Lions 2020 draft preview: Detroit set at safety, could add piece to stash for future
Allen Park — Over the next several days, leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, we’re taking a position-by-position look at the Detroit Lions’ roster and evaluating how the team might address each unit. Today: Safety.
► Current roster: Tracy Walker, Duron Harmon, Will Harris, Jayron Kearse, Miles Killebrew, C.J. Moore
► Short-term need: Two out of 10
► Long-term need: Six out of 10
► Top prospects: Grant Delpit, Xavier McKinney, Ashtyn Davis, Antoine Winfield Jr.
► Mid-round options: Kyle Dugger, Jeremy Chinn, J.R. Reid
► Late-round fits: Tanner Muse, Marc-Antoine Dequoy
► Analysis: Looking over Detroit's current depth chart at safety, it's reasonable to assume the team likes its setup for the upcoming season.
Although Walker still has plenty of room to grow, the franchise views him as one of its defensive cornerstones. The former third-round pick expanded his versatility last season as a go-to choice to cover opposing tight ends, where he had more success than not in the role.
The Lions lacked a consistent complement to Walker after trading away Quandre Diggs in the middle of last season, but they believe they've filled that hole with Harmon, the former Patriot.
The third man in New England's safety rotation the past several years, Harmon still saw plenty of playing time, establishing a reputation for having outstanding coverage skills and playmaking ability as the defense's deep man.
The addition of Harmon will allow the Lions to dial back Harris' responsibilities. The second-year man out of Boston College was thrust into a larger role than he was ready to handle as a rookie, leading to some predictable inconsistencies. He has all the tools in the chest, with great size and athleticism. It's just a matter of developing the technique and knowledge of how to best use them.
Deeper down the depth chart, the Lions have a trio of talented special teamers in Killebrew, Kearse and Moore who will likely battle for two roster spots.
That looks like a decent setup for 2020, but it's what lies beyond where there could be cause for concern. For the moment, Harmon looks like a stopgap. He only has one year remaining on his contract and will be 30 when negotiating his next deal. That's the unofficial threshold where teams have to carefully weigh the investment against a player's natural decline due to age.
By 2021, Harris might be ready for the bigger role. But if this coaching staff is able to stick around beyond next season, they'll want a reliable third option for the rotation.
While it would be tough to fit another safety on the current roster, if the Lions see value in the middle and later rounds, they could stash and develop with an eye on 2021.
Dugger and Chinn are a pair of interesting options who figure to come off the board on the draft's second day. Both are small-school standouts, with Dugger coming out of Lenoir-Rhyne and Chinn being a Southern Illinois product. Despite concerns about the competition level, both offer elite size, length and athleticism.
The 6-foot-1, 217-pound Dugger won the Cliff Harris Award as Division II's best defensive player despite playing in just seven games due to injury. During his college career, he intercepted 10 passes and broke up 36, while scoring six touchdowns as a return man.
At 6-foot-3 and 221 pounds, Chinn is even bigger. The size is supplemented by impressive speed and a 41-inch vertical. Leaving little room to pass around him with measureables like that, he picked off at least three passes each of his four seasons with the Salukis.
If he makes it to Day 3, Clemson's Muse is another size-speed prospect who merits consideration. At 6-foot-2 and 227 pounds, Muse ran a blazing 4.41-second 40-yard dash at the combine. And playing against a far better level of competition than Dugger or Chinn, Muse racked up 116 tackles, six interceptions and eight pass breakups the past two seasons.
Finally, from a strictly developmental perspective, Dequoy's measurables make him worthy of a look toward the end of the draft. The Canadian prospect also checked in at 6-foot-2, and his pro day times in the 40 (4.35 seconds) and three-cone drill (6.65 seconds) would have been among the best for a safety in the past 15 years at the combine.