Unless something miraculous happens, the Detroit Lions will earn a top-five pick in next year's NFL Draft. I know, you've probably heard this -- or something similar -- before. This is what the Lions do. And as a Lions fan, you're not allowed to have good things. I'm sorry. I'm also sorry for writing this mock draft just nine weeks into the NFL season. Detroit's Super Bowl is still 24 weeks away and since we can't have good things, let's look to next year and hope that everything will be different.
OT Laremy Tunsil (Ole Miss), 6-foot-5, 305 pounds (Junior)
If the season were to end right now, the Lions would be picking at No. 1 overall. They may have the opportunity to choose any player they like. The best player on my board fits an immediate need on the offensive line. Tunsil is a true left tackle prospect, but can play either side, depending on what the Lions would like to do with Riley Reiff.
I highlighted Tunsil a couple of weeks ago and had this to say:
Tunsil is the best pure left tackle prospect I've seen in a while and his ability to pass protect is something to marvel at. He moves incredibly well for his size, has great knee bend and foot quickness to keep himself in front of his assignments at all times.
Where Tunsil needs to improve this year is in the run game. His heavy hands allow him to latch on and control his opponents, but he needs to do a better job of keeping his legs underneath him and sustain his blocks for a little longer. He also seems to get lost from time to time out in the second level and doesn't always find someone to block...
This is a no-brainer to me. You absolutely have to begin bolstering your talent in the trenches if you're the Lions. It doesn't matter how remarkably talented your skill players are if you can't protect them or put them in a position to succeed.
DT Jarran Reed (Alabama), 6-foot-3, 313 pounds (Senior)
Reed hasn't received as much national attention as I would have figured by now, especially compared to his teammate A'Shawn Robinson. Reed's tape is just as good as Robinson's, probably even better, if you ask me. I could see Reed's draft stock rising into the middle of the first round, but anything can happen at this point. CBS Sports currently has Reed at No. 27 on their draft board.
Reed is a dominant force vs. the run and does a fantastic job of winning at the point of attack and controlling his opponents. He's a natural gap-filler that constantly finds ways to meet the ball carrier for a minimal gain. It's not an easy task to run against Bama's D-line. Both Robinson and Reed are immovable objects off the line of scrimmage. The Lions could surely use a powerful gap-filler like Reed, who also has plenty of upside as a pass rusher.
Third Round (Compensatory)
DT/DE Anthony Zettel (Penn State), 6-foot-4, 278 pounds (Senior)
The Lions technically do not have a third-round pick right now, since they traded it away to the Philadelphia Eagles in order to acquire Gabe Wright in last year's draft. However, according to Over The Cap, the Lions are projected to receive a third and a fifth-round compensatory pick, due to the departures of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
I'm going to double-dip and take yet another D-lineman because the Lions so desperately need to get younger and more talented across the D-line. I talked a lot about why I'm a huge fan of Anthony Zettel a few weeks ago, so I won't get into a ton of detail again, but it needs to be repeated that Zettel tackled a dead tree in the middle of the woods and I still can't get over how awesome that is.
QB Nate Sudfeld (Indiana), 6-foot-6, 240 pounds (Senior)
No, I'm not suggesting that the Lions find an immediate replacement for Matthew Stafford, but I do believe that it would be wise to grab some insurance and possibly invest in the future of their QB situation. Sudfeld passes the eye test of an NFL QB, but comes with some baggage that will likely drop his stock down to the mid-to-late rounds. He stands tall and composed in the pocket, but has been inconsistent throughout his career. Sudfeld also had last year's season cut short due to a shoulder injury and has been dealing with an ankle injury this year as well.
Drafting Sudfeld means that the Lions can develop him behind Stafford for at least a year and add some much needed depth to the QB position.
Fifth Round + Compensatory
TE Kyle Carter (Penn State), 6-foot-3, 242 pounds (RS Senior)
The Lions lack depth at the tight end position and need someone that can immediately step in and do a better job than Tim Wright. Seriously, anyone would do, but Carter would actually be a really nice addition to this team. He's significantly improved his skill set over the past few years and can line up as an H-back, in the slot or as an in-line TE.
Carter has a relatively small frame for a TE, but makes up for it with his sticky hands and highlight reel catching ability. Though he isn't asked to do it very often, some believe that Carter is one of the better blockers in this year's TE class.
S/CB Taveze Calhoun (Mississippi State), 6-foot-0, 185 pounds (RS Senior)
Calhoun has played his entire college career at cornerback and could end up being a solid reserve corner in the NFL. But I think there are some NFL teams out there that would like to experiment with him by converting him into a safety because of his physicality and knack for being around the ball carrier. Calhoun is a sound tackler that displays great awareness on the field. He quickly diagnoses the play in front of him and has impeccable closing speed.
The Lions need to continue to get younger in their secondary and Calhoun could be a nice option to replace Ihedigbo next year and/or serve as a backup CB behind Darius Slay and Alex Carter. I really like the idea of using him in dime packages to replace Isa Abdul-Quddus as well.
WR Aaron Burbridge (Michigan State), 6-foot-1, 208 pounds (Senior)
Burbridge has come a long way since last year and currently leads the Big 10 in receiving yards (984). He's stepped up to the occasion, becoming Connor Cook's go-to receiver, while hauling in a plethora of spectacular catches. Burbridge isn't going to blow you away with his speed, but he translates into the NFL as a short/intermediate-route specialist due to his drastically improved route-running. Burbridge exhibits great concentration and body control and plays much bigger than his size, allowing him to consistently high-point the ball and win contested battles.
With Megatron aging and the Lions' lack of depth at outside receiver, Burbridge would be a solid pick in the later rounds.
RB Tra Carson (Texas A&M), 5-foot-11, 235 pounds (RS Senior)
Tra Carson is a bowling ball in the backfield. His aggressive, downhill running style makes him a perfect compliment to Ameer Abdullah. Joique Bell is a name that probably won't be around for much longer with new management rolling into Detroit, so adding Carson as a possible replacement gives the Lions some added youth and explosiveness.
ILB Joe Walker (Oregon), 6-foot-2, 240 pounds (Senior)
I would have preferred to have added some linebacker depth in the earlier rounds, but there are too many holes the Lions need to fill this upcoming offseason. The Lions have to get younger and more athletic at the linebacker position. There have been far too many lapses in coverage this year and Old Man Tully's future with Detroit is very much in doubt. Walker is an athletic linebacker that excels in zone coverage (something the Lions have struggled mightily with).
C Sioasi Aiono (Utah), 6-foot-2, 310 pounds (Senior)
I'm not completely sold on Travis Swanson just yet. Granted, the entire offensive line has struggled this year, but Swanson just isn't winning many 1-on-1 matchups and I have to wonder if he's truly ready to be an NFL starter just yet. Adding Aiono isn't going to solve all of your problems, but he'll add some depth to the interior line and bring some extra beef to bolster the run game. Aiono is a bit of a waist-bender and struggles from time to time in pass protection, but throw him in as a sixth blocker and he'll create holes for the run game.