If Lions go for Jeff Okudah, here are 10 second-round options that make sense

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Allen Park — While nothing is guaranteed regarding the Detroit Lions' plan for the first round of the NFL Draft, things appear to be trending toward Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah being the selection, whether at No. 3 or a couple spots later, if a trade can be consummated. 

Other options are unlikely or make less sense. The Lions have plugged roster holes at linebacker and offensive tackle, it's way too early to draft a guard, choosing a quarterback continues to be incongruent for a general manager and head coach needing to turn things around next season in order to save their jobs, and the consensus is Okudah is a better value than defensive tackles Derrick Brown or Javon Kinlaw. 

Iowa defensive end A.J. Epenesa

The remaining scenario for it to be someone other than Okudah is if defensive end Chase Young makes it to No. 3, likely because someone skipped over the Lions in a trade with Washington to snag Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

But for this exercise, we'll deal with the increasingly likely scenario Okudah will be the one wearing Honolulu blue. And if that's the case, intrigue quickly shifts to Detroit's second-round selection, pick No. 35. 

With that in mind, we thought we'd take a look at 10 prospects who would make sense at that spot if Okudah is the first-round choice. The group below includes prospects who should come of the board anywhere between picks 25-45. 

► A.J. Epenesa, Edge, Iowa

Once viewed as an early- to mid-first-round pick, Epenesa's stock has dipped a bit after an ugly showing at the combine raised questions about his athleticism. Despite that, his skill set is a good fit for Detroit's scheme, illustrated by Pro Football Focus' comparison to Trey Flowers. 

Epenesa will typically line up on the edge, where he rushes the passer with power and strong hands, while setting a sturdy edge against the run. During clear passing situations on third down, the 6-foot-5, 275-pounder can slide inside and give interior linemen fits. 

►Cesar Ruiz, center, Michigan

While Ruiz is certainly worthy of being selected this early, it might be too rich for Detroit, who believe it's easier to find value at guard than it is many other places on the field. But for a team that loves fast and explosive interior lineman, Ruiz fits the bill. His overall athleticism is among the best in this class and is paired with plus power.  His experience playing center only increase his value. It's been a couple of years, but he did play some guard in college, and he could easily be a plug-and-play option between Frank Ragnow and Halapoulivaati Vaitai on the right side of Detroit's line. 

► Jonathan Taylor, RB, Wisconsin

If it wasn't for the mileage on Taylor's legs — 926 carries over three seasons — he would have a strong case to be the first back off the board, ahead of Georgia's D'Andre Swift. Taylor has durability, production, and, as he proved at the combine, track speed. 

That 4.39-second 40-yard dash might punch Taylor's ticket into the first round, but we all understand the decline in the position's value, which keeps him in play for the Lions at the top of the second round.

Paired with Kerryon Johnson, the Lions would finally have a formidable backfield tandem. 

Texas A&M defensive lineman Justin Madubuike

► Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M

The Lions have committed modest resources into remaking its defensive tackle group, signing Danny Shelton and Nick Williams to two-year deals. But there's more work to be done. 

From a size perspective, the 6-foot-3, 293-pound Madubuike isn't the prototype for what the Lions would typically be looking for at the position. That said, they need an interior lineman with some penetrating ability and he's tallied 22 tackles behind the line of scrimmage the past two seasons. 

► Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State

There is a wealth of receiving talent in this class, which means value is going to be pushed down the board in every round. Aiyuk is an explosive playmaker with the ball in his hands, which also translates to the return game. He averaged 31.9 yards on kickoffs and 16.1 yards on punts last season. 

Playing for a group of coaches with pro experience at Arizona State, Aiyuk expanded his versatility in 2019, working out of the slot more than 100 times. In total, he averaged better than 18 yards per catch last season. 

Notre Dame defensive lineman Julian Okwara

► Julian Okwara, Edge, Notre Dame

Detroit's pass rush has been abysmal the past two seasons. Outside of Flowers, they haven't had a player consistently capable of winning one-on-one matchups on the edge. Assuming the team misses out on Young at the top of the draft, they could go fishing for value on Day 2. 

Okwara was trending toward being a first-round selection prior to breaking his leg in the middle of last season. He's still working his way back from that, but he should be fully ready by the start of his rookie season. 

Before the injury, he had 32 pressures on 202 snaps. He then showed up at the combine and put up an impressive 27 reps on the bench, despite having longer arms. That length and work ethic round out a solid resume. 

► Ezra Cleveland, OT, Boise State

The Lions addressed their long-term need at right tackle by signing Vaitai, while the team's blindside blocker, Taylor Decker, is entering the final year of his rookie deal. He's in line for a massive extension, probably something in the range of $13-15 million per season. Detroit's alternative to sticking with the status quo is drafting a replacement. 

Cleveland declared for the draft early after a solid three-year run with the Broncos. His stellar pass-protection numbers are inflated by inferior competition, and he'll need to add functional strength to continue to dominate at the next level. But he offers good size and elite athleticism for the position, putting him ahead of the curve. 

Wisconsin linebacker Zack Baun (56) sacks Illinois quarterback M.J. Rivers (8)

► Zach Baun, LB, Wisconsin

Do the Lions need another linebacker after signing Jamie Collins, Reggie Ragland and Elijah Lee in free agency? Probably not. But Baun's versatility might be too enticing to pass up. An edge rusher for the Badgers, he's too undersized to handle that role full-time in the NFL. Knowing he'll need to play more off-the-ball, he fully committed to that role during the Senior Bowl, where he was coached by Detroit's staff. 

Baun could be viewed as the long-term replacement for Christian Jones. 

► Jordan Elliott, DT, Missouri

Elliott has experience playing multiple interior alignments with gap-control assignments, making him a natural fit for Detroit's defensive scheme. He's shown some ability to make plays behind the line of scrimmage, with 16.5 in 22 games since 2018. He also took a step forward with his pass rush in 2019, generating pressure on the quarterback once every 8.5 snaps. 

► Michael Pittman, WR, USC

A big-bodied outside receiver, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Pittman isn't going to do a lot of damage on deep balls, but he's an efficient intermediate option who runs good routes and uses his frame to maximize his opportunities.

Pittman caught 101 passes last season, hauling in better than 75 percent of the balls thrown in his direction, while dropping just five. He also forced more than a dozen missed tackles. And at his size, you know you're going to get better than average blocking on the perimeter. 


Twitter: @Justin_Rogers