This entire draft season, Kent Lee Platte has been tracking the most popular Detroit Lions picks in every mock draft he could find. Michigan edge rusher Taco Charlton has pretty much led the way the entire time.
After the Lions failed to bring in a starting-level linebacker in free agency while releasing DeAndre Levy, suddenly the linebacker floodgates opened in mock drafts. However, the overwhelming majority slotted Temple’s Haason Reddick to Detroit at 21 overall. In our final round-up, 36 mocks had Reddick going to Detroit, while the next closest linebacker had only 18 mock drafts linking him to the Lions.
However, it now appears a near certainty that Reddick will not be there at 21. No player has benefited more from the NFL Combine and the post-combine hype than Reddick. He posted elite athleticism at the Indianapolis event and is now considered by some the best linebacker in the draft.
Reddick has also benefited from the fall of Reuben Foster. Once the consensus No. 1 linebacker in the draft and likely top-10 pick, Foster’s antics at the NFL Combine were just the beginning of his troubles. Questions about his rotator cuff surgery and failed drug test have seen him slide all the way down toward the lower end of the draft.
With Reddick shooting up boards and Foster sliding down, there are a few linebackers toward the bottom of the first round or top of the second that have been creeping up higher into the first round of mocks.
But no player has seemingly benefited more than Florida’s Jarrad Davis.
In my nine years of covering the Lions, I don’t think I have ever witnessed the kind of rise Davis has seen in relation with Detroit. Before the combine, only three mock drafts we tracked had him going to the Lions at 21. Even after the combine, that number was only eight. There were 15 other prospects who were mocked to the Lions more often than Davis.
But suddenly this week, Davis is the absolute consensus pick for Detroit, both locally and nationally. This isn’t an exaggeration; all but one of the major Lions beat writer selected Davis for Detroit:
“Davis hits on everything Detroit would want in a potential star linebacker.”
“Davis is an excellent athlete who would step in as a Day 1 starter at weakside linebacker and has the leadership traits the Lions adore.”
“There are a couple of edge rushers still on the board in Charles Harris and Takkarist McKinley, but Davis is a better schematic fit who could start right away.”
“They go for a high-floor, low-risk player with lots of upside in Davis to give them one linebacker they can trust to play all three downs.”
“I don't think Foster or Reddick, the two top linebackers available in this draft, are still on the board when the Lions pick at 21. Davis is the next best thing at the position.”
“Davis has his own issues, but has seen his stock skyrocket as of late. He's reportedly knocking the interview process out of the park and is an elite athlete. I think the Lions take Davis and avoid the risk with Foster.”
Really the only major local beat writer who didn’t pick Foster was MLive’s Kyle Meinke, who mocked Charlton to Detroit. But even Meinke admits, “If the Lions went with a linebacker like Davis here, that wouldn’t surprise at all.”
The Davis-to-Detroit hype has even been picked up nationally. Bleacher Report’s NFL Draft expert Matt Miller picked Davis for the Lions in his Facebook Live mock, and was absolutely thrilled about the pick.
“This is the easiest selection. This is a slam dunk pick,” Miller said. “In Teryl Austin’s defense, Jarrad Davis is a freak.”
And that’s what the consensus seems to center around: Davis’ perfect fit in Detroit’s scheme. Davis does bring a lot of what the Lions will be missing from Levy: athleticism, coverage skills and leadership.
Of course, a mock draft consensus means very little. When a team is picking 21 overall, it becomes nearly impossible to predict. That being said, Taylor Decker was the consensus pick last year at 16 overall, and that’s who the Lions ended up selecting. Lions fans already seemed convinced Davis is the pick, as he currently leads our “Who do you think the Lions will take in the first round” poll with 26 percent of the vote.
We’ll have to wait and see if it comes true.