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ESPN's Mel Kiper slots Lions different edge rusher, QB in latest NFL mock draft

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

In January, as part of his first mock draft of the offseason, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper projected an edge rusher and quarterback to the Detroit Lions with the team's two first-round picks.

That remains the case with his second mock draft, posted Tuesday, but the faces have changed. 

In January, Kiper had the Lions selecting Oregon's Kayvon Thibodeaux at No. 2 and North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell at the back end of the first round. But in the more recent projection, Kiper's prognostications regarding the top of the draft have drifted toward popular opinion, which sees the Jacksonville Jaguars selecting an offensive lineman with the No. 1 choice, allowing Michigan's Aidan Hutchinson (Kiper's previous pick for the Jaguars) to slide to Detroit at No. 2. 

"The Lions are in a great spot here, with a clear need at edge rusher and one of the best two prospects guaranteed to be available," Kiper writes. "Hutchinson is a local kid who just finished second in the voting for the Heisman Trophy, racking up 14 sacks and 19 total tackles for loss and dominating Big Ten offensive tackles. This is not just a sentimental pick because he went to Michigan; Hutchinson is an elite defender."

As for Thibodeaux, Kiper has Oregon's athletic edge rusher sliding only a few spots, to the New York Giants at No. 5.

That's better than Howell, who is no longer viewed as a first-round option by most draft analysts, including Kiper. Still, he likes the Lions to add a QB with the final pick of the first round, only this time it's Ole Miss' Matt Corral. 

"I'm not convinced Jared Goff will be Detroit's long-term signal-caller," Kiper writes. "Corral could be, though, and in this scenario he could get time to learn behind Goff in 2022, when the Lions almost certainly won't be contending in the NFC North. Yes, they have several needs, but if they can get a quarterback with a fifth-year option, they could continue the positive momentum of their rebuild."

Listed at 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Corral won't throw at the combine this week while he continues to work his way back from an ankle injury he suffered during the team's bowl game in early January. 

It was a disappointing end to a highly productive season. After struggling with turnovers the previous year, Corral completed 67.9% of his throws for 3,349 yards, 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions in 13 games. He also has shown some ability to make plays with his feet, rushing for more than 1,100 yards the past two seasons, while scoring 15 times as a ball carrier. 

The dual-threat skill set and above-average arm has drawn comparisons to Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, who went No. 1 overall in the 2018 draft. 

jdrogers@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers