We’re knee-deep in mock draft season, and with three months until the highly anticipated event, it’s time to start look at what draft analysts all over the world think may happen in the 2019 NFL Draft. We now know that the Lions hold three picks in the first 88 selections of the draft, but who will they select?
Between now and then, prospects will move up and down the board based on their NFL Combine performance, Senior Bowl play and other draft related events before April. But for now, let’s take a look around the webosphere to get a baseline of who may be available when the Lions are slotted to pick eighth overall.
The Draft Network (Benjamin Solak)
Round 1 pick: Houston DT Ed Oliver
This name will probably come as a shock to many who declared back in November they wanted the Lions to “Play Dead for Ed,” who was thought to be an top-five lock in the 2019 draft. However, Solak defends Oliver’s drop here by saying that the Houston defensive tackle may not be the kind of player everyone is looking for.
“Oliver is gonna be a player that only some teams like,” Solak wrote. “His size (if he hits 280 pounds it’s a huge win) will turn some teams away.”
But given that Aaron Donald was given the “undersized” label and taking into account Oliver’s unbelievable production (53.0 tackles for loss in three seasons), Oliver seems like an easy pick here if he’s available—even if he’s not an ideal fit in Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme.
Round 2 pick: Stanford TE Kaden Smith
It’s undeniable that tight end is a huge need for the Lions after Detroit aggressively tried to add one last year and failed.
Way back in September, our own Kent Lee Platte talked up Smith as a potential target for 2019:
“Kaden Smith showcased some decent speed and athletic ability, but what sets him apart from the other tight ends in this class is his phenomenal body control and strong hands.”
Smith proved to be just as valuable as expected in 2018. He pulled in 47 catches for 635 yards and two touchdowns in his junior year. However, he did miss the final three games with a foot injury.
Smith joins a long list of former Stanford Cardinal tight ends that project well to the NFL. Since 2012, five Stanford tight ends have been taken in the draft: Dalton Schulz, Austin Hooper, Zach Ertz, Levine Toilolo and Coby Fleener.
SB Nation (Dan Kadar)
Round 1 pick: Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell
Ferrell would fill arguably the Lions’ biggest need as an edge defender, and coming off a solid National Championship performance, it’s easy to see why this was the pick Kadar made. Ferrell’s production at Clemson has been undeniable—producing 38.0 tackles for loss and 21.0 sacks in his past two seasons. However, he is also one of the most polarizing prospects in the draft because of inconsistent tape and questions about his limited pass rushing moves.
CBS Sports (Ryan Wilson)
Round 1 pick: Washington CB Byron Murphy
A favorite of our own Alex Reno, Murphy could come in and immediately fill the void the Lions have had alongside Darius Slay for years. In 2018, the Lions allowed a passer rating of 102.7 (30th) and 7.9 yards per attempt (t-27th). Although Nevin Lawson is signed for another season, the Lions are likely looking to upgrade considering they made efforts to sign Richard Sherman and Malcolm Butler last offseason.
As for Murphy himself, I’ll let Reno explain what he would bring to the table:
Unlike most of Detroit’s current CB stable, Murphy has elite recovery speed and you won’t often see him getting beaten by the deep ball. His ability to mirror in man-coverage is something that the Lions are greatly lacking and he’s even better with his eyes on the QB.
NJ.com (Mike Kaye)
Round 1 pick: Kentucky EDGE Josh Allen
Most believe Allen will be long gone by the time the Lions are on the clock at eighth overall, but in Kaye’s hypothetical draft, an early run on quarterbacks (Dwayne Haskins, Kyler Murray and Drew Lock) helped the premier edge talent fall to Detroit.
If this were to happen, it’s hard to imagine the Lions spending more than a couple seconds on the clock.
Josh Allen's pass-rushing stats when stacked up against the nation's edge defenders pic.twitter.com/0t5TID9fh1— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 22, 2018
Allen has the production, athleticism and versatility to be a centerpiece to Patricia’s defense, especially with Ezekiel Ansah likely gone next season.
CBS Sports (Chris Trapasso)
Round 1 pick: Ole Miss WR A.J. Brown
While most mocks are understandably focused on defense in early rounds, wide receiver should certainly be a pretty high priority for the Lions, as well. The trade of Golden Tate and injury to Marvin Jones Jr. highlighted the Lions’ lack of receiving depth (especially without a tight end threat).
Brown is a bit of a polarizing prospect, because while his route-running is undeniably impressive, his athletic traits aren’t exactly eye-popping. He projects to be the kind of big slot receiver that the Lions coveted with Anquan Boldin a few years back, so the fit is presumably good—although Detroit’s lack of offensive coordinator makes it hard to definitively say that.