Fixing the Detroit Lions

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The Lions had a very weird season, starting off 2-0-1, losing to the Chiefs in Week 4, having their bye in Week 5, and then losing 12 of their final 13 games. They wound up with the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but this is one of the best rosters I’ve ever seen finish this high in the draft order. A lot of it was most likely due to QB Matthew Stafford missing half of the season with an injury.

Head Coach Matt Patricia was not fired after this season, a move that surprised many due to Patricia’s 9-22-1 record over his two year tenure. The previous head coach, Jim Caldwell, was fired after a 9-7 record in 2017 and a 36-28 record overall and two playoff appearances during his four year tenure. It seems like this upcoming season has to be playoffs or bust for Detroit and Patricia, a scenario which never usually works out for teams and coaches.

Cap Space: $48.7 Million

Resign:

Mike Daniels, DL

The Packers surprisingly released Daniels right before the season started and Detroit snatched him up on a one year deal. He had a bit of a disappointing season, but the Lions should bring him back on a little cheaper deal.

Danny Amendola, WR

Amendola is certainly past his prime, but he is a good rotational piece in this receiving corps, and he had a good 2019 season in that role.

– Tavon Wilson, S

The Lions need to figure out their entire secondary other than CB Darius Slay. Wilson played well this past season and can compete for a starting role next year.

– A’Shawn Robinson, DL

A former second-round pick, Robinson has disappointed up to this point in his career (and he’s recently become the target of a new meme based on where he was drafted and who was drafted right before and right after him). Robinson still shows promise deserving of a second contract, but at an average cost.

Logan Thomas, TE

The Lions have a great starting tight end in last year’s first round pick T.J. Hockenson, and Thomas adds nice depth behind him.

– Graham Glasgow, OL

Glasgow was another high draft pick a few years ago who hasn’t quite panned out for Detroit. However, he’s a good rotational piece on the offensive line who can spot start for injuries or come in on bigger packages.

– Miles Killebrew, S

Killebrew is another piece to the back end of the defense that can compete for a starting job or in a rotational role.

J.D. McKissick, RB

The Lions have a great starting running back in Kerryon Johnson, but he’s been injured the past two seasons and they need talent in the guys behind him on the depth chart. McKissick provides enough of an impact as a backup.

Jeff Driskel, QB

If the Lions don’t want to draft a backup/future QB early (and they shouldn’t), then Driskel should be brought back for that role. He played well after Stafford went down with an injury, before he himself went down with an injury.

Free Agency:

The Lions don’t have a lot of cap space, so they will have to take a more conservative approach in free agency. I don’t think they need to chase a splash player in free agency, so I’m only looking at average-cost players who are just outside top 10 in their respective positions in Tier One, and guys who can still start for this team in Tier Two.

Tier One:

Kyle Van Noy, LB
Brandon Scherff, OL
Jack Conklin, OT
– Bud Dupree, EDGE
Trae Waynes, CB
Jamie Collins, EDGE
– Andrus Peat, OG
Bruce Irvin, LB
Vic Beasley, EDGE
Joe Schobert, LB
– Bud Dupree, EDGE

Tier Two:

Jimmy Smith, CB
Danny Trevathan, LB
Anthony Harris, S
Eli Apple, CB
Dante Fowler Jr., EDGE
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S
– Anthony Costanzo, OT
Logan Ryan, CB
Leonard Williams, DL
Emmanuel Sanders, WR
Justin Simmons, S
Jason Verrett, CB
Ezekiel Ansah, EDGE
– Bryan Bulaga, OT
Kendall Fuller, CB
Andrew Sendejo, S
Robby Anderson, WR
Bradley Roby, CB
– Matt Judon, EDGE
Darron Lee, LB
Vonn Bell, S
Mackensie Alexander, CB
– Daryl Williams, OT
– Logan Ryan, CB
Jimmie Ward, S
– Nick Kwiatkowski, LB
Kamalei Correa, LB

Draft:

Round One:

Pick 3:

Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State

I don’t make trades in mock drafts because it is just too much speculation and it just doesn’t make sense in mock drafts. However, fixing a team is different. The Bengals will take LSU QB Joe Burrow and the Redskins will take Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young. Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa declared for the draft and if his medicals check out fine after his hip injury this season, which it sounds like it should, then he will be a top-5 pick.

There isn’t another high-end non-QB prospect like Chase Young in this draft and the Lions still have QB Matthew Stafford. So the only option left is to trade out of this pick. The Dolphins will still be interested in Tua at 5, but other teams, like the Chargers at 6 or the Panthers at 7, should be interested too. The Dolphins have two second round picks, so they can trade the fifth overall pick and one of those second round picks, currently 39th overall and 56th overall, and this trade should demand the 39th overall pick along with the fifth.

So the Lions will now be picking at fifth, and the pick should be Ohio State CB Jeff Okudah. If that’s who the Giants pick at 4, then the Lions should take Clemson’s LB Isaiah Simmons.

Okudah looks like the best cornerback from Ohio State of the recent stars in Denzel Ward and Marshon Lattimore and deserves to be a top-5 pick. Simmons is a defensive weapon that can line up anywhere on a defense, besides outside cornerback and interior defensive lineman. Simmons is my sixth ranked overall prospect, and he might finish even higher than that once April rolls around.

Round Two:

The Lions, with the above trade going through, will have two picks in the second round, 35th and 39th overall. With these two picks, the Lions need to put their focus on the trenches. They have a good skeleton of a roster, plus selecting Okudah in the first round, but they need to bolster the interior of the roster.

Offensive linemen:

Tyler Biadasz, OL, Wisconsin
Tommy Kraemer, OL, Notre Dame
Trey Adams, OT, Washington
Austin Jackson, OT, USC

Defensive linemen:

Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama
Kenny Willekes, EDGE, Michigan State
Neville Gallimore, DL, Oklahoma
Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama

Round Three:

Continuing the trend of the middle of the field, Detroit can look at linebackers and safeties with the 67th overall pick at the top of the third round. First, some other names to look at in this round from the previous mentioned positions:

Shane Lemieux, OL, Oregon
Nick Harris, OL, Washington
Lucas Niang, OT, TCU
– Prince Tega-Wonogho, OT, Auburn
Anfernee Jennings, EDGE, Alabama
Jabari Zuniga, EDGE, Florida
Justin Madubuike, DL, Texas A&M
Rashard Lawrence, DL, LSU

Now on to linebackers and safeties in the pick 67 range:

Evan Weaver, LB, Cal
Troy Dye, LB, Oregon
Ashtyn Davis, S, Cal
Antoine Winfield Jr., S, Minnesota

Round Four:

The fourth round is where teams can start mixing depth needs with shots on prospects with low floors and high ceilings. Therefore, Detroit should look at adding a running back behind oft-injured Kerryon Johnson, as well as another receiver to go with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. First, other names to look at from the positions listed above:

Solomon Kindley, OL, Georgia
Ben Bredeson, OL, Michigan
– Yasir Durant, OT, Missouri
Liam Eichenberg, OT, Notre Dame
Khalid Kareem, EDGE, Notre Dame
Jonathan Greenard, EDGE, Florida
Tyler Clark, DL, Georgia
Raequan Williams, DL, Michigan State
Joe Bachie, LB, Michigan State
Shaquille Quarterman, LB, Miami
Julian Blackmon, S, Utah
Brandon Jones, S, Texas

Now on to running backs and wide receivers in the 99 overall range:

Zack Moss, RB, Utah
– Ke’Shawn Vaughn, RB, Vanderbilt
Antonio Gandy-Golden, WR, Liberty
Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest

Rounds Five to Six:

The Lions have three fifth round picks, one sixth round pick, and zero seventh round picks due to trades. These late rounds are really just throwing darts at a board, hoping you hit one or maybe two guys. Every pick should be geared towards high potential guys as positional needs doesn’t matter as much. Therefore, I will list two players at each position that I like as a dart-throw guy late in the draft.

Anthony Gordon, QB, Washington State
– Nate Stanley, QB, Iowa
Eno Benjamin, RB, Arizona State
Joshua Kelley, RB, UCLA
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
T.J. Vasher, WR, Texas Tech
Jared Rice, TE, Fresno State
Luke Farrell, TE, Ohio State
Matt Peart, OT, UConn
– Luke Campbell, OT, Michigan State
Ben Cleveland, OL, Georgia
Damien Lewis, OL, LSU
Carter Coughlin, EDGE, Minnesota
Christian Rector, EDGE, USC
Mustafa Johnson, DL, Colorado
Carlos Davis, DL, Nebraska
Jeffrey McCulloch, LB, Texas
Paddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern
Mike Hampton, CB, USF
– DiCaprio Bootle, CB, Nebraska
– Kyle Dugger, S, Lenoir-Rhyne
Essang Bassey, S, Wake Forest

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