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Mel Kiper NFL mock draft 3.0: Lions defensive line gets a boost

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With Taco Charlton still on the board, the Lions opted for a different edge rusher in Mel Kiper’s late mock.

Delaware State v Missouri Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

We’re nearly just a month away from the NFL Draft and the mock drafts are being mass produced by the minute. The self-appointed king of all mocks, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., released his third mock of the year, and made several interesting changes. In his first mock, way back in January, Kiper had the Detroit Lions taking edge rusher Tim Williams in the first round. Last month, he swapped defensive positions and had Detroit selecting cornerback Marlon Humphrey. On Wednesday, Kiper went back to the edge position, but switched up players. The Lions selected defensive end Charles Harris out of Missouri. Here Kiper explains his pick:

Pass-rusher and cornerback are the two biggest needs for the Lions, and you can take your pick from a deep class at both positions. Harris (6-3, 253) would give Detroit's D-line a boost -- the Lions had only 26 sacks last season, which ranked 30th in the league. He would play end in Detroit's 4-3, but he could move inside and rush the passer when needed. Harris had nine sacks and two forced fumbles in 2016.

Kiper’s logic is fairly sound; the Detroit Lions could certainly use more pass rush in 2017, but there is some concern that Harris may not have first-round value after his poor NFL Combine performance. As Kent Lee Platte pointed out a few weeks ago, Harris’ athletic numbers put him in the bottom 10 of all defensive ends at the combine.

But Kiper isn’t alone in his thinking. Just last week, Pro Football Focus’ Steve Palazzolo put out a mock slotting Harris to the Lions. Palazzolo’s rationale for the pick was nearly identical:

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.

Kiper’s selection for the Lions wasn’t the only noteworthy thing to come from his latest mock. His latest draft also saw O.J. Howard go sixth overall to the Jets, Takkarist McKinley going in the top 10, Haason Reddick mocked to the Saints at 11 (ahead of Reuben Foster) and Taco Charlton nearly falling out of the first round entirely.

With Charlton being the most popular pick among analysts and fans alike, it would be surprising to see the Lions choose Harris over a more prototypical 4-3 defensive end like Charlton. In fact, when we polled readers last week about this very scenario, 75 percent of Lions fans preferred Charlton over Harris (3 percent), while 22 percent of fans wanted neither.