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Mel Kiper Mock Draft 4.0: Detroit Lions grab two defensive starters

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The Lions get some much-needed help on defense in Kiper’s latest mock.

NCAA Football: Texas at Texas Christian Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. dropped his latest 2020 NFL mock draft on Tuesday morning. In his previous mocks, he’s slotted Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah to the Detroit Lions on two different occasions, and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa once.

In this week’s mock—his fourth of the season—Kiper is sticking with Okudah to the Lions with the third overall pick, but admits the team is still very much a candidate to trade down.

“Detroit could solicit trade offers to add valuable picks, but Matt Patricia is 9-22-1 in two seasons as coach, so he needs to win now to keep his job,” Kiper wrote. “His best bet might be taking the draft’s best cornerback.”

Unlike Kiper’s past three mocks, the ESPN analyst went two rounds deep in this version. With Detroit’s second-round pick, Kiper slotted TCU defensive tackle Ross Blacklock to Detroit.

Blacklock is an extremely athletic interior defender, but it likely a bit too undersized to play the nose in Detroit despite his experience at the position at TCU. AT 6-foot-3, 290 pounds, he’s a good 40 pounds under what Detroit wants in their run-stuffing defensive tackles, but his athletic traits suggest he could be a solid pass rusher from the 3 or 5-tech position, a la Da’Shawn Hand (6-foot-3, 297).

That all being said, Blacklock played at 326 pounds his freshman year and would bring some much-needed versatility to Detroit’s defensive front. You know, that versatility that some players weren’t interested (or capable) in providing.

With Detroit already adding Danny Shelton and Nick Williams this offseason, the Lions wouldn’t need to throw Blacklock into the lineup right away. Instead, he would likely start as a rotational player capable of coming in on passing downs to provide some much-needed help to Detroit’s pass rush. Though he only had 5.5 sacks in his college career, he’s got the physical tools to become a good rusher, and his run defense (89.5 PFF grade in 2019) will certainly attract Detroit.

There are obviously some concerns with Blacklock, too. He’s still very raw as a pass rusher, and he also lost his entire 2018 season due to an Achilles injury. But his solid 2019 season suggests he has recovered in full from it.