Written by: JT Bowen
With the coming and going of the 2020 NFL Combine, we have a much better outlook on this year’s draft. Unlike last year, when the Kyler Murray going #1 to Arizona talk began to take hold, there weren’t a plethora of widely agreed-upon rumors, but in terms of individual measurements and medical some of the fog has begun to clear.
Apart from the Joe Burrow-Cincinnati marriage, which seems locked in, the clarity of what teams value and need is severely obscured. Tua’s landing spot is very much in question, and will be a massive factor in where and who Detroit selects at the top.
As usual, some prospects brought up or locked in their draft stock this week. The offensive tackle group is increasingly looking like a four-horse race, with Tristan Wirfs and Mekhi Becton testing phenomenally, and Andrew Thomas and Jedrick Wills right alongside them. Additionally, the receiver class, which was already considered extremely talented, saw some names like Chase Claypool or Donovan Peoples-Jones surely make themselves some money with absolutely absurd Combine numbers, and the running back class wowed too.
Few players disappointed, and the real absence of grounded rumors past Burrow has most around the league purely speculating how the first round will play out. With that mindset, let’s get rolling on the second iteration of my Lions mock draft, this edition with trades.
ROUND 1, 6th Overall, (DET acquires #6, #37, and 2021 1st via LA in exchange for #3 and 2021 6th)
Jeffrey Okudah, CB, Ohio State
In spite of the rumors swirling around the potential divorce of Dwayne Haskins and Ron Rivera as the Redskins entering a new regime, similar to a Josh Rosen-Kyler Murray situation, I truly don’t buy into the Washington rumors about possibly taking Tua Tagovailoa at #2 — I think Chase Young is the pick, unfortunately for Detroit.
With Tua seemingly being safe to be picked at #5, the Dolphins start to exhale a little bit, expecting him to fall right into their laps… until he doesn’t. Tom Telesco, finally estranged from Philip Rivers and desperately needing to sell tickets in Los Angeles, sees Tua available at #3 for a good value, and kicks the tires, selecting the Alabama southpaw. The Chargers give up the 6th overall pick, their second-rounder, and a future 1st, while the Lions send back the 3rd selection, along with a future sixth-rounder for peace of mind.
Though they’ll never show it, Detroit is desperate to move back. They want the massive haul that Miami could give them, but with the clock ticking (this theoretically happens on draft night) and the Dolphins not on the phone, they settle for what is still a very hefty return in my view.
And, with the #6 selection in the Draft, the Lions take Jeff Okudah.
As much as I want to believe Derrick Brown or Isaiah Simmons are in play here, I really, wholeheartedly think Okudah is the guy, and for good reason. Though he didn’t blow the doors off the Combine like some expected, he excelled in interviews, turned in some really solid numbers, and avoided injury. Barring the Giants taking him, which feels unlikely with Isaiah Simmons available and a huge need at offensive tackle, Okudah falls right into Detroit’s paws as a perfect scheme fit and value choice at #6.
ROUND 1, 26th OVERALL, (DET acquires #26 via MIA in exchange for #35 and #106)
K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE/OLB, Louisiana State
Perhaps the fan is coming out in me for this pick; it’s entirely possible Chaisson is off the board by 15. However, due to the run on tackles, quarterbacks, and receivers, and some free agency cards falling the right way, such as Shaq Barrett staying in Tampa and Dante Fowler heading to Atlanta, Chaisson makes it to 26, Miami’s final first-round pick.
Chaisson would be great in South Beach, but if the Dolphins are willing to drop a few picks and add a fourth-rounder, which would make sense given the massive collection of assets they’ve already amassed, Detroit should absolutely pull this trade to scoop up the falling LSU star.
Assuming the Lions don’t go out and throw a $15 million+ deal at an edge rusher in free agency, which I don’t think they will, the hole at defensive end opposite Trey Flowers would be effectively plugged by getting K’Lavon Chaisson. Maybe A.J. Epenesa here or even Bradlee Anae on Day 2 makes more sense, especially for the Lions scheme, but the versatility and incredible athleticism is too much to pass up on.
Chaisson has drawn comparisons from Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller to Josh Allen, a player who would’ve been a Lion if he had lasted one more pick in the 2019 Draft, for his speed-rusher build. Chaisson would likely project into the JACK role where he would look to unseat Devon Kennard, but his ridiculous versatility and ability to get to the quarterback should make him capable of playing in many blitz and coverage packages for Detroit.
Chaisson, who didn’t participate in drills at the Combine but will at the LSU pro day, where he will see his draft stock rise even more, could very well be gone by this point. But if he somehow is available here, Bob Quinn should pick up the phone and see if Miami is interested in trading this time around.
ROUND 2, 37th Overall (via LA)
Cesar Ruiz, iOL, Michigan
Lions fans, including myself, wouldn’t be too happy with this pick. Rarely — if ever — is taking an interior offensive lineman widely approved, especially considering the resources the Lions have invested in their line of late. However, in the event Graham Glasgow leaves in free agency, which looks likely at this point, Detroit will need to fill in that void.
Frankly, I don’t think the answer’s Joe Dahl. And I don’t think it’s Oday Aboushi, or Kenny Wiggins, or even Beau Benzschawel. So to replace the departing Wolverine, the Lions add another one.
In a weak interior offensive line class that lacks a clear No. 1, Ruiz has ascended to the point where it would be a mild surprise if he weren’t the first iOL taken. Depending on how teams value him in a class that lacks depth at the position, he may not escape the first round.
Ruiz lined up predominantly at center for Michigan, but his athleticism and power as displayed at the Combine (5.08 40 yard dash, 28 bench press reps, 4.64 20 yard shuttle) should allow him to line up at right guard, where Glasgow played.
As recently as last year, the instant impact and value of second-round interior linemen like Erik McCoy and Elgton Jenkins was displayed. Bob Quinn’s natural disposition to using picks on offensive linemen once again takes hold as the Lions snatch one up here.
ROUND 3, 67th Overall
Justin Madubuike, DL, Texas A&M
Another player I’m not entirely sure makes it here, mostly due to the lack of depth at the interior defensive lineman position past Derrick Brown and Javon Kinlaw. In the chance he makes it here though, the Lions would be wise to select the Aggie prospect.
Madubuike is a very talented inside lineman with a knack for generating pressure and penetrating the pocket from the inside. The Lions have sorely lacked this since Ndamukong Suh’s exit, and despite trying to replace it with Mike Daniels and seeing flashes in the oft-injured Da’Shawn Hand, haven’t been able to. Madubuike has been a model of consistency in College Station, putting together two nearly identical (and great) statistical years in 2018 and 2019.
Madubuike has been heavily linked to Dallas, and his stellar Combine performance could very well solidify him as a top-50 pick. But if he’s available at this point, which isn’t out of the question given the bulk of talent across many positions in this class, Madubuike would be another player who brings immediate impact for Detroit, with versatility and pass-rushing ability that could parlay into real starter potential in Year 1 for the Lions.
ROUND 5, 149th Overall
James Proche, WR, Southern Methodist
Most players drafted at this point don’t figure to have an instant impact on the team, usually starting their careers mainly on special teams. Such would be the case with Detroit’s fifth-round choice, SMU’s James Proche.
Proche being drafted on Day 3 is not at all attributed to his production for the Mustangs, racking up nearly 2500 yards and 27 touchdowns in his final two years at SMU. His lack of athleticism and size are what really brings him down.
Proche’s size, at 5-11 and sub-200 pounds, realistically relegate him to strictly a slot receiver. He is comparable, in fact, to Danny Amendola: small, sticky-handed, and a solid route runner. Detroit needs a plan for the future at the slot pass-catcher position despite Amendola’s production and recent extension, and adding Proche to sit for a year behind one of the game’s most learned veterans at the position before ideally becoming Detroit’s primary slot receiver of the future.
Coupled with his potential in the return game, Proche is a rock-solid pick in Round 5.
ROUND 5, 173rd Overall (via SEA)
Jeremy Chinn, S, Southern Illinois
After a dominant Combine performance in which he posted a 4.45 40 yard dash, 20 bench press reps, 41 inch vertical, and, most importantly for the Lions, a height of 6-3, Chinn has seen his stock rise from a small-school unknown to a legitimate name to watch early on Day 3.
Receiving an athletic grade of 9.99 out of 10 in Kent Lee Platte’s RAS metric (@MathBomb on Twitter), Chinn is kind of the poor man’s Kyle Dugger, or the homeless man’s Isaiah Simmons. From a purely athletic standpoint, he’s a freak, and would perhaps be more popular were it not for the aforementioned prospects stealing his thunder.
Chinn, hailing from Southern Illinois in the Missouri Valley Conference, will undoubtedly need time to develop, as his skills in coverage and reading professional offenses are simply not yet at the level to compete in the NFL. However, he is a physical tackler and brings great versatility to the safety position, and depending on how quickly he adapts and the Tavon Wilson situation, could see playing time in certain three-safety packages as early as his rookie year.
Taking Chinn is purely a flier for Detroit, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The abundance of physical gifts Chinn brings to the table and the sky-high potential is and should be intriguing, and scooping him up in the late fifth round is well worth it.
ROUND 6, 183rd Overall
Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State
With their 7th-rounder belonging to San Francisco due to the Eli Harold trade (which is paying off in spades, might I add), the Lions draft ends in Round 6 this year, and they conclude their draft by adding their signal-caller of the future.
Just kidding. Gordon, like any quarterback taken past the first round, is merely a dart throw to see if they can unearth a gem or at least get backup potential.
Gordon, who played under Mike Veach’s Air Raid offense at Washington State this past season, put up some absolutely astronomical numbers, finishing less than 300 yards within the all-time single season passing yards record.
Gordon will not wow with arm strength or athleticism, instead relying on a quick release and accuracy to excel as a quarterback. His relatively high floor profiles him as at worst a decent backup to Stafford, an area the team struggled with mightily last season, but his intangible ability to fill up the stat sheet could one day transfer as a starter, if he develops well.
Naturally, Gordon draws criticism as an Air Raid product, but given the recent success of former teammate Gardner Minshew as a similar prospect and other Air Raid benefactors becoming capable starters, Gordon is a fine way to end Detroit’s draft.
Clearly, this mock draft is pretty ambitious and would feature some major movement for Detroit, along with a fair share of cards needing to fall in the Lions’ favor. However, a draft injecting this wealth of talent into the roster could spell success for the 2020 season.