It is finally Draft Week for the National Football League, and fans across the nation are anxiously waiting for their team to select the next hall of famer. For the Detroit Lions, GM Bob Quinn and HC Matt Patricia may very well be on the hot seat. This means they both could use a strong draft, and with a slew of picks this year, they will have plenty of opportunities to take players they’re confident in. Let’s take a look at how the draft night might play out for Detroit, and how the Lions can finally restore their roar.
Round 1, Pick 3 – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
The Detroit Lions could definitely use some help on the defensive side, and after trading star CB Darius Slay, they have a need there. The Lions ranked in the bottom 3 last year against the pass, in a variety of metrics. Okudah is a highly touted corner who excels in a man coverage scheme, one that head coach Matt Patricia employed often last season. His dimensions, athleticism, and distinct lack of penalties called on him in college make him an exciting prospect. Okudah’s length gives him the ability to disrupt passes aimed in his direction while covering receivers as well as tight ends. This versatile chess piece would be an excellent fit for the Lions in the first round.
After the Lions signed CB Justin Coleman last year, injuries forced him out of his normal Nickel role. With the signing of veteran CB Desmond Trufant, Okudah would have a veteran presence to learn from, while also allowing players like Coleman to return to their preferred role. Paired with the young and emerging CB Amani Oruwariye, the Lions could develop a strong group here with Okudah in the mix. The Lions’ newly hired defensive coordinator, former CB coach Cory Undlin, would also have the exact experience needed to work with the corners specifically. This pick could end up being a home run for the Lions.
Round 2, Pick 35 – A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
Epenesa has been up and down mock draft boards since before the combine but would be a great pickup for the Detroit Lions in round 2. One of the weaker areas for the Lions last season was their pass rush. Epenesa has the skills needed to rush the passer with ease. Similar to Okudah, his length and athleticism make him a force on the line. The Lions have to be looking for strong production from an edge rusher, and Epenesa proved he could produce at Iowa. Deflections, forced fumbles, sacks, and tackles for loss, he can do it all.
Outside of DE Trey Flowers, the Lions have lacked much production. Players like DE Romeo Okwara and DE Austin Bryant were either injured for much of last season, or didn’t make much of an impact while on the field. By taking Epenesa, Patricia can work towards making his defensive line one to be feared. By signing DT Danny Shelton this offseason, it is clear the Lions are focused on making the defensive line a priority.
For a full breakdown of the other Lions offseason moves, click here
Round 3, Pick 67 – Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn
After the loss of OT Rick Wagner and OG Graham Glasgow, the Detroit Lions signed OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai. A nice young piece for a unit that going into 2019, had all of its starters miss at least 1 game. Integral to both the pass and the run game, however, the offensive line is of great importance to GM Quinn, who addressed it with multiple first round picks in his tenure so far. With looming contract decisions to be made about players like OT Taylor Decker, adding a player like Wanogho to the group helps solidify the line, and can offer the Lions much needed depth at an important position.
Having faced tough SEC competition, Wanogho has all of the tools to succeed at the next level. Another key element for Detroit is their familiarity with prospects as they get into the later rounds. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, teams have been limited to only virtual meetings with a lot of potential draftees. The Lions coaching staff, however, had the opportunity to coach the Senior Bowl back in January. While Wanogho played for the opposite team, seeing him in person has to be of note here.
Round 3, Pick 85 – Jason Strowbridge, IDL, North Carolina
As another defensive piece, Strowbridge would be a great pickup for the Lions. Matt Patricia had ample time to coach him one and one at the Senior Bowl and is familiar with his skillset. Adept at stopping the run, he would fit right in with Patricia’s goals on defense. Projected to be more of a 4-3 end at the professional level, Strowbridge would allow for a wide variety of formation variations for Patricia. The versatility to change defensive packages based on available personnel is huge, and having Strowbridge would definitely help in that regard. With the Lions’ poor defensive line play, they need all the talent they can get there.
Round 4, Pick 109 – K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State
Showing great promise and growth over his tenure with the Buckeyes, Hill would be a sneakily good pick here for the Lions. The Lions receiving corps outside of Kenny Golladay is aging. Marvin Jones is 30, and Danny Amendola will be 35 next season. The Lions will have to address this position at some point. Taking Hill here gives them great value and youth.
Current projections also see Hill as a slot receiver in the NFL. After the loss of WR Golden Tate in 2018, the Lions have been searching for someone to fill that role. Hill would fit in nicely and be a great contrast to more outside players in Golladay and Jones. The Lions also got to work with Hill directly at the Senior Bowl. Having that direct familiarity with Hill as part of the North team is something the Lions surely value.
Round 5, Pick 149 – Shaquille Quarterman, LB, Miami
With LB picks in rounds 1 and 2 of recent drafts for the Lions, it is clear they are looking for significant talent there. Quarterman fits the mold of a Matt Patricia linebacker, a physical attacking LB made for a 3-4 scheme. With linebackers Jahlani Tavai and newly signed Jamie Collins bringing coverage, Jarrad Davis and Shaquille Quarterman would be strong in the middle. The Lions front office also routinely values high character in their picks, and being a team captain for Miami has to be of note to them. Stopping the run seems to be an important part of Patricia’s defensive game plan. Having the hard hitting Quarterman helping plug the middle would be a big boon.
Round 5, Pick 166 – Joshua Kelly, RB, UCLA
After yet another injury to RB Kerryon Johnson last season, the Lions significantly lacked talent at the running back position. While not a top prospect, the Lions again have that direct familiarity with Kelly from the Senior Bowl. Adding depth to a position that has seen injury multiple times would be great here. In these later rounds, depth is more so what you’re looking for over day one starters, and Kelly fits that role. A physical, downhill runner, Kelly would slot into a Darrell Bevell led offense nicely.
Bevell was known for his strong usage of the run game while in Seattle. Giving him another piece to work with will only open things up more for Stafford, who was quietly having a MVP caliber season before his injury. At worst, this pick offers some insurance should Johnson miss significant time again. In a league increasingly dominated not by bell cow backs, but by committees, there is a lot to like here with Kelly.
Round 6, Pick 182 – Lamar Jackson, CB, Nebraska
No, not that Lamar Jackson. At this stage in the draft, the Lions are likely to take the best players available on their boards. Adding CB depth can’t hurt, and Jackson would join a CB room with top tier talent and veteran presences. Jackson would have a lot of room to grow as a player as a result. An excellent environment for a CB prospect.
At 6 foot 2, Jackson excels in man coverage schemes and is known for his ball skills as a lengthy outside corner. He is projected to be a strong rotational piece in red zone situations, where different DB packages are often used. For the Detroit Lions, finding any way they can to prevent their opponent from scoring touchdowns will be the key to their success in 2020, as they’ve proven they can get leads. Jackson should be a nice flier pick this late.
Round 7, Pick 235 – Yasir Durant, OG, Missouri
At 6 foot 7, 330 pounds, Durant is a huge blocker that would add depth at the guard position. As noted earlier, the Lions offensive line was injured throughout the year, and could always use more depth. Taking a guard here would also help replace the absence of Glasgow in the rotation. All in all, as long as Durant stays on the team in some capacity, he will already be an improvement over last year’s 7th round pick.
1 – Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
2 – A.J. Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa
3 – Prince Tega Wanogho, OT, Auburn
3 – Jason Strowbridge, IDL, North Carolina
4 – K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State
5 – Shaquille Quarterman, LB, Miami
5 – Joshua Kelly, RB, UCLA
6 – Lamar Jackson, CB, Nebraska
7 – Yasir Durant, OG, Missouri
With this draft, the Lions acquire strong pieces on both sides of the ball. In what may be a true do or die season for their head coach and general manager, the Lions need impactful players who can come in and provide quality play, and I think they get just that with this mock. If the Lions can stay healthy and put it all together, they can be playoff contenders this season. Even without Stafford for a majority of the season, the Lions last year held a lead in a lot of their games. If they can protect Stafford, hold their leads, and plan for the future with youth and depth, the Detroit Lions have a strong chance to have a rebound year, and finally, restore the roar in the Motor City.