The unfortunate reality for Detroit Lions fans is that while interim head coach Darrell Bevell may have provided some brief optimism heading into the final quarter of the season, this team is much more likely to finish in a top-10 draft position than they are a playoff spot. At 5-7, the Lions essentially need to win out with the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL, which just isn’t going to happen with this roster.
So while the future of the franchise is still very much in flux with no apparent general manager or head coach in place, it’s time to at least start thinking about the 2021 NFL Draft.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay helped expedite that process this week by dropping their first collective mini-mock draft. They combined to make the first 10 picks in the NFL Draft, and that included a pick for the Lions. Now before you go bellyaching about the Lions picking ninth in their draft—Detroit is currently slotted 12th in draft order—this order was based on ESPN’s Football Power Index, which projects the rest of the season.
Here’s how the draft board fell to the Lions in the Kiper-McShay collective mock draft:
- Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence
- Ohio State QB Justin Fields
- Oregon OT Penei Sewell
- LSU WR Ja’Marr Chase
- Penn State LB Micah Parsons
- Alabama CB Patrick Surtain II
- Alabama WR DeVonta Smith
- Florida TE Kyle Pitts
Right off the bat, McShay and Kiper discuss adding a quarterback for Detroit. As the narrative has been since Bob Quinn and Matt Patricia were shown the door, they believe a new regime may want their own quarterback. And with a 32-year-old Matthew Stafford reaching the moveable point in his contract, Detroit could either trade him in 2021 or hold him for one more year and have a rookie learn under him.
The two ultimately decide that’s the best route and selected BYU quarterback Zach Wilson.
“He’s the most underrated quarterback in the entire class, and I think he will continue to rise as we get closer to April,” McShay wrote.
A three-year starter at BYU, Wilson is having a breakout season in 2020. In 10 games, he’s set career highs in completion percentage (73.0), yards per attempt (11.1), and his touchdown to interception ratio is unreal (27:3). He ranks in the top five nationally in just about every major passing category. PFF loves him, too:
Highest-graded QBs in College Football— PFF College (@PFF_College) December 8, 2020
1. Mac Jones, Alabama - 95.3
2. Zach Wilson, BYU - 94.8
3. Justin Fields, Ohio State - 93.2
4. Kyle Trask, Florida - 92.7
5. Sam Howell, UNC - 92.5 pic.twitter.com/zH8zj9f4Dk
He also brings a lot of mobility that has become such a valued commodity in today’s NFL. Wilson has eight rushing touchdowns this year, and several of his big plays were made outside of the pocket, as he has a dangerous arm on the run.
If you pair Wilson with a new-age offensive-minded head coach, it would certainly bring a lot of excitement to the Lions heading into 2021. But would it be worth the risk over adding some much-needed defensive pieces or a safer pick in Minnesota wide receiver Rashod Bateman or Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle?
That’s always the risk you run with selecting a quarterback, and it’s something fans will debate for the next four months.