During this week’s episode of the PODcast, Pro Football Focus’ Brett Whitefield nonchalantly dropped a bomb regarding the Detroit Lions’ first round pick. “I think Da’Ron Payne is high on their board,” Whitefield said. “If the cards fall right—there’s a lot of people saying he’s not even going to be there at 20 anymore—but if he is, I think the Lions are taking him.”
This comes as a bit of a surprise because Alabama’s Da’Ron Payne doesn’t exactly fit the profile of the Lions’ perceived need at defensive tackle. Though Detroit could always need some more big run-stuffers, their bigger need is for a pass-rushing three-tech, something which Payne has yet to show he’s fully capable of doing.
But Whitefield isn’t alone in his thoughts. Lions insider and writer at Draft Wire and RealGM Jeff Risdon also believes Payne is highly regarded by the Lions. In his three-round mock, Risdon slotted Payne to the Lions in Round 1. “My somewhat educated belief is that Harold Landry is Plan A, Marcus Davenport is Plan B, Payne or Bama teammate Rashaan Evans are Plan C,” Risdon wrote. “I will be quite surprised if the pick is not one of the four players I mentioned here.”
What’s interesting is that both Whitefield and Risdon think that Detroit is much, much higher on Payne than Michigan’s Maurice Hurst, who is a bit undersized, but has proven to be a better three-tech fit in college.
“I have decent intel that they would pass on him,” Whitefield said of Maurice Hurst on the PODcast this week.
Risdon said nearly the exact same thing during an appearance on the Big Drew and Jim show on 1130 AM WDFN The Fan.
To elaborate, when I talked to Lions folk during the college season I got the distinct impression they weren't big fans of his game. Nothing I've heard changes since changes that— Jeff Risdon (@JeffRisdon) April 24, 2018
Some of the national guys seem to be picking up on this trend, as well. Both Peter King and Albert Breer of MMQB have the Lions picking Payne at 20th overall.
Though the fit may not be perfect for Payne, there is certainly a line of logic for him to land in Detroit. The Lions’ new defensive line coach, Bo Davis, worked with Payne in 2016 as Alabama’s defensive line coach. Payne even said during this year’s combine that he’d love to play for the Lions. “I wouldn’t mind going up there with (Davis) and A’Shawn Robinson, be out there and be like back in the day,” Payne said.
Is this late-game smoke screening by the Lions are or is there legitimate interest there? It’s hard to say, but remember that general manager Bob Quinn made very predictable picks in the first rounds of both the 2016 and 2017 drafts. Payne could very well be that pick come Thursday.