Now that the NFL Combine has come to an end, and the first wave of free agency has subsided, tons of mock drafts have flooded the market. Two publications, one we’ve visited before and one that’s new to the mock draft scene altogether, are out with some new fodder for fans to get up in arms over.
Detroit made a couple of impactful moves in free agency up to this point, grabbing both Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang to completely revitalize the right side of their offensive line. The void at right tackle was perhaps the largest hole for the Lions to fill via free agency, and they did so by getting the most coveted player available in Wagner—and paying handsomely for him too.
We’ve seen mock drafts in the past from Sports Illustrated and NFL.com selecting an offensive tackle at No. 21 for the Lions, but after the aforementioned moves in free agency, it’s safe to assume offensive tackle’s a position no longer on the team’s radar in the first round.
Bob Quinn has made small moves to improve the depth along the defensive line, signing both Cornelius Washington and Akeem Spence to strengthen the edge and interior respectively.
That brings us to Steve Palazzolo’s "Mock Draft 5.0" which dropped Tuesday afternoon courtesy of Pro Football Focus. In its previous iteration, Palazzolo selected Auburn defense end Carl Lawson for Detroit, but this time around he has the Lions taking Charles Harris, an edge rusher from Missouri:
The combine wasn’t kind to Harris, but he knows how to get after the quarterback after posting 20 sacks, 37 QB hits, and 77 hurries on 877 rushes over the last three years. Harris has an excellent spin move that allows him to get inside offensive tackles, a big part of his 88.2 pass-rush grade that ranked 12th in the nation a year ago. Harris has some work to do against the run, but can contribute immediately as part of Detroit’s defensive line rotation as he works on that part of his game.
Palazzolo is mostly right, but being pretty considerate to Harris as far as his performance at the Combine is concerned:
Of course, Palazzolo more or less disregards Harris’ poor scores and measurements for the admittedly eye-popping stats he put up at Missouri—and a spin move that is mentioned so often in his profile you’d think he was the second-coming of Dwight Freeney.
There’s no doubt Harris can provide pressure off the edge, but it’s his deficiencies against the run that make him an ill fit for the Lions as their strongside DE. Also, his size seems to make him a better fit as a 3-4 OLB at the next level. Even PFF’s scouting profile of him brings up these concerns:
Pushed around far too easily against the run this season. Didn’t offer much resistance against down blocks...
Was overpowered by opposing offensive tackles at times. Big part of the reason why his run defense grade ranked tied for 163 among edge defenders in 2016.
Detroit definitely needs to upgrade along the defensive line, but a straight line edge rusher who figures to be a "part of Detroit’s defensive line rotation" might not be enough for No. 21. He still needs some significant seasoning and time to develop something more than a "signature spin move," and that might not be what the team is looking for across from Ezekiel Ansah.
The Ringer posted the site’s first mock draft yesterday, and contributor Danny Kelly picked a familiar name to Lions fans at No. 21 in Michigan’s Taco Charlton:
The Lions finished with just 26 sacks in 2016, tied for 30th in the league, so upgrading the pass rush should be one of GM Bob Quinn’s top priorities. Charlton has got prototypical size and athleticism for a defensive end, but he hasn’t been consistent. But even if the Michigan product can’t provide constant production, the flashes of his natural talent will upgrade Detroit’s pass rush.
Kelly is right in a sense: Detroit needs to find a way to get to the quarterback more often. Charlton hasn’t put it all together from a consistency standpoint quite yet, but as Kelly points out, his flashes of talent would help in upgrading the Lions’ pass rush.
Charlton and Harris are very different prospects in terms of their NFL-readiness and their body makeup. Charlton’s size—6-foot-6, 277 lbs.—makes him a much more traditional fit at 4-3 defensive end than Harris—6-foot-3, 253 lbs.
And whereas Harris was a much more consistent player in terms of statistical production, Charlton didn’t really turn it on until the second half of 2016—but did he ever turn it up:
The most important difference between the two players, as alluded to, is their NFL-readiness and their ability to contribute immediately. PFF’s scouting profile had this to say in closing about Charlton:
While he lacks the elite athletic skill set of a Myles Garrett to warrant a top-10 pick, Charlton’s size and hand usage puts him ahead of the curve, and should be ready to contribute more quickly than many other prospects at his position. He should be in play in the first round.