Now that free agency has cooled down, ESPN’s draft guru Mel Kiper has released his latest mock draft. In previous versions of the mock, he had the Detroit Lions taking LSU linebacker Devin White (1.0) and Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson (2.0).
In his third mock, released on Tuesday, he has the Lions taking a third different position, and it’s not exactly the Lions’ biggest need after grabbing Trey Flowers in free agency. For the Lions’ eighth overall pick, Kiper has the Lions selecting Mississippi State edge defender Montez Sweat.
“There is a fit in Detroit, which just added big-money signing Trey Flowers as a replacement for Ezekiel Ansah but needs help on the other side,” Kiper wrote. “Sweat could be an impact pass-rusher in the tough NFC North.”
On the other side, the Lions are expect to have linebacker Devon Kennard, who signed a three-year, $17.25 million deal with Detroit last season. Kennard is coming off a so-so season in 2018 but still figures to be a big part of the Lions’ defensive plans this season. That being said, Detroit could clear over $5.4 million in cap space if they decide to move on from Kennard after the 2020 season.
Sweat could potentially take over that role, as his eye-popping NFL Combine performance proved he can be explosive off the edge. But it’s unclear if he could really drop back into coverage on occasion, as he wasn’t asked to do much of that in college.
It’s possible that Sweat would take on a more rotational role in his rookie year, taking some reps with his hand in the dirt in favor of Romeo Okwara or Da’Shawn Hand on some downs, but that isn’t exactly the kind of impact you’re looking for with the eighth overall pick.
Interestingly, Kiper picked Sweat over some other edge defenders that were available at eight, including Rashan Gary (taken ninth) and Brian Burns (15th). Kiper also passed on some other popular choices for the Lions like tight end T.J. Hockenson (10th), Devin Bush (11th) and Ed Oliver (14th). Perhaps the Lions’ most popular mock draft pick, linebacker Devin White, was already off the board, as he went fifth overall to the Buccaneers.