On April 26th-28th, the Detroit Lions will participate in the 2018 NFL Draft at AT&T Stadium in Arlington Texas and after coming up short of the NFL Playoffs this past season, there is no question that general manager Bob Quinn has his work cut out for him as far as improving the roster.
Up to this point, the biggest move Quinn has made in free agency is using the franchise tag on defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. In addition, the Lions released former first-round pick, Eric Ebron, which came to a surprise to many. Because of that move, it seems likely that Quinn will look to the NFL Draft for Ebron’s replacement, but the question is, in what round?
There are also concerns on both the offensive and defensive line that must be addressed if the Lions want any chance of making a run in the NFC North this coming season and those areas MUST be addressed in the early rounds.
I have been very vocal about my belief the Lions DO NOT have to draft a running back in the early rounds or even at all. Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, and newly acquired LeGarrette Blount are good enough to get the job done IF and only IF Quinn can solidify the offensive line.
So, without further ado, here is what the PERFECT Detroit Lions draft would look like.
NOTE: Rather than getting crazy with hypothetical trades and messing everything up, we will assume the Lions stick with the six picks they have.
ROUND 1 – Harold Landry (DE) Boston College
If you want to compete in the NFC North, you have to be able to put pressure on the opposing quarterback. The Lions already secured that Ezekiel Ansah will be back for the 2018 campaign but they have a chance to add what could turn out to be an elite pass rusher in DE Harold Landry out of Boston College. If Ansah is healthy and can have a consistent season, he and Landry could wreak havoc on opposing QBs.
Landry lacks premium size, but his burst, stride length and ability to dip and rip around the edge give him special potential as an edge rusher. Landry lacks strength at the point of attack and may be a designated pass rusher early in his career. While he can play standing for 3-4 teams, he’s at his best with his hand in the dirt as a rusher. Landry can get by as an NFL rusher with just speed and athleticism, but he has an opportunity to become a Pro Bowler if he can improve his hand usage and develop an inside counter.
ROUND 2 – Billy Price (C/G) Ohio State
The Detroit Lions MUST improve their rushing attack and the best way to do that is to build a solid offensive line. With Travis Swanson moving on, the Lions have a hole at the center position and as of now, it would be Graham Glasgow who would fill that role. If Price is drafted, the Lions would have a nice scenario as both he and Glasgow are capable of playing either guard or center. The only thing left to do would be to figure out who fits best at each position.
Plays like a Wildling at times with tremendous explosiveness, strength and, almost excessive initial charge. Price’s power and leverage give him a huge advantage over most centers in this draft. He should be able to come into the league and deal with NFL power right away. However, his impatience as a blocker and tendency to charge in head-first will be used against him by savvy NFL opponents if he doesn’t get it cleaned up. Price should be a good, early starter.
ROUND 3 – Donte Jackson (CB) LSU
Darius Slay really emerged as one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL this past season and he will be looking to take another step forward in 2018. Unfortunately, despite what many Lions fans believe, after Slay, there are a bunch of role-type CBs on the roster. Donte Jackson lacks size, which could cause his to drop to this spot in the draft, but he makes up for it with his elite speed which means some team could gamble on him sooner.
Cover corner with below-average size, but elite speed and athleticism. Jackson lacks instincts but has rare closing burst so there will be feast-or-famine games in his future. Due to his slight frame, teams are sure to test his resolve and durability in run support. Jackson’s athletic traits should ensure that he makes plenty of plays on the ball, but he’ll need to develop better route recognition and focus in order to reach his full potential. Jackson should find early work as a third cornerback.
ROUND 4 – Derrick Nnadi (DT) Florida State
With Haloti Ngata leaving town, the Lions defensive line became even more depleted. Quinn did sign free agent Sylvester Williams, who should help out, but drafting another defensive tackle would be a wise move. Derrick Nnadi out of Florida State is not only a player who would provide immediate depth in the interior but would challenge for a starting spot before the season ended.
It’s hard to find “bad tape” for Nnadi. While NFL teams may see an undersized 4-3 nose tackle with limited pass rush value, I see a player with good power at the point of attack who can dislodge from single blocks and make plays. Nnadi has a good motor, active hands and enough pass rush ability to cause problems for blockers up front. Nnadi has the physical tools to play in one or two-gap schemes and has NFL starting ability.
ROUND 5 – Tyler Conklin (TE) Central Michigan
Do not be surprised at all if the Lions draft a tight end within the first three rounds of the NFL Draft but this is MY perfect scenario and I would prefer to see them wait. Tyler Conklin, who originally was planning on playing college basketball at Northwood University, is an athletic player who is currently a better blocker than he is a receiver, though he does have good hands. One of the knocks on Ebron was that he was useless in the running game and you can bet that is something Bob Quinn will be looking to improve moving forward. The big question about Conklin is whether or not he can be the player he was in 2016 before suffering a foot injury. If he can, this could be a nice pick for the Lions.
Conklin requires tape study from both 2016 and 2017 as his preseason foot injury appeared to create some limitations for him athletically. He’s a capable receiver, but he isn’t going to make a living as a pass-catching tight end. Conklin shows the aptitude and attitude to handle blocking duties inline or as a move tight end, but his draft stock could depend on his medicals and how he tests at the Combine.
ROUND 7 – Mike McCray (LB) Michigan
Yes, I am a Michigan fan but this is not just my way of mentioning a Wolverines player, I promise! Though new Lions head coach Matt Patricia has said he will not strictly go with a 3-4 defense in Detroit, you can bet it will be a staple of his defensive plan. McCray is a guy who would fit in nicely to the inside of a 3-4 defense as he is big, strong, and excels against the run. Unfortunately, he will never be an every down LB in the NFL because of his lack of coverage abilities.
McCray is a big, physical inside linebacker who plays with most of the characteristics evaluators want from an inside linebacker, but his limited range could hurt his draft stock. McCray could be a consideration for 3-4 teams looking to pair a big body next an athlete at inside linebacker, but he’ll need to come off the field on passing downs. If healthy, McCray could become a backup linebacker with a chance to work himself into starting contention down the road.