Allen Park — The most popular player projected to the Detroit Lions in the upcoming draft, by a significant margin, is Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah. ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper is one of many in that chorus, slotting Okudah to Detroit in his most recent mock draft that posted on Tuesday.
In terms of comparisons for Okudah, Kiper rattled off a pair of All-Pros at the position.
"He, to me, is what Stephon Gilmore was coming out, what Patrick Peterson was coming out," Kiper said. "He's going to be expected to be one of the best cornerbacks in this league. He has that skill set and the mindset for it. He's a very aggressive player, good tackler, he's not too handsy in coverage even though he's aggressive, and you like that because you don't want to see penalties."
Ideally, the Lions would be able to orchestrate a trade down the board and still land their top target, but the NFL's decision to suspend all draft-related medical evaluations as the world addresses the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a wrench in that possibility.
Kiper is as uncertain as ever a team would be willing to trade up for the most likely target, Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who has been rehabbing from a dislocated hip the past few months.
"Right now it's a lot of question marks because of the lack of information," Kiper said. "Is a team going to trade up without all that type of (medical) information? We'll see."
Tagovailoa did post a 10-second video on social media this week, showing him working with a trainer, taking a snap, dropping back, backpedaling with rapid, short steps and throwing the ball. But a short clip is hardly a substitute for a full medical follow-up to his combine evaluation in February.
Kiper did reiterate a point he's made in the past, suggesting any team that drafts Tagovailoa should sit him for his rookie year. Kiper highlighted that Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Lamar Jackson each sat all or most of their rookie years.
Regardless of whether the Lions land Okudah at pick three, five or six, Kiper was asked which position would make sense for the team in the second round. The analyst offered two and specific possibilities at both, including a pair of former Michigan standouts.
"If you look at it right now, would you maybe look at an outside 'backer or maybe an interior offensive lineman?" Kiper asked rhetorically. "I think that would be a spot to maybe look at in Round 2. If you look at guys who could be there at that point, I like Robert Hunt, Louisiana Lafayette, who is a tackle-guard. Ben Bredeson, Michigan, is another one. Damien Lewis, LSU. I think there's some options there.
"In terms of outside linebacker, I've mentioned some of those guys through the course of today, but I think of Zack Baun at Wisconsin, if he drops down that far. Josh Uche from Michigan, (Terrell) Lewis from Alabama is another one that could be a possibility there.
The Lions coached Bredeson, Baun and Uche at the Senior Bowl in January, while both Damien Lewis and Terrell Lewis participated at the event as part of the opposing South squad.
The Lions appear to still have a need at guard after the first wave of free agency. The team has a trio of experienced contenders to fill the vacancy in the starting lineup created by Graham Glasgow's departure, but there's nothing to suggest Joshua Garnett, Russell Bodine or Oday Aboushi are a long-term solution.
At linebacker, Detroit's depth chart is equally crowded,. From a pass-rushing perspective, you can never get enough help, but the team did add versatile defender Jamie Collins, who figures to get some of those edge-rushing reps.