As the draft crawls ever closer and closer, prospects all around the country are rising, falling, and doing everything they can to preserve their draft status (Laremy Tunsil, anyone?). The Detroit Lions will pick at number 20 this season, a familiar area for the team and Bob Quinn. Gone seems the days of top five and top ten picks for the Lions, so talent evaluation and specification are critical every season. I’ve composed a “dream” mock draft for Detroit in this upcoming draft, filling crucial holes and hopefully ensuring a more talented, depth filled roster. Enjoy!
Pick 20: Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
This is where the dream truly begins. Over the past several weeks, Landry has become one of the hottest names on draft boards everywhere. Originally mocked late in the first round and into the second, the defensive end has picked up steam in the draft community. As a smaller, quicker edge rusher, Landry dominated the ACC in 2016, accruing 16.5 sacks in the 13 games he played. He struggled a little in 2017, partially due to an ankle injury which limited his play to nine games. In those nine, Landry totaled five sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.
Landry would most likely be the immediate starter opposite of Ezekiel Ansah in most situations. His athleticism and edge rushing ability would be something the Lions did not see last season, outside of bursts from Anthony Zettel. Defensive ends and premier pass rushers are always a premium in the NFL, and this draft isn’t necessarily chock full of them. I’ve seen mock drafts where Landry goes in the top ten, and even more where he falls somewhere between 10 and 18. Seattle and Green Bay are both in the market for a high class edge rusher, and both pick before Detroit. It would take some pieces to fall their way, but if more offensive and secondary players came off the board, Landry could slip all the way to 20.
Dream Draft Chance: 30%
Pick 51: Billy Price, G/C, Ohio State
The first two rounds of this “dream” draft have the Lions taking linemen, a common theme around draft boards. However, instead of taking a defensive tackle or another edge rusher, I have the Lions taking a swing at Price. A dominant center and guard in college, Price won the Rimington Trophy for best center in 2017. Many thought that Billy Price may be a first round pick, perhaps even an early one, because of not only his versatility, but his durability as well. This changed though, when he underwent surgery to repair a partially torn pec which he suffered at the combine. Price attested that the injury was not a big deal, as he not only had successful surgery, but his injury history, or lack thereof, should speak for itself.
Price would help a Lions team which struggles with depth on the offensive line. If the injury isn’t as big of a deal as some are making it, taking the versatile linemen in the second round would be a steal. Not only would he be a day one starter, barring injury, but he also could compete with another multi-positional linemen on the team, Graham Glasgow. After the injury to starting center Travis Swanson last season, Glasgow took over at the position at times and showed how valuable a versatile linemen can be. If Price was selected, the Lions would have options when it came to line variations, something they haven’t had their choice of in a long time. In addition, adding depth to one of the weaker parts of the team can only lead to positives.
Dream Draft Chance: 50%
Pick 82: Arden Key, OLB/DE, LSU
Listen, I know what you’re thinking. Probably something like, “you want the guy that quit on his team” or, “what about the off the field stuff” or maybe even, “when are we picking interior defensive line?” I get it. I get all of it. Yes, Key did pretty much take most of 2017 off and yes, there are off the field and personal concerns. Yes, defensive tackle is a spot that needs work. But what if I told you that you could get 95% or more of the best edge rusher in the draft in the third round? Taking the off the field stuff out of the equation, Key is a first round pick, possibly even top ten. The question becomes, how late is too late to pass him up?
Another question, what has been the biggest gripe by Lions fans this offseason? To me, it’s been not taking a chance on a big name in free agency. Whether it be Malcolm Butler, Richard Sherman, or Dontari Poe, the Lions have swung and missed on a lot of big name, big impact free agents. Am I losing sleep over any of those guys? Not a chance, but adding Key in the third round gives Detroit a guy that can be a huge, week one contributor on a team that desperately needs more depth and playmakers in the front seven. An insanely talented athlete, Key can play both in the dirt as a traditional end or standing as an outside edge linebacker. He can also stunt inside and beat centers and guards with his wiry movement and style, something the Lions didn’t see a lot of in 2017.
If Key makes it to the third round, I would without a doubt urge Detroit to take a chance on a guy that has a chance to be a star in this league. The Lions added depth to the interior defensive line and added run stuffers. Pass rushers, though, are far more valuable, and adding two guys that have as high of ceilings as Key and Landry, as well as a star like Ansah, would unleash havoc on offensive lines.
Dream Draft Chance: 20%
Why it Makes Sense
The Lions have crucial needs on both sides of the ball, especially on each of the lines. What you have in this draft is three immediate, high contributing starters that would provide the Lions with firepower and versatility, especially on the defensive line. Although defensive tackle is still a need, it was addressed slightly in free agency with addition of Sylvester Williams, while defensive end position was left alone and is still by far the most glaring hole remaining on the roster. On the offensive line, the addition of Billy Price would give Matt Patricia and the Lions another quality lineman and versatility on what was one of the shakiest parts of the team last season. Even though defensive line is more of a need, I would be surprised to see Detroit pass on a guy that would be a day one starter in round two.
In regards to both edge rushers, Landry and Key would provide the pass rushing prowess that the team has missed for a long time. Both players can play in the dirt and standing, and can play in many different systems. Obviously, Landry is a safer pick because of the lack of off field issues. However, if Key can get his act together in addition to performing to the level many saw back in his early days at LSU, the Lions could possibly stroll out those two and Ansah on any given defensive snap, which would be a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks and offensive lines.