Lions take LSU linebacker Devin White in Mel Kiper's first mock draft

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News
ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has the Lions selecting LSU linebacker Devin White in the first round in his first mock draft.

With the Detroit Lions' offensive coordinator search wrapped up, it's time to shift focus to the roster-building components of the offseason, namely free agency and the draft. 

Thankfully, Mel Kiper is happy to help. The longtime ESPN analyst released his first mock draft Thursday morning, and in it he has the Lions selecting LSU linebacker Devin White. 

"This is a spot to watch for a pass-rusher, as the Lions could part ways with free agent Ezekiel Ansah," Kiper writes. "In fact, coach Matt Patricia could use improvements at every level of his defense. White is a fly-to-the-football linebacker with similar athletic traits as Detroit middle linebacker Jarrad Davis, who was taken in the first round in 2017. The two could form a stellar tandem, as both are three-down linebackers. White isn't a true pass-rusher, but he makes plays in the backfield."

That blurb isn't likely to inspire confidence in Lions fans. Davis has struggled with consistency his first two seasons in Detroit, both with his pass coverage and pursuit angles when playing the run.

White, listed at 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, also plays middle linebacker, which would leave the Lions to sort out who would play where between him and Davis. 

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A first-team All-American the past two years, and the 2018 Butkis award winner as the nation's best linebacker, White recorded 123 tackles (12 for a loss), 3.0 sacks, six pass breakups and three forced fumbles for the Tigers last season. 

Kiper has the Lions taking White ahead of a trio of talented defensive linemen —  Rashan Gary, Clelin Ferrell and Ed Oliver — as well as cornerback DeAndre Baker and edge-rushing linebackers Jachai Polite and Brian Burns.

In the projection, Gary comes off the board one pick after the Lions take White, No. 9, to the Buffalo Bills. 

"At his peak, the 6-foot-6, 283-pound Gary is a menace who makes offensive linemen look foolish, but you'd like to see him do it with more regularity," Kiper writes of the former Michigan standout. "Gary could play end or nose guard in a 3-4 defense or tackle in a 4-3."

Linebacker Devin Bush, Gary's Michigan teammate and a longtime Kiper favorite, is slotted to the Pittsburgh Steelers at No. 20. 

"The phrase I keep repeating about Bush is 'perfect for today's NFL,' " Kiper writes. "He would be a great fit as a three-down linebacker who never has to leave the field. At 5-foot-11, Bush is undersized, but he should test well at the combine."

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers