As we enter the final stretch of the lengthy draft season, the NFL mocks are on overdrive. Just a week after dueling mocks with his colleague Todd McShay, Mel Kiper Jr. is back at it again. This time, Kiper offered his “Grade A” three-round mock for all 32 teams (ESPN Insider required).
Here’s his haul for the Detroit Lions:
Round 1 (8): Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State
Round 2 (43): Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State
Round 3 (88): Yodny Cajuste, OT, West Virginia
Let’s break down each of his picks, individually.
Round 1 - EDGE Montez Sweat
We recently had a debate here on Pride of Detroit on who was the better prospect and better fit for the Lions: Montez Sweat or Florida State’s Brian Burns. With both on the board, Kent Lee Platte picked Sweat in our Community Mock Draft, while in the SB Nation mock, I chose Burns.
At this point, it’s just a matter of preference. Sweat may provide more balance in terms of pass rush vs. run defense, but Burns is likely the more polished pass rusher and has tremendous upside as he continues to gain weight and show promise as a run defender.
The third factor in Kiper’s pick is that Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver was still on the board here. Many view Oliver as a potential top-five talent, and he would be a tempting player, even if he, too, is considered “undersized.”
Round 2 - CB Justin Layne
Layne has become a popular pick for the Lions, due to his local connections (went to Michigan State) and the Lions’ long-term need at cornerback.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Kiper’s pick here is that he has Layne above a lot of high-profile corners. The only corners that went before Layne were Deandre Baker (picked at 20), Rock Ya-Sin (24), Greedy Williams (29), and Byron Murphy (34). That means that Detroit could have had Julian Love (45), Trayvon Mullen (67), Lonnie Johnson (73), Amani Oruwariye (93!!), Joejuan Williams (94) or David Long (95) over Layne.
But in a lot of ways, Layne fits the profile of someone the Lions may want in a corner. He’s a physical player that probably would fit best with a team that uses man coverage a lot. And the Lions would welcome his playmaking ability—15 passes defended in his past two seasons.
Round 3 - OT Yodny Cajuste
This is probably the pick that will have most Lions fans scratching their heads. However, given general manager Bob Quinn’s propensity for drafting offensive linemen, it’s probably something to keep in mind.
Cajuste was supposed to be a four-year starter at West Virginia, but knee injuries shortened his freshman and sophomore seasons. He also recently had quad surgery that could have him sidelined until training camp.
That being said, as the Mountaineers left tackle in the past two years, Cajuste only allowed a single sack and two quarterback hits. He’s also not too shabby as an aggressive run blocker.
However, the big question here is fit and need. Cajuste projects to stay at tackle, and the Lions need help on the interior. That being said, if the Lions are not happy with Taylor Decker’s play at left tackle or they plan on moving on from right tackle Rick Wagner—who has three more years on his deal, but has limited dead cap after 2019—Cajuste could be a starter as soon as 2020.