There is no offseason, as the old adage goes, so the moment the 2017 NFL draft was over the draft community started working on 2018, assuming they hadn’t already started. It’s still a bit early to dive deeply into game tape for next year’s prospects, but we here at Pride of Detroit have dedicated ourselves to the sometimes mundane task of tracking mock drafts as they are posted. In 2017, we reviewed more than 500 mock drafts, and we’ve already tracked 50 for 2018. We know, it’s way too early, and we’re not going to make any mock draft projections of our own before these college players actually start, you know, playing college football this year. We will, however, be mentioning briefly all of the players mocked to the Lions so far so we can familiarize ourselves with these players as the college season plays out, similar to one of our final roundups.
By the Numbers
Once again, pass rusher is the biggest team need and mock drafts have come out in force for that type of player. 17 of the 50 mock drafts so far have been for defensive ends with a further seven for defensive tackles. That puts the total at just shy of half for the Lions needing a pass rushing boost. After that, it’s offensive skill positions with running back taking up 11 mocks and wide receiver taking eight. So just like 2017, the team needs are perceived as being pass rush and offensive skill upgrades, especially rushing the football. Once you go beyond that, you have a couple of corners and safeties followed by one each of linebacker, offensive guard, and offensive tackle (what?).
We’re not going to take any kind of a deep dive at this point, but I will take a brief look at each of the 24 players mocked to the Lions so far for 2018 so you can get a sense of what to look for when the college football season commences. They’ll be ordered by who has been mocked the most, not by who I think is best or any other arbitrary ranking. As always, content warning for the videos below, soundtracks for highlight videos have never improved.
Derrius Guice, RB, Louisiana State
Though pass rushers have been the most mocked position, it’s a running back that has seen himself directed towards the Lions the most. Guice is this year’s “No seriously, the best running back we’ve ever scouted” candidate, unironically coming from the same program as 2017’s Leonard Fournette. Some even consider Guice a superior candidate to Fournette, who went fourth overall in the stacked 2017 draft class.
Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
An explosive, albeit somewhat straight line athlete, NCSU’s Bradley Chubb wins with a strong first step and burst through the line that more than makes up for less than stellar bend and foot speed. Enough of his TFLs were unblocked that I feel like we need to see more from a technical standpoint from him, but Chubb will make you pay immediately for not putting a blocker on him or trying to pull instead of just manning up and trying to beat him straight up.
Christian Kirk, WR, Texas A&M
The slot receiver position is one that has evolved over the years to the point that it is a full-time starting position on most teams. It should come as no surprise that a prospect would come along that dominates from that position so much that they’re considered a first-round prospect because of it, and that’s Christian Kirk in a nutshell. Similar to Golden Tate in size, athleticism, and receiving ability, Kirk would be an interesting option if the Golden One is let free in 2018.
Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Wilkins is a player who does it all for Clemson, and the reason he’s able to do so is an apparently elite athletic talent and movement ability for a man of his size. Wilkins is explosive and quick, with foot speed you wouldn’t expect from someone weighing 40 or 50 pounds less than his 310. His field and football awareness are top notch as well, so don’t be fooled by his athleticism into thinking he’s a project.
Arden Key, DE, Louisiana State
Key is a bit light at 240 for what the Lions generally look for from pass rushers, but his athletic ability appears to be upper tier as well as his ability to win at the line of scrimmage and gain leverage on his blockers. Key is explosive, fast, and relentless in pursuit. He has a tendency to tackle high which could cause problems as a pro if he doesn’t clean it up, and his bend is inconsistent, but I’m being picky about his elite potential.
Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
Of his 16.5 sacks last season, Landry was all over the map. Blanked only against two teams, the disruptive pass rusher won with burst, speed, and bend that rivaled many in the strong 2017 draft class. Landry could compete with Key for being the top pass rusher in this class.
Sam Hubbard, DE, Ohio State
Sam Hubbard joined Ohio State as a safety before moving to linebacker and finally defensive end when he got big enough. Hubbard doesn’t jump off the stat sheet and he probably won’t be a perennial eifor sack guy in the pros. The Detroit Lions are still in the market for a closed end, however, and Hubbard fits the bill for that position and adds some nifty versatility as well.
Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
There are going to be some heated debates in 2018 about whether Derrius Guice or Saquon Barkley is the best running backs in this draft class and frankly there isn’t a wrong answer at this point. Barkley is everything you want from a first-round rusher and then some.
Vita Vea, DT, Washington
Vita Vea would have been a firs-round pick in the 2017 draft class had he not went back to Washington. Not only that, but he would have been the best defensive tackle by a pretty solid margin. Vea has some fans among the Pride of Detroit staff, so you’ll probably hear his name a lot as the season progresses and he ruins many an interior offensive lineman’s day.
Minkah Fitzpatrick, CB/FS, Alabama
Another year, another Alabama DB headlining his draft class. Fitzpatrick is moving back to cornerback after spending 2017 at safety for the injured Eddie Jackson, likely sliding into Marlon Humphrey’s now vacated role in the vaunted Crimson Tide defense. As of right now, Fitzpatrick is pretty close to the consensus best corner in this class, but we all know how quickly that can turn.
Bo Scarbrough, RB, Alabama
The last player on this list so far to be mocked more than once, Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough is a dark horse contender for top running back with the likes of Guice and Barkley. Talented and dynamic, Scarbrough’s future will be determined more than the others by health, as he’s had a myriad of injuries that have limited him or caused him to miss time dating back to high school.
Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon
Yet another highly touted running back in this class, Freeman has a likelier shot than Scarbrough of sneaking into the top round. I think we can firmly say that the “Don’t take a RB in the first round” crowd have been decisively shown that the lull in high draft picks was due to lack of talent, not worth of position. Freeman is a bigger back at 231 pounds with a thickly built lower body that doesn’t scream the type of agility and explosion that he’s shown on the field.
Martinas Rankin, OT, Mississippi State
Here’s the thing, this is a dumb mock that didn’t give any explanation why a team that drafted Taylor Decker in 2016 and signed Rick Wagner in 2017 would be drafting a tackle. I don’t know anything about Rankin because the Lions don’t need a tackle and they’ll likely be the last group I look at, besides quarterbacks.
Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
Nelson played alongside Mike McGlinchey so he wasn’t given a very tough assignment on the Notre Dame offensive line. He seems to be more in the vein of a powerful, bury you in the dirt type of run blocking guard which means he isn’t a superb fit for Jim Bob Cooter’s zone based scheme. I haven’t seen enough to suggest a superb athlete either, which given Bob Quinn’s tendencies means a lot.
Antonio Callaway, WR, Florida
Sure, let’s just draft everyone from Florida in the first round, am I right? Callaway is similar in size and athletic ability as Christian Kirk, so I’m wondering if the idea isn’t just that there’s a national perception that Golden Tate is departing after 2017. Callaway has shown himself worthy of being considered this high in the draft and unlike Kirk Callaway spent much of his time outside so he fits JBC’s offense perfectly even if Tate doesn’t go anywhere.
Ronnie Harrison, SS, Alabama
With Tavon Wilson in the last year of his contract, and with current off field issues pending resolution, there is thought among some that the Lions will be looking to replace their strong safety in 2018. This, of course, assumes Miles Killebrew doesn’t work out, a theory we’ve seen very little evidence to expect.
Courtland Sutton, WR, Southern Methodist
Oh hey, look at that, a 6-foot-3 receiver finally and not another slot guy. I was beginning to lose faith they existed in this draft class! Courtland Sutton likely would have heard his name called early even in the 2017 draft, but a return to SMU puts his name in the running as the top wide receiver for 2018. He even had a Calvin Johnson-esque catch with defenders draped all over him against North Texas.
Josh Sweat, DE, Florida State
I was a little surprised to see Josh Sweat mocked to the Lions. For one, he’s yet another undersized (for their scheme) pass rusher, but he’s also coming off a September knee injury. I wasn’t thinking first round for Sweat even before the injury, so this was a bit puzzling.
Jordan Whitehead, FS, Pittsburgh
Playing both offense and defense, Jordan Whitehead was a lot of fun. He may have the best ball skills of any DB in this draft class, but I feel at this point he would require a pretty stellar 2017 season before I’d really consider him in the first round. The Lions are looking to extend Glover Quin, but they’ll need a successor eventually.
James Washington, WR, Oklahoma State
Strong hands, good YAC ability, and better than average athletic ability. Washington does a great job of tracking the ball in the air and being ranked in the late first round as of now has ample opportunity to jump up in the rankings as the season progresses.
Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
Clelin Ferrell is one of the youngest players in his draft class, being born in freaking 1997. That’s the year Mo Money Mo Problems was released by Biggy if you’re in the mood to feel really old. Ferrell’s star is on the rise and his upside is undeniable.
Marcell Frazier, DE, Missouri
Every year it seems we have a Missouri pass rusher and Frazier is the next in line. At 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds, Frazier more than meets the size requirements for a Lions pass rusher. Like his former teammate and present Miami Dolphin Charles Harris, Frazier had a rough start to 2016 before turning it on after the coaching change. I’m still not sure what I feel about him, but he’s a name to keep on your radar.
Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State
The first round is a bit high for Derrick Nnadi at this point, but considering nobody has played a down of college football yet, we can all agree it’s pretty early. With 6.0 sacks in 2016, Nnadi often stood out when I was watching his teammate, eventual second-round pick DeMarcus Lawrence and is solidly a better prospect.
Cameron Smith, LB, Southern California
If the Lions hadn’t drafted Jarrad Davis in 2017, Cameron Smith is the type of inside linebacker they’d probably be looking at in 2018. As it is, they drafted Davis and would need someone to play outside in a Will role, where Smith is more suited for a Sam if he played outside.
That’s 24 players the Lions have been mocked so far. A varied group even this early. If you want to follow along with the Detroit Lions Mock Draft tracker, you can check it out here where I will be updating it periodically throughout the season and in the lead up to the draft. We had over 500 last time, let’s see if we can top that.