Pro days are wrapping up this week, the NFL scouting combine is far in the rear view, and the actual NFL draft is right around the corner. This is the time of the offseason referred to as “Silly Season,” when draft folks pull out all the stops to drag in clicks and pick the most outrageous picks they can for everyone’s favorite NFL teams. It’s also one of the best times to think critically about what the teams will do if all of their safe options are off the table. What happens if the team doesn’t get to choose between the options everyone has kind of assumed are the best choices? Will they lose their mind and pick a “BPA” type that only makes sense if you haven’t watched the team at all, and you’ve only looked at box scores? Will the team reach deep for need? We’re going to run a seven-round mock draft for the Detroit Lions where we look at what happens if the draft goes in a... less accommodating direction.
It’s draft day. The Browns have taken Myles Garrett with the first overall pick and the San Francisco 49ers are on the clock. It’s thought they are the first team that may consider a quarterback, but instead they take a defensive player. Then another comes off the board. And another. No offensive tackles are taken in the first 20 picks either. In fact, in the first 20 picks, the only offensive players selected are Western Michigan wide receiver Corey Davis, LSU rusher Leonard Fournette and Alabama tight end O.J. Howard. The Lions are on the clock at 21 overall and there is no Haason Reddick, no Taco Charlton and no Derek Barnett.
Left on the board
Jabrill Peppers, SS, Michigan
Zach Cunningham, LB, Vanderbilt
Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
Charles Harris, DE, Missouri
Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
Teez Tabor, CB, Florida
Desmond King, FS, Iowa
David Njoku, TE, Miami
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
There are a lot of players to choose from here. The Lions could pick Christian McCaffrey and revitalize their offense. They could take Mike Williams and secure their wide receiver corps for years to come. They could even take Zach Cunningham or Jarrad Davis, to save a talent starved linebacker corps. Both are good-to-great athletes and each is considered good in coverage. They’d probably be the best options in this situation, wouldn’t they? *Ominous transition music, fade to black for surprise reveal*
Round 1, 21st overall, Tyus Bowser, LB, Houston
I’ve teased this pick a couple times lately, most recently referring to Bowser as a surprise option in play at 21 overall while I made my debut on the PODcast. See, the Detroit Lions have been doing a lot of homework on linebackers in this draft and one thing those linebackers have had in common is that they have all been fast, quick and smooth movers in space. Tyus Bowser is a player who does the same types of things that Haason Reddick does, but for whatever reason has rarely been mentioned in first-round consideration. That has changed as of late, as more and more are wising up to the fact that Bowser is a legit NFL talent. Bigger and more explosive than Reddick, Bowser doesn’t have quite the high level of tape to his name. He has put up quite a collection of great plays in his own right, however, and the closer we get to the draft the more his name is being mentioned in first-round discussions. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to hear his name called if Haason Reddick is off the board, and I’d even consider it if Taco Charlton were still present.
2nd Round, 53rd Overall, Josh Reynolds, WR, TAMU
A run on cornerbacks and defensive linemen to start the second round thins the herd for options. The Lions don’t have a chance to get Tre White, Adoree’ Jackson and even the injured Sidney Jones has been taken. Chris Wormley, Trey Hendrickson, and Derek Rivers are all gone. A large swath of wide receivers are left on the board and the Lions take the athletic Josh Reynolds. Evan Engram was an option here, but I opted against picking up the athletic TE/WR for a player I feel will provide better long-term roster benefit. Using his size and speed to separate from defenders, Reynolds posted a season with more than 1,000 yard and a strong 12 touchdowns. While not an absolute immediate need, the team will need to replace Anquan Boldin in the short term and plan for eventually moving on from Golden Tate.
Round 3, 85th overall, Larry Ogunjobi, DT, Charlotte
Heading back to defense, the Lions take explosive interior defensive lineman Larry Ogunjobi out of Charlotte. Though he only posted 5.5 sacks over two seasons in college, Ogunjobi’s athleticism was obvious at the combine, where he posted some incredible explosion numbers. He split his speed and agility numbers, but the team doesn’t need a universally talented defensive tackle. The team needs an explosive playmaker who can take advantage of the space being eaten by A’Shawn Robinson and Ogunjobi is just that type of player.
Round 4, 127th overall, Riley Bullough, LB, Michigan State
The Bullough family is Spartan royalty but we have yet to see one that sets the NFL on fire. Riley Bullough becomes the first to take a stab at it for the hometown team as the Lions take him in the fourth round to double dip on linebackers and improve their woeful depth. The signing of Paul Worrilow means the team is looking to mentor their younger players and there’s no shame in adding more young players to be mentored. Bullough can learn special teams from former CMU Chippewa Nick Bellore while he learns the nuances of the NFL game from Worrilow and Tahir Whitehead.
Round 5, 165th overall, Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo
The Lions look to augment their once flailing tight end position by taking one of the best red zone targets in this draft. Michael Roberts is a passable blocker from Toledo, and that’s where most of his work is going to be in the NFL. In the red zone, it becomes a whole different scheme as Roberts has shown the short area quickness, hands and jumping ability to put himself between the ball and the defenders utilizing his gigantic hands, impressive frame, and understanding of short field routes.
Round 6, 204th overall, Joshua Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
There are few player/coach matches I have been more confident about than I am Josh Dobbs and Jim Caldwell. There are rumors of Dobbs being targeted as high as the third round by Chicago, but despite his physical tools I doubt Dobbs will be drafted all that high. A high character and intelligent player, Dobbs suffered from a lot of accuracy and decision making problems at Tennessee, but with backup QB Jake Rudock already on the roster, the Detroit Lions are finally in a position to draft a true developmental quarterback they can try to flip for a higher pick down the road.
Round 6, 215th overall, Tarik Cohen, RB, North Carolina A&T
The team showed some interest in diminutive scat back prospect Donnel Pumphrey so there isn’t any reason to suspect they’d pass up an opportunity to gain a similar player like Tarik Cohen. Preferably, I’d like to see a bigger, more powerful back here but I have an inkling the injuries that Theo Riddick have been dealing with could be nagging. That means the team may have to rely on more than just Ameer Abdullah to carry those RB receiving packages, and someone like Tarik Cohen can be valuable in a rotational role for an offense like Jim Bob Cooter’s.
Round 7, 250th overall, Weston Steelhammer, SS, Air Force
No, I didn’t pick him just because he has an awesome name. And even if I did, he would have had some competition with Fish Smithson. No, this was a low-risk pick for the future. I had hoped to acquire a cornerback with one of these picks but was unable to secure a strong option at each of the team’s picks. Instead, I hope to add a playmaking safety I feel the team may be able to package in during passing downs. While not physically dominant, Steelhammer had an incredible 18 interceptions for Air Force over three seasons and worked with multiple defensive coordinators, so he should be able to learn and understand complex defensive situations and packages. The service academies have laxed their rules regarding players coming into the NFL of late and adding a player like Steelhammer should allow the Lions to concentrate more on their defensive depth in the coming seasons. He’d likely be a rookie year stash unless he shows himself to be an exceptional special teamer, but it’s not impossible he goes and beats out one of the corners for a special teams spot.