With a fanbase ravenous for a top defensive player, selecting a tight end in the first round would trigger a lot of Detroit Lions fans. Many believe the Lions don’t really need that piece right now, while a lot of fans are still feeling nauseous from when the Lions selected Eric Ebron over Aaron Donald in the 2014 NFL Draft.
However, ESPN’s draft analyst Todd McShay threw caution to the wind in his final 2017 NFL mock draft (Insider required), picking Miami’s David Njoku for the Lions at 21 overall.
This pick has been wildly unpopular among Lions fans. Here’s a selection of tweets responding to Peter King’s most recent mock draft, which also slots Njoku to Detroit:
@davebirkett Absolutely, positively not. Get that stud defender and worry about Ebron later. Wasted pick otherwise— Bradley Shebib (@bshebib39) April 25, 2017
Lions fans have a point. Njoku has a very similar skillset to Eric Ebron, who is entering his fourth year as the Lions premier tight end. They are built almost identically: Both are 6-foot-4, while Ebron weighs 253 to Njoku’s 246. Both are extremely athletic, but offer little as blockers. And both have questions about their hands.
Of course, their similarities could be just the reason why the Lions want him. Ebron is on the final year of his rookie contract. The Lions have an option to exercise a fifth-year option for Ebron—a choice they have to make by May 2. While many teams have already made this choice for their first-round picks, the Lions appear to be waiting until after the draft to make that decision. If Ebron isn’t in the team’s long-term plans, Njoku would give Detroit a dirt-cheap replacement for the next four or five years.
The Njoku conundrum is really more of an Ebron conundrum. The polarizing Lions tight end has been improving every year, but he has still not reached the potential of which many thought he was capable. That being said, if the Lions are going to re-sign him beyond a fifth-year option, Ebron will likely be asking for top 10 tight end money. Ebron finished in the top 10 at his position at both receiving yards and receptions, despite missing three games in 2016. That would mean he could pull in a contract around that of Cardinals tight end Jermaine Gresham—four years for $28 million.
Detroit has a tough decision on their hands: Potentially overpay for a budding, but ultimately frustrating tight end, or take a risk on a new, similar tight end, while putting other needs aside.
Do you approve of the Lions taking David Njoku in the first round?
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