Yesterday, NFL Draft expert—as he’s credited in the video game NFL Head Coach—Mel Kiper Jr. published his "Mock Draft 1.0."
Since the Worldwide Leader turned the NFL into a year-round attraction, most see Kiper’s mock draft as the official transition from tangible football goodness to superfluous chatter about where the top prospects in college football will be making a living.
So when the mock draft season officially kicked off on Thursday, Kiper slotted Tim Williams, the Alabama DE/pass rushing OLB to the Lions at No. 21. We investigated the selection here and weren’t exactly crazy about it, which is sort of a bummer because for what purpose are mock drafts to serve if they don’t fill you with unbridled hope?
Earlier in the week, a couple of other popular draft buffs released their mock drafts. Steve Palazzolo of Pro Football Focus put out his third iteration of a mock draft while Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com released his first installment. Naturally, these flew under the radar as much as these things can because, hello, Mel Kiper Jr. gets top billing.
All three seem to be operating on the same wavelength, however, with all three selecting players—albeit with three different names—at the same positon.
In Palazzolo’s mock, he drafts defensive end Solomon Thomas from Stanford for Detroit. Of Thomas, Palazzolo had this to say:
Adding PFF’s Best Run Defender in college football should help to shore up a poor run defense that got gashed at times in 2016. Thomas played mostly on the interior for Stanford, even more impressive considering he’s only 270 pounds. That projects more to a 4-3 defensive end role on early downs where Thomas can add a strong run-stopping presence before kicking inside on passing downs to rush the passer where his 87.7 grade ranked fourth among interior defensive linemen.
Something we’ve gleaned from Quinn’s first offseason as a general manager is his love of players who are versatile and can play multiple positions. We saw this along the offensive line. Players like Taylor Decker—who could have been slotted at either tackle position—or Graham Glasgow—a center who filled in rather well at left guard—fit that bill.
A day before this mock draft dropped, our own Alex Reno was ahead of the experts:
... really love that you can ask him to two-gap as a 5-tech or move inside and rush the passer as a 3-tech ... he can do both at a high level. And you better not pull your center or guard when you see Solomon Thomas lined up in the 1-technique, because he’s got the explosiveness to blow a play up in the backfield before you even have the chance to slow him down.
Jeremiah’s mock draft hit the net after business hours on Wednesday, but he has the Lions nabbing Taco Charlton, a product of the University of Michigan and early contender for POD’s 2017 Detroit Lions Name Bracket Tournament. Jeremiah’s analysis of the pick was pretty succinct:
Charlton is a rangy athlete who fits the mold the Lions look for in their edge rushers. He makes plays on all three downs.
Reno had this to say of Charlton:
... Charlton is a perfect fit at closed end for the Lions, playing most of his snaps on the left side, but is versatile enough to play weakside if needed... Taco has great size for the position (6-foot-5, 272 pounds) along with plus-athleticism. His first step and burst off the snap is just good enough, but he often makes up for any slow jumps with his long arms and low pad level to gain leverage and overpower his opponents.
For what it’s worth, Palazzolo had Taco seven picks later in his mock, going No. 28 to Dallas, while Jeremiah doesn’t think Detroit has a chance at Thomas, slotting him No. 17 to Washington. Kiper thinks both Thomas, No. 9 to Cincinnati, and Taco, No. 19 to Tampa, will both be off the board by the time Detroit gets to make a selection.
It’s clear the Lions have a need along the edge, but after three mock drafts, there seems to be a ton of room for players to settle into a more sure projection with combine scores and scout intel.