The last time ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. took a crack at mocking the 2018 NFL Draft—way, way back in January—he slotted Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard to the Detroit Lions. Though his rationale was wonky at times, the fit was actually pretty good. 20th overall may be a little high for Hubbard, but Detroit’s need for defensive line talent is clear, whether they decide to keep Ezekiel Ansah or not.
On Wednesday, Kiper released his Mock Draft 2.0 (ESPN Insider required), and his strategy for the Lions has already changed drastically. With Hubbard still on the board (in fact, Hubbard doesn’t get picked at all in this mock draft), Kiper changed his pick to LSU running back Derrius Guice for the Lions’ pick at 20 overall.
Guice isn’t an uncommon pick for the Lions’ first round choice. Just last week, SB Nation’s Dan Kadar made the same pick and did so with talented defensive linemen like Maurice Hurst and Marcus Davenport still on the board.
For Kiper, the choice was a little easier for him to make. The following defenders had already been taken in his mock:
- DT Vita Vea (13th to Washington)
- DE Marcus Davenport (14th to Packers)
- DT Da’Ron Payne (17th to Chargers)
Kiper did still pass on some defensive line talent, but interestingly, none of the following players were taken after the Lions’ pick, either: Maurice Hurst, Sam Hubbard, Arden Key, Harold Landry.
As for Guice himself, he fits an obvious need for the Lions’ current troubling backfield situation. He would come in and immediately replace Ameer Abdullah as the team’s starting running back, as Guice fits the prototypical three-down back. He’s got power, he’s got speed, he’s built to pass block, and although he wasn’t used much as a receiver, his hands aren’t a liability, either. Of course, even if Guice isn’t a perfect third-down back, the Lions have a couple of players on their roster who fit that niche.
Taking a running back this early has been a bit of a controversial issue for Lions fans. This is viewed as a very deep draft at the running back position, and many believe the Lions would get more value by addressing a different need this early. But if Guice is as talented as a lot of draft analysts believe he is, the Lions would be getting a serious downgrade in talent by waiting for later rounds.
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