It’s that time of year! No, not just draft time, that’s been going on for a while. No, not the offseason, that’s also been going on for a while and, frankly, always seems to drag on forever.
No, I’m referring to “Rate my Draft” season. The time of year where everyone runs their favorite draft simulation and asks their favorite analysts or writers what they think of the picks. So to save some time, I’m going to run through my Day 1, Day 2, and Day 3 picks that I like and dislike, so you can get the more detailed explanations for some and know ahead of time the type of response you’ll get before you ask.
After reading, head on over to the Draft Network, Pro Football Network, Fanspeak, or one like the Mock Draft Database, or any other you like and give it your best shot. Then give this a read, and if I’ve missed anyone you’re curious about, ask me about it in the comments!
Chase Young or Jeffrey Okudah
Money. Good with it every time, whether at three or later.
Simmons is very clearly a first round linebacker and a versatile player that many defensive coordinators will enjoy scheming for. I have, however, maintained that the position he plays simply isn’t important enough to draft as highly as the Lions are slated to go, not when there is a top-tier option for the pass rush or cornerback.
I’m also not convinced a first-time defensive coordinator with a background in the secondary is the kind of guy to task with building packages versatile enough for a player like Simmons that would be used frequently enough to justify it. I worry that Lions head coach Matt Patricia will simply use Simmons to replace Jarrad Davis’ role in the defense, and that’s much more suited for a late first-round pick than early one.
If the Lions traded back to say the eighth overall pick, assuming both Chase Young and Okudah are gone, then there’s an argument for picking what would essentially be a blitzing off-ball linebacker in this scheme, but it’s still a tough sell. It would be gambling that this staff has a plan for him that extends further than Jarrad Davis replacement (and if that’s truly all they see it as, it’ll be just more weight on the team’s neck).
Simmons has a dedicated fan base—as he should—being a gifted athlete and talented football player, but ignoring the team he’d be joining and how that would impact his usage is how you waste a linebacker and see them shipped off to a different team a couple years into his career for peanuts only to see an inevitable bounce back when he’s used in a scheme that fits him.
This is a hard pass for me in the top 15, and those who’ve followed along for a while know that isn’t a new take. Concern that Brown was little more than a nose tackle, albeit a very high-end one, limits where his value should lie in the draft. When he measured at the Combine and came in quite pedestrian for a defensive tackle, though very good for a nose (a trend by now), the national media started to catch on to where Brown’s value should be.
If the Lions land a haul that moves them out of the top 15, we’re in a place where we can talk about Brown. After landing Danny Shelton in free agency, who is essentially the same player with a few more miles on him, I doubt Brown is given much consideration. Then again, Matt Patricia seems allergic to pass rushing, so who knows?
I’m not arguing for taking Kinlaw at three, nor am I thinking about taking him at five if the team trades back. If the Lions pull in an extra pick, or trade back far enough back into the first round, then this pick becomes quite a bit more viable. Kinlaw is a very risky pick. Having not measured during the draft period due to a minor injury, you’d be relying completely on tape to project his athletic strengths.
As a pass rusher, Kinlaw flashes immense potential, but his tape is less consistent than you’d like of an early first-round pick, and there’s a ton of projection to his game. For a point of reference, just think back to how Ezekiel Ansah projected prior to the 2013 draft, and it’s a similar situation. A lot of what you want from Kinlaw you’re imagining he can do consistently based on other things he did well rather than one-for-one translatable comparisons you saw every snap.
An offensive tackle
This offensive tackle draft class is as top heavy as any class in memory. As many as six tackles could go in the first round, and I wouldn’t bat an eye at the value. A seventh could go that high, but I personally disagree with people who like him to justify it).
If the Lions trade out of the third overall spot, they’re still not very likely to draft an offensive tackle given that they have both starter spots locked in at the moment. Taylor Decker was one of the most consistently good players on the offense in 2019 and is facing a probable extension. Halapoulivaati Vaitai was signed to a $9 million-per-season deal to play right tackle. So odds aren’t very good the team goes after a tackle high.
If they trade further down into the round and are sitting with a 16th or later pick and one of Mekhi Becton, Tristan Wirfs, Jedrick Wills, or Andrew Thomas are still there? It would be tough to avoid a player of that caliber and figure it out later. The other guys, USC’s Austin Jackson, Boise State’s Ezra Cleveland, and Houston’s Josh Jones are all very good in their own right but not guys I’d take in the first round considering how high the team picks in the second.
Any other position
Pass. Yes, including receiver. This team needs a receiver long term, but I see no need to spend first round resources on one when I can’t find a draft scenario where a better option with less risk doesn’t exist elsewhere. I’ve seen some suggesting running back in the first round, but you can take those and... ask someone who is more likely to let you down gently.
Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU: Talking about a guy who seems to be climbing further and further the more people watch him.
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor: Another guy seemingly climbing further daily, I think he’s got a good chance to sneak into the first.
Other falling receiver: Jerry Jeudy falling because of lower than expected metrics and teammate rising? Jalen Reagor falling due to the Combine and college drops? It’s all preference, but fills a 2021+ need.
A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa: Great fit for this defense and would only fall this far due to a 40 time that shouldn’t matter given his style of play.
Cesar Ruiz, IOL, Michigan: This is a bit higher than I’d like to take Ruiz, but let me be totally straight... this IOL class is really bad. If you miss out on Ruiz or Lloyd Cushenberry III, you’re out of luck.
Bradlee Anae, DE, Utah: A bit high for me, but fills a need and I’m certain the Lions are higher on Anae than some are going to be.
Zack Baun, DE, Wisconsin: Same as Uche, suspect he might find a way to sneak in earlier (though this is as high as I’d take him).
Curtis Weaver, DE, Boise State: Great fit here, great value as he should be a first rounder.
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson: Nah, I’m not taking a below-average athlete big receiver in any round. Sorry it’s an athleticism thing, Higgins has good tape and a great catch radius, but miss rate is almost perfect.
A tight end: Oh, for crying out loud, this tight end class is terrible, just why? If you got Cole Kmet or Adam Trautman in Round 3 somehow, there’s value, but bad gambling.
Lloyd Cushenberry, IOL, LSU: Very good player, more about the spot, I’m worried about how early he’ll be able to start due to a Combine injury, and he would be needed immediately in Detroit.
A safety: After picking up Duron Harmon and Jayron Kearse, I think this team is done at safety Sorry, Grant Delpit or Jeremy Chinn truthers, there’s just no role right now.
Jonathan Greenard, DE, Florida: Thickly-built edge with weak athletic traits but really long arms who played in the SEC? I’m not a fan here, but guess who probably is.
Patrick Queen, LB, LSU: Less than 230 pounds and injured at the Combine, hands all the way off on this one.
K.J. Hamler, WR, Penn State: The list of receivers who found sustained NFL success at any point in the last 20 years at this size is still only one player long.
Other Guys I’d be okay with:
Kristian Fulton (CB,LSU) | Brandon Aiyuk (WR, Arizona State) | Leki Fotu (NT, Utah) | Kenneth Murray (LB, Oklahoma) | Malik Harrison (LB, Ohio State) | Neville Gallimore (DT, Oklahoma) | Ross Blacklock (DT, TCU) | Yetur Gross-Matos (DE, Penn State) | Josh Uche (DE, Michigan) | Justin Madubuike (DT, TAMU)
Picks I’d like
A punter: Lions need one, it makes sense to draft one. People LOVE to misrepresent hit rate with this one, but if your team needs a specialist, take a specialist.
James Proche, WR, SMU: Proche would give the Lions a long-term option for the Danny Amendola role. A highlight reel on tape, physical limitations keep him from going higher.
Jake Luton, QB, Oregon State: Athletic traits aren’t there, but has some good developmental potential as a passer.
James Morgan, QB, Florida International: Like Luton, you’re getting a good developmental passer without much athleticism to threaten. Morgan is a bit more polished, though.
Steven Montez, QB, Colorado: Opposite of Morgan.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, WR, Michigan: Earlier than this and you’re risking way too much on athletic projection. Day 3, the value versus risk fits.
Jason Strowbridge, DL, Northern Carolina: I think this staff will value Strowbridge very highly, similarly to how they valued Da’Shawn Hand and for not dissimilar reasons.
James Lynch, DT, Baylor: Productive interior rusher, not only fits this scheme but could potentially add a spark to a generally lackluster pass rush.
Casey Toohill, LB, Stanford: Matt Patricia-sized linebacker with elite athletic traits, criminally underrated right now.
Others: Jake Luton (QB, Oregon State) | Antonio Gibson (WR/RB, Memphis) | A.J. Dillon (RB, Boston College) | Thaddeus Moss (TE, LSU) | Jon Runyan (OT/OG, Michigan) | Matt Peart (OT, Connecticut) | Danny Pinter (OG, Ball State) | Alex Highsmith (DE, Charlotte) | Oluwole Betiku Jr. (DE, Illinois) | McTelvin Agim (DT, Arkansas) | Logan Wilson (LB, Wyoming) | Javelin Guidry (CB, Utah) | Kindle Vildor (CB, Georgia Southern) | Marc-Antoine Dequoy (FS, Montreal)
Picks I won’t like
A kicker: Unlike punter, the team’s kicker position is still set up straight.
Netane Muti, OG, Utah: Love Muti on tape so this pains me, absolutely elite there. Injury history is very concerning, and you’re likely gambling with time instead of probability.
Calvin Throckmorton, OT, Oregon: One of the worst testing athletes at the Combine, the developmental potential simply isn’t there.
Trey Adams, OT, Washington: Same as Throckmorton, but also a lengthy, troubling injury history.
Jake Fromm, QB, Georgia: Once a promising young talent, Fromm simply lacks any reason to be drafted from a physical standpoint. Well below average arm and athleticism.
Lamical Perine, RB, Florida: Unlike his cousin Samaje, Lamical Perine doesn’t have the size or bulk to justify his lack of speed and explosion as a runner.
Lawrence Cager, WR, Georgia/Miami: Big bodied, but no notable athletic traits and basically just a red zone option. Lions showed interest previously. Better if converted to TE.
Willie Gay, LB, MSSU: Athletic traits for days, but lackadaisical tape and very serious character issues to consider (Injured his own QB before a bowl game).
Lamar Jackson, CB, Nebraska: We’ve tried the whole CB without speed thing.
Raekwon Davis, DL, Alabama: Unlike Da’Shawn Hand, Davis is being overrated by most despite having underperformed for Nick Saban and lacking any elite athletic traits.
Others: Salvon Ahmed (RB, Washington) | K.J. Hill (WR, Ohio State) | Omar Bayless (WR, Arkansas State) | Harrison Bryant (TE, FAU) | Terence Steele (OT, Texas Tech) | Logan Stenberg (OG, Kentucky) | Too many other IOL to list (bad class) | Trevis Gipson (DE, Tulsa) | Kendall Coleman (DE, Syracuse) | Raequan Williams (DT, MSU) | Michael Ojemudia (CB, Iowa) | Kamren Curl (SS, Arkansas) | Geno Stone (FS, Iowa)