The Detroit Lions currently hold the number 3 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. This comes following a disappointing 2019 campaign where the team finished 3-12-1, their worst record of the decade. The Lions have filled a few holes so far in free agency, but still have several other holes to fill to field a complete team in 2020.
I will be conducting this mock on Pro Football Network’s new mock draft simulator. I will attempt to fill as many immediate needs as possible while also considering future needs, as that is how Bob Quinn has operated as GM. The players I will target will be specific to the Lions’ scheme and athletic preferences. Without further ado, let’s get underway.
(Note: Any pick marked with an asterisk* has been obtained via trade)
Round 1 – Pick 5*: Jeff Okudah, CB, OSU
The Detroit Lions trade back with the Dolphins to allow them to take Tua at pick 3. In doing so, the Lions have picked up pick 26, pick 70, and the Dolphins 4th rounder in 2021.
I picked Okudah here as he is an absolutely amazing fit in the Matt Patricia defense. He’s got the length and the ability to blossom into a true lockdown corner in the NFL. On top of that, Matt Patricia comes from the Patriots coaching tree where they value coverage above everything else, so getting now-traded Darius Slay’s replacement needs to be at the top of the list of needs for this team.
Round 1 – Pick 19*: Javon Kinlaw, IDL, South Carolina
Using the recently acquired 26th pick, as well as the Lions original 3rd and 4th round selections, the Detroit Lions traded up with the Las Vegas Raiders at 19.
Javon Kinlaw falling to 19 might not really happen on draft night. The Lions should run to the phones to take their new interior pass rusher if he starts falling. Kinlaw is huge, coming in at 6’5″ and 324 pounds with nearly 35-inch arms. Traditionally used as a gap-penetrator for the Gamecocks, he also has the strength to two-gap on the interior. Kinlaw alongside Da’Shawn Hand and Trey Flowers would cause major issues for opposing quarterbacks, something the Lions sorely need.
Another player the Lions could entertain trading up for in the back half of the first round could be A.J. Epenesa. Epenesa’s draft stock fell following the combine, and not many teams value edge defenders at his size. Epenesa would be best suited as a big 5-tech in an odd front, which the Lions typically run. However, Epenesa also has the ability to kick inside to rush the passer as a 3-tech on the defensive line, an ability the Lions will be looking to add in the draft.
Round 2 – Pick 35: Zach Baun, OLB, Wisconsin
The Lions recently released starting Jack Linebacker Devon Kennard, and likely need to replace him coming up in the draft. However, it seems like the Lions are heading towards wanting more bigger linebackers with true positional fluidity. Doing so would eliminate the need for a full-time Jack. There would still be room for the Lions to add an athletic linebacker who can play both off the ball and close to the line of scrimmage.
Enter Zach Baun from Wisconsin. Baun mostly played as a stand-up edge rusher for the badgers and comes with some added athleticism to the position. He’s not the biggest linebacker option the Lions could choose. Baun could look to add a few pounds at the NFL level to better fit what the Lions prefer. He’s likely to play more off-ball at the NFL level due to his size, but he’s certainly got the chops to add some production rushing the passer. He’d be able to fill most of what the Lions are looking for right away.
If the Lions fail to nab Baun, they could turn towards fellow Big Ten EDGE Josh Uche. Uche has shown a lot of the same traits as Baun, and might be more athletic. The Lions got a good look at Uche during the Senior Bowl, so they might be satisfied taking him at 35.
Round 3 – Pick 70*: Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
The Detroit Lions currently have no wide receivers under contract past this season. While Kenny Golladay likely has a huge payday coming his way, Marvin Jones is likely seeing his last rodeo in Honolulu Blue. He’s on the wrong side of 30 now and will likely cost too much to bring back along with Golladay. Danny Amendola is 35 and hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2014. Past those three options, the depth seems pretty barren. The Lions need wide receivers.
Michael Pittman could step into the Lions receiver room and earn the 4th spot on the depth chart right away. The 6’4″ 223-pound receiver from USC could be the eventual replacement for Marvin Jones as WR2 as early as 2021. Given Bob Quinn’s reputation, drafting to replace a player a year in advance seems to be his go-to. Pittman has the size, catch radius, and willingness to block in the run game that the Lions love. He’d be a natural fit in with what they already have.
Round 3 – Pick 85: Robert Hunt, OL, Louisiana-Lafayette
The Lions are currently going through a re-haul of the right side of their offensive line. They let former 3rd-round pick Graham Glasgow walk in free agency, opting not to pay big money for a guard. They also cut under-performing right tackle Rick Wagner and replaced him with a younger, stronger run-blocker: Halapoulivaati Vaitai. Thus far through free agency, however, the Lions have yet to fill the gaping hole at right guard.
Hunt would fit the theme of mauling run blockers that the Detroit Lions seem to be pursuing. He also possesses some positional versatility that the Lions seem to value from their offensive linemen, playing both tackle and guard during college. He’d be able to step in and at the very least compete for the starting right guard spot.
Round 4 – Pick 133*: Antonio Gibson, RB, Memphis
The Detroit Lions send pick 149 and the 2021 4th rounder from Miami to Seattle for pick 133.
The Lions haven’t had the best luck with health at the running back position. Kerryon Johnson has spent time on the IR in his first 2 seasons. Bo Scarborough has a lengthy injury history as well. Taking a running back here would help add injury insurance at the position.
Gibson would bring a similar skill set that the Lions had with J.D. McKissic last season. He’s more of a gadget player than a traditional running back. He had some good production receiving the ball in 2019, but has less than 40 career carries at Memphis. Gibson lit up the combine, running a sub-4.4 40-yard dash, very impressive given his size. If he’s given time to develop as a runner, he could be a useful contributor for the Lions.
Originally the plan was to trade up for A.J. Dillon from Boston College. I didn’t pull the trigger quick enough on a trade-up, so I had to settle for Gibson here. Dillon would be more of the traditional bell-cow type back the Lions would really love as injury insurance. He’s also huge for a running back at 247 pounds. He’s super explosive as a runner and could fill in right away as an early-down or short-yardage option for the Lions.
Round 5 – Pick 166: Braden Mann, P, Texas A&M
The Detroit Lions need a punter. Might as well take the best one in the draft. Its a pressing need, and one the Lions are set on upgrading for 2020 and beyond, so spending a 5th-round pick is more than reasonable in my eyes.
Round 6 – Pick 182: Derrek Tuszka, NDSU
Tuszka impressed at the NFL combine running a 4.79 40-yard dash while having the best 3-cone time among defense ends who tested. He has some decent size to him, at 6’4″ and 251 pounds. Tuszka would likely be a developmental piece as a down defensive end/Jack LB hybrid in the Lions’ scheme. Mostly a fringe roster player, its a position the Detroit Lions have been churning through the last few training camps, so he could offer some stability there if he shows some promise.
Round 7 – Pick 235: Jon Runyan, OL, Michigan
Runyan is an offensive lineman who could play basically anywhere across the offensive line. He might be able to develop into a decent backup at any spot the Lions would want. Because of his versatility and college experience, it’s likely he goes well before the 7th round. If he’s still there, though, the Lions would be smart to take him.
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