme. Additionally, the UCLA standout is coming off shoulder surgery, which is expected to sideline him until the start of training camp.
Player: Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
Mocked by:Peter Schrager (Fox Sports)
Analysis: Barnett doesn’t have elite measurables, but his college production was something special. The three-year starter racked up double-digit sacks each season for the Volunteers. He finished with 52 tackles behind the line, something the Lions sorely lacked in 2016. This is one player where you can’t get caught up in what he did at the combine. Barnett shines on the field and would be a fine addition to Detroit’s front four if he’s available.
Player: Corey Davis, WR, Western Michigan
Mocked by:Mike Florio (PFT)
Few will argue the Lions have bigger needs on defense, but there are a handful of offensive players who could be considered the best player available at No. 21. Davis falls into that category. Marvin Jones and Golden Tate are a fine tandem, but the team needs a third wide receiver, especially one with size. The 6-foot-3 Davis is well-rounded and polished, capable of lining up inside and outside, and would make the Lions’ passing attack one to be feared.