Roundtable is back and we’re ready to take on the 2018 NFL Draft. With less than 24 hours until the first round begins, it’s time for the Pride of Detroit staff to make their predictions for the first round.
For the past two years, the Detroit Lions have oddly been predictable with their first-round picks. Left tackle Taylor Decker was the worst-kept secret for Detroit in 2016, while the Jarrad Davis predictions were rolling in the Thursday of the 2017 NFL Draft.
Now we’ll try to make it three in a row, as our staff makes their best predictions for the Lions’ first draft pick.
Who will be the Lions’ first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft?
Jeremy Reisman: Astute readers may have noticed that I posed this question as “the Lions’ first pick” not “the Lions’ first-round pick.” There is a reason for that. I’m already on record (via this week’s PODcast) saying that the Lions will trade down. I’m not saying the Lions will trade out of the first round, but I certainly think it’s within the realm of possibilities.
As for the pick, I’m going to go with Boise State linebacker Leighton Vander Esch. This is a particularly difficult pick to predict, as it seems like nearly 10 prospects would make a good fit in Detroit. Though Matt Patricia said this week that he wouldn’t let his personal affinity for linebackers get in the way of his drafting tendencies, Vander Esch will be too tempting for the Lions toward the end of the first round. He’s wildly athletic, he’s got a mean streak and he’s a devastating tackler. He may only have one year of starting experience under his belt, but he proved in that one year that he can be a run-stopping machine. Gimme that.
(Editor’s note: I made this pick before Alex Reno copied me in his final mock draft.)
Andrew Kato: While I am on “Team Trade Down,” that is not something I expect to happen on draft day given general manager Bob Quinn’s track record. While he may want to trade back to accumulate draft picks, it seems unlikely to involve the first round pick. The reason the Lions want to stay put is that Harold Landry will be on the board, and I agree with our Alex Reno that Landry is as close as we can get to a no-brainer in this spot. The Boston College edge rusher was number one on Jerry Mallory’s list of players both likely available and good fits for a reason. For extra spiciness: Marcus Davenport will be off the board and taken before Harold Landry, helping make this pick possible.
Ryan Mathews: I’m on board with Kato; Landry should one-hundred percent be the pick if he’s still available at 20. The Lions can’t possibly make the same mistake they did when Aaron Donald was there at No. 10 in the 2013 NFL Draft, passing on a position simply because they had a player like Ndamukong Suh—in spite of not having a contingency plan and still looking for a defensive tackle capable of pushing the pocket four years later.
With that being said, I’m with Jeremy in the belief Detroit will move off of the 20th pick and slide back in the draft. Just how far back is a mystery, but should the Lions still be on the clock near the tail-end of the first round, I think the pick is an offensive lineman. There are a ton of offensive guards—one of the biggest needs for this Lions team to address this weekend—available in the draft, ranging from the top 10 (Quenton Nelson) to the mid-to-late first round (Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez) to early Day 2 selections (Frank Ragnow, James Daniels, Billy Price, Austin Corbett).
Bob Quinn is a man clearly concerned with building up this offensive line, spending draft capital and big money in free agency to improve it during his first two seasons as general manager. So, the Lions move back, add an extra second and/or third round pick, and choose with their first selection, Billy Price, interior offensive lineman from Ohio State—the latest addition of a former Big Ten offensive lineman through the draft since Quinn took Taylor Decker and Graham Glasgow in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Kent Lee Platte: Since we have a bunch of smart cookies here, I think most of us agree that if Harold Landry is there, then he’s the pick. While I’m often skeptical of trade down options because there has to be someone willing to trade up and thus someone willing to be traded up for, the past few weeks have started to tilt in that direction making it a very real possibility. The offensive tackle class is really the only group anybody would have had to leap the Bengals for and it’s a very weak class overall. Still, Kolton Miller and Brian O’Neill crushed the Combine and teams are still fawning over Mike McGlinchey making it a real possibility a team like the Patriots, now in possession of two first round picks, try to move up using one of their picks to secure a new tackle.
Still, if the Lions stand pat I feel the pick is going to be Da’Ron Payne. It’s not the pick that I would make, but it’s the one I feel is most likely. Matt Patricia is fond of nose tackle types and Payne primarily played the nose in college. His athletic profile and his (extremely limited) best tape suggest he could be a capable pass rusher inside, but I’m thinking he’s mostly going to be playing alongside A’Shawn Robinson and/or Sylvester Williams and helping two gap to open holes for blitzers or someone else off the edge.
Justin Simon: When thinking about who the Lions should draft in the first round it goes beyond just who is the best player for 2018. It’s about who is the best player for the team over the next three to five years. Because of this, I think the Lions can narrow their search down to the offensive and defensive lines.
Ziggy Ansah is no guarantee to be back beyond 2018 and the Lions have no consistent pass rush threat behind him. Ansah will be 29 when the season starts, so it’s important for the Lions to fill that spot. The Lions are also missing a starting guard after moving Graham Glasgow to center. Pick 20 would be around when the wave of interior offensive lineman could start to go off the board.
All that said, I think the pick will come down to the best pass rusher on the board. I think the Lions could have a shot at either Harold Landry or Marcus Davenport. Given a few of the teams picking in front of the Lions also need a defensive end I’m going to say Landry is off the board and Davenport will be the pick.