Last time we checked in with ESPN’s draft expert Todd McShay, he was mocking Georgia offensive guard Isaiah Wynn to the Lions at 20 overall. It was a change of pace after this first mock of the season (from mid December) had Detroit reaching edge rusher Tremaine Edwards.
Connor Williams, OT/G, Texas*
Even with Ezekiel Ansah tagged, Detroit could use help at defensive end, but there isn’t the value here. Instead, the Lions should turn their attention to keep Matthew Stafford upright. Williams is an athletic pass-protector and played left tackle in college. With shorter arms (33 inches), he might be a better fit inside at guard in the pros. Williams missed nearly all of this past season at Texas because of a knee injury, so how his medicals check out will be vital to his stock.
Connor Williams is a two-year starter at left tackle for Texas, with his final, junior year cut short due to a knee injury. While it’s true that his shorter arm length could mean an eventual shift to the inside, it would be a risky move for the Lions to use their first-round pick on a player they intend to start right away at a position he’s never played.
In McShay’s defense, however, the way the draft board fell would be a nightmare scenario for the Lions. Just about every possible defensive prospect the Lions may target at 20 was already off the board.
- DE/LB Tremaine Edmunds (ninth overall)
- LB Roquan Smith (10th overall)
- DT Vita Vea (12th overall)
- DE Marcus Davenport (14th overall)
- LB Rashaan Evans (17th overall)
- DT Da’Ron Payne (19th overall)
However, the run of defensive players left a few other, perhaps more appealing, options on the table. If interior offensive line remains a big priority, UTEP guard Will Hernandez—who destroyed the NFL Combine—makes more sense than McShay’s pick.
Additionally, the Lions had their shot at any running back not named Saquon Barkley. In fact, McShay did not select a second running back in the entire first round of his mock. Derrius Guice was still on the board, as was Sony Michel, Roland Jones, Nick Chubb and Kerryon Johnson. Granted, this year’s running back class is deep and the Lions could wait until further rounds to fill their need, but if they had a clear No. 2 back on their draft board, they could go in that direction should the board fall this way.
And even if the Lions were adamant that they needed to go defense with their first-round choice, they still had some options on the table. Florida defensive tackle Taven Bryan was still around (and actually was selected 21st).
But perhaps the most obvious choice was one of the hottest defensive prospects coming out of the NFL Combine: edge rusher Harold Landry. Landry obviously has a connection to Lions defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, who coached him in college, but his value goes much beyond that. Landry is an extremely talented, unbelievably athletic edge rusher who has an edge bend like no one else in this draft. Though his 2017 tape was a disappointment, the common belief is that a lingering ankle injury prevented him from repeating what was an outstanding 2016 season (22.0 TFLs, 16.5 sacks).
So while McShay’s board fell in an unfavorable way to the Lions, he only made matters worse by taking a player that’s both a risk and a poor fit for the Lions. There were better options at the same position, but more importantly, there was the perfect prospect in Landry waiting right there for him.
What grade do you give Todd McShay’s selection of Connor Williams?
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