Mock draft season never truly ends, but for many this is around the time of year it truly starts to pick up. One of the most anticipated mocks of the early season comes from ESPN’s Todd McShay, and he has the Lions grabbing one of the best defensive prospects in the country with the ninth overall pick. The Detroit Lions have needs all over, both offense and defense, but pass rusher is either at or adjacent to the top of those needs. The selection of Kentucky's Josh Allen is as close to a no-brainer as you would expect. McShay writes:
9. Detroit Lions Josh Allen, DE/OLB, Kentucky Ezekiel Ansah might be done in Detroit, so let’s fill that hole with Allen, who does just about everything. He finished the regular season in the top 10 in college football in sacks, tackles for loss and forced fumbles. He’d be a beast coming off the edge in Motor City.
See McShay’s Mock Draft 1.0 here (Insider required)
Like most draft analysts, I entered the season with guys like Nick Bosa and Ed Oliver at the top of my draft rankings. That has slowly been changing. I've been watching strictly offensive lineman this past week or so and many of them faced off against Kentucky's often fearsome pass rush. It can be distracting watching a game with a player like Josh Allen, who often dominates his assignments so soundly that he can distract from every other player on the field. I have yet to follow up on pass rushers more granularly, but for now I have Josh Allen as my No. 1 prospect, and he’s building a solid lead.
At 6-foot-4 and nearly 260 pounds, Allen has the size and bulk to take on offensive lineman from any position. In a multiple system like the one Matt Patricia has designed, having a player like Allen that can move around and take advantage of matchups is invaluable. I have yet to see a pass rusher who is more of a pure scheme fit for the Lions on either side of the ball than Allen.
With 14.0 sacks and 18.5 tackles for a loss in 2018, Allen capped off his productive career at Kentucky as one of college football's premier pass rushers. While his strength was getting after the passer, don't let that fool you into thinking he struggles against the run. Allen is the total package when it comes to playing on the edge, and with fiv forced fumbles in 2018 and 11 in his career, he has shown himself to be the type of play maker the Lions defense has been sorely lacking.
The Lions lost Ezekiel Ansah once again to injury and are unlikely to value him highly as a free agent. Devon Kennard has been serviceable as a rush linebacker, but as we've seen during his time out with injury, the Lions mostly just need someone assignment-sound to manufacture a pass rush.
Detroit’s pass rush has been too few and far between to be considered reliable, however, and taking a pass rushing talent that will likely be (accurately) compared to Von Miller throughout the draft process would be a huge win for general manager Bob Quinn and his coaching staff.
Considering how each was used when healthy, I wouldn't get caught up in what role Allen would have with Devon Kennard and the others that will still be on the roster. Love them or hate them, Paul Pasqualoni and Matt Patricia have been putting their pass rushers in position to succeed. The lack of talent has been limiting, but adding someone like Josh Allen could be the spark that launched the Lions currently 11th ranked passing defense (that's a real thing) and 12th ranked overall defense (that, too) to one that actually looks like it should be ranked that high or higher.