Earlier this week, Detroit Lions general manager Bob Quinn said he had a good idea about five or six players who could be available when his team is scheduled to select No. 20 in the first round of the NFL draft. Understandably, Quinn declined to share that list, but NFL Network analysts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks, during a Wednesday conference call, weighed in on the potential options who could be available to Detroit.
The first name mentioned would arguably fill the Lions’ biggest needs, with one of the draft’s largest players.
“One I would keep an eye on, I would say Will Hernandez would be an interesting one,” Jeremiah said. “I think he kind of fits the physical nature they want to have there with their team.”
The 348-pound guard out of UTEP earned first-team All-American honors last season before putting a rubber stamp on his resume with a strong showing at the combine. He put up 37 reps on the bench press, while surprisingly managing to post top-10 times in the 40-yard dash and 3-cone drills among linemen.
A mauling guard, Hernandez would be a plug-and-play option on the left side of Detroit’s line, providing an immediate boost to the team’s run blocking.
Another player who could improve the ground game at No. 20, according to Jeremiah, would be LSU running back Derrius Guice.
“I think he’s better than the backs they have on campus right now,” Jeremiah said.
Brooks shifted focus to Detroit’s defensive line, listing an edge rusher and interior defender, either who could bolster the team’s inconsistent pass rush from a season ago.
“If, by chance, (Marcus) Davenport was able to slip a little bit, he’d be a great fit,” Brooks said. “Either, A, to eventually replace Ziggy Ansah or, B, to put him on the opposite side of Ziggy Ansah to give them two pass rushers with some versatility that can come after the quarterback, in a division that’s kind of loaded with quarterbacks.
“Also, Mo Hurst, from Michigan,” Brooks said. “Trying to find an interior pass-rusher that can create some havoc on the inside. We’ve seen how the game is evolving, you want to make sure you can get somebody that can get into the A gap that can disrupt and disturb the timing of the passing game.”
Similar to Ansah coming out of college, Davenport is an athletic marvel, posting elite measurables at the combine to go with his 6-foot-6, 265-pound frame. Hurst, meanwhile, is considered undersized for his position, but his college production is impossible to ignore. Pro Football Focus has touted him as the draft’s best interior lineman.
To round out a list of five, Jeremiah also put Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan in the mix. Earlier in the call, the analyst praised Bryan’s ability to rush the passer, capable of soundly beating opposing offensive linemen off the snap, but also noting Byran’s need to improve finishing plays.
As for running backs who could help the Lions outside the first round, Brooks highlighted a number of options who could bolster the team’s ability to run with power.
“Outside of LeGarrette Blount, they have a lot of guys who are more of the smaller, scat-back types,” Brooks said. “I’m sure they’d like some size, and if you’re thinking of size in the traditional sense, D.J. talked about Derrius Guice and some of those other guys, but going into the second, maybe third round, (Georgia’s) Nick Chubb being a guy that can do what LeGarrette Blount will probably be asked to do for them.”
Brooks also said Oregon’s Royce Freeman and San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny would fill that need.
Brooks’ comments echo his sentiments from a year ago, when he told The Detroit News Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah were complementary backs and the Lions needed a “crown-jewel type” to lead the team’s backfield rotation.
The Lions finished last in the NFL in rushing, both yards per game and yards per carry, in 2017.