Written by: JT Bowen
At this point, with less than a week until the 2020 Draft commences with Roger Goodell announcing picks from his basement, I’m sure you’re overloaded with and frankly tired of mock drafts. I get it. I am too. But with not much else to do and a dearth of realistic rumors pertaining to Detroit, why not invariably fail miserably at projecting the Lions’ selections next week?
I’m planning to post one final mock draft early next week, one that contains my legitimate and educated guesses as to how Detroit will attack the draft. But for this one, I’ll spare you from the seemingly inevitable Jeff Okudah pick, and try to conjure up a more wild approach for the Lions. Let’s get going.
ROUND 1: JAX receives #3, DET receives #9 and #20
Detroit seems somewhat desperate to move down from the third overall selection, and the two potential trade partners that continually come up are Miami and Los Angeles, both teams that seem primed to select a franchise quarterback. Instead, Detroit swings a trade with an unlikely counterpart: Jacksonville.
No, they’re not coming up to swipe a quarterback from the two aforementioned squads. I really like the moxie of Gardner Minshew, and I think the Jags should at least give him a year to assess if he can be the franchise signal-caller after being thrust into a starting role in 2019, and excelling in it. Rather, they come up to grab the consensus top cornerback in the class, Ohio State’s Jeffrey Okudah, to replace the departed Jalen Ramsey.
Jacksonville has surfaced as a potential team to move back into the teens if a team wants to come up to get a receiver or tackle at #9, so them moving up would admittedly be a surprise. But, after losing star corner Jalen Ramsey, as well as trading solid CB2 A.J. Bouye to Denver, Jacksonville has a big need at cornerback. Okudah could immediately start as a high-caliber cornerback, and grow into one of the league’s best sooner than later, in a career that could mirror Ramsey’s.
The Jags could address their need at corner without trading up, as Florida’s C.J. Henderson is widely linked to the franchise at #9. However, with a still-formidable defense and a front office that is very much on the hot seat, they could make a splash to secure one of the class’s best prospects at a position of need.
Detroit, though they miss out on Okudah, Isaiah Simmons, and Derrick Brown (to NYG and ARI, respectively), will gladly move back six slots and pick up an additional first-rounder. And with the ninth overall pick, the Detroit Lions select South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw.
Recent concerns regarding lingering injury issues with Kinlaw may make this pick a bit of a reach. But Kinlaw’s seamless scheme fit, mental fortitude, dominant performance at the Senior Bowl, and ability to wreak havoc in the pocket is too good to pass up on.
Kinlaw could provide an immediate boost to the Lions pass rush, and Detroit has needed a stellar interior penetrator since Suh left. He has ideal size, is explosive off the snap, and is exceptionally athletic. The Gamecock product should play meaningful minutes on the interior and can grow into a defensive stalwart in the middle.
After addressing a large need at #9 overall, Detroit, now armed with an additional first-rounder, makes a bit of a surprising pick, snatching LSU’s star wideout Justin Jefferson right out from Philadelphia’s talons.
Given the still-open holes at corner, defensive end, and interior lineman, taking a skill player this early might be a bit rich. And I get that. But the chance to add the draft’s best slot receiver trumps other needs and the explosive wideout from Baton Rouge transitions from a Tiger to a Lion.
Jefferson’s meteoric rise can largely be attributed to the outstanding play of Joe Burrow, as well as the Biletnikoff award-winning play of fellow receiver Ja’Marr Chase, who figures to be a top-10 pick next year. Despite that, Jefferson’s versatility and athleticism mean he can contribute as a rookie before stepping in for Danny Amendola next year as the team’s starting slot receiver.
Detroit ends the first round with two tremendously talented players, though they miss on a ‘blue-chip’ prospect they could get at #3 overall. Still armed with eight more selections, and three on Day 2, the Lions can fill more holes.
ROUND 2: #35
Detroit still hasn’t attacked either of what most would consider their biggest needs (CB and EDGE), but take one of them at the top of Day 2, selecting Boise State’s defensive end Curtis Weaver.
The reigning Mountain West Conference DPOY, Weaver had a stellar and highly productive career at Boise State. He’s extremely versatile, and his perceived lack of explosiveness can be mitigated by Detroit’s scheme that favors bulkier ends. Playing in the Mountain West Conference, he may need time to transition to the competition level of the NFL, but he has upside and can grow into a solid starting end for the Lions across from Trey Flowers.
ROUND 3: #67 and #85 (via PHI)
At #67, still sorely lacking a corner of the future, the Lions get a steal in Round 3, taking Auburn’s aggressive cover man Noah Igbinoghene.
Igbinoghene, while a bit raw, could grow into a very solid starter. Igbinoghene had varying results against SEC competition, but his physicality, track-star speed and upside in press coverage could propel him into a starting role sooner than later. He will need time to develop, but playing behind Desmond Trufant and competing with Amani Oruwariye for the CB2 role, in addition to competing as a return specialist, is a nice way to begin what should be a productive career.
And with an additional choice from the Eagles through the Darius Slay trade, the Lions direct their focus to the final major roster void and fill it with Ohio State iOL Jonah Jackson.
A former Rutgers transfer who came out of nowhere to headline the offensive line in Columbus, Jackson is an experienced and versatile interior lineman who can contribute as a rookie to the strange, confusing guard rotation Detroit uses. He excels primarily as a pass protector but is capable in the run game as well. He’s not Cesar Ruiz or Lloyd Cushenberry, and he’s nowhere close to a seamless replacement for Graham Glasgow but is a high-floor prospect who projects as, at worst, a solid backup guard.
Concluding the draft’s second day, while Detroit hasn’t added any talents that look like top-tier Day 1 starters, they’ve found guys who can contribute on all levels, most of whom are players with significant potential.
ROUND 4: #109
With questions afoot surrounding Kerryon Johnson’s durability and Bo Scarbrough’s staying power, Detroit takes a chance on the talented Utah power-runner, Zack Moss.
Similar to Johnson, arguably the biggest question coming out regarding Moss is his ability to stay healthy. However, beyond injury concerns, he’s a tremendously talented all-around running back. He has great balance and is able to churn his legs to break through contact. Despite lacking breakaway speed, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and would contribute Day 1 in the committee shaping up in Detroit. If he can stay healthy, a statement with an asterisk next to it, he can be a 10-15 carry per game guy as a rookie.
ROUND 5: #149 and #166 (via PHI)
By this time in the draft, most players beyond this point rarely see meaningful rookie contributions aside from special teams roles. Fitting in this trend, the Lions find a highly-athletic and productive yet scheme-fitting linebacker in Stanford’s Casey Toohill.
He needs work as a run defender but is versatile, a solid special teams player, can bring pressure off the edge, and at 6’4, 250 lbs, fits the Patricia-build for a linebacker to a T. At worst, he’s a special teams ace, and the Lions can pray he turns into this year’s version of Dre Greenlaw.
At #166, having filled the majority of roster holes, the Lions splurge a bit, taking prolific quarterback Anthony Gordon out of Washington State.
I have previously detailed Gordon’s upside as a late-round developmental QB in a previous mock draft, and not much has changed since then. He’s got all the traits of a solid backup, is accurate and athletic and produced at a historic rate in his one year starting at WSU under the tutelage of Mike Leach last season. His arm leaves some to be desired, and he’s a bit of a one year wonder, but after the success story of predecessor Gardner Minshew as a Day 3 selection, he can be a valuable addition to compete as the QB2 of the future.
ROUND 6: #182
Detroit, still lacking a punter following Sam Martin’s departure, and with Braden Mann already gone, selects ASU’s Michael Turk in the sixth round.
Turk, who I also have briefly spoken about, is a very solid punter who can immediately compete and most likely take the starting punter role. I don’t consider myself a master of scouting punters, but he has a very strong leg and is highly athletic as he demonstrated at the Combine. Detroit could probably wait until undrafted free agency to address the issue, but cashing in on a specialist who can immediately become one of the best in the league for the team’s new special teams coordinator is a valuable addition towards the end of the Draft.
ROUND 7: #235 (via NE from PHI)
With the final selection in what could very possibly be Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia’s last draft class unless something changes drastically this season, the Lions select the talented albeit flawed Tennessee wideout Jauan Jennings.
Jennings is an interesting prospect. A redshirt senior for the Volunteers, Jennings experienced his best year in his final season at Tennessee, totaling 969 receiving yards and 9 TDs. However, his 4.72 40 time at the Combine as a YAC receiver and lingering character questions following an expletive rant in 2017 have tanked Jennings’s stock into potentially going undrafted in an abnormally strong receiver class.
However, and maybe this is a bad reason to want a player, a recent article by GoVols247 writer Wes Rucker absolutely lauds Jennings’s on-field abilities and a knack for exposing secondary defenders after the catch. Jennings’s ability to take over in a lackluster Tennessee offense against stout SEC defenses and his play strength make him an intriguing late-round flier, and the Lions choose him to conclude their draft.
All in all, I’d feel pretty good about this haul as a Lions fan. It hits on every major need still standing on the roster, and while they miss on a guy like Okudah or Simmons, they’re able to better outfit the roster by moving back and collecting an extra first-rounder in the process. This is a highly unlikely scenario, obviously, but it’s a fun exercise having just about squeezed out every last drop of content leading up to next week’s draft.
As always, stay safe, thanks for reading, and see you next week for one last mock.