A wild second round is approaching and the sheer depth of talent remaining for the Lions to choose from is staggering. With needs at both guard positions, wide receiver for the long term, linebacker, and arguably several other positions, this team is in a good position to draft both the best player available and fill a position of need with each of their three picks on Day 2. In that vein, we’re going to take a look at who the best players remaining are for their second and third round picks. The value will be a bit all over the place as I’m covering both rounds, so don’t take this as campaigning for all of these guys to be picked at 35, and with that in mind let’s dive right in (in alphabetical order).
A.J. Epenesa, DL, Iowa
Epenesa is a fantastic player and was the first I chose to write about after the NFL Combine. Don’t let that bad 40 time fool you into thinking he’s a bad player, as Epenesa falls more into that DL role than a true DE. Similar to Za'darius Smith in that he’ll be rushing more inside than out on passing downs, Epenesa blends power, length, and technique into a single, dangerous package.
Curtis Weaver, DE/OLB, Boise State
One of the best team to player fits in this draft is Curtis Weaver to the Lions/Patriots/Dolphins. While he’s a bit of a tweener who can rush inside and out, I think Weaver primarily plays on the outside and uses his superior bend to force quarterbacks into the waiting arms of Trey Flowers. Weaver has enough ability to drop into coverage when needed, which is a big reason he’s such a schematic fit, as the team will not have to leave him solely going after the passer or setting an edge every play.
Davon Hamilton, DT, Ohio State
The Lions still badly need to upgrade their interior pass rush and a player like DaVon Hamilton helps in that regard. Not a superb athletic specimen, but still a very good one, Hamilton has the length and power that this staff seems to covet and would likely start day one alongside Trey Flowers and Danny Shelton in a four-man front.
Denzel Mims, WR, Baylor
If the Lions choose to reload on offense rather than continuing to bolster their defense, gambling on upside while taking a player that can be a building block from 2021 on makes a lot of sense. Denzel Mims was one of the biggest Combine surprises, and many supposed he could find his way into first-round consideration. His combination of size, length, speed, and explosiveness are uncanny and would be difficult to scheme against for opposing defensive coordinators. With Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola in the fold for 2020, Mims could be brought along at his leisure on the way to a full-time role in 2021.
Jabari Zuniga, DE, Florida
In the final days before the draft, some players the Lions had shown the most interest in finally started to leak out. One such player was defensive end or jack linebacker Jabari Zuniga out of Florida. The highest-rated athlete at defensive end in this draft class, Zuniga has tools for days. He’s a bit unrefined for my tastes, but if this staff thinks they can work with that then you could do a lot worse than taking a fast, explosive, and powerful edge rusher on Day 2.
Jason Strowbridge, DL, North Carolina
Like A.J. Epenesa, Jason Strowbridge is a bit of a tweener. He played in the 280s at North Carolina, dropped to the mid 260s at the Senior Bowl, and measured in at the Combine at 275. I think he plays right around this size, but his versatility is a thing that coaching staffs are really going to like. Day 2 might be considered a bit early for Strowbridge, but we’re talking about a player who has a day one role, even if that role isn’t as a starter. There’s value in that for teams looking to get their rookies on the field.
Josh Uche, DE/OLB, Michigan
A Senior Bowl star, Uche is a guy the Lions could look to fill their now vacated Jack linebacker spot after cutting Devon Kennard this offseason. Uche didn’t test at the Combine, and due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, he was unable to provide much in terms of testing or contact for teams. As he played in the Senior Bowl, though, the Lions had plenty of contact with him and got to see him practice and play in person. He’s a bit lighter than they like for their linebackers and far too light to play pure edge here, but there’s developmental talent that teams tend to like getting in house for their staff to mold.
Julian Okwara, DE, Notre Dame
Sidelined earlier in the process due to a broken leg, Okwara was once considered one of the top pass rushers in the class. He’d slide easily into the Jack linebacker role in this defense allowing him to both set the edge and rush the passer on most plays and would be a clear upgrade over Kennard. Okwara seems to still be valued in Day 2 so he should have his name called, so why not a reunion with his brother in Detroit?
Justin Madubuike, DT, Texas A&M
If Matt Patricia and Bob Quinn go off script a bit, we could see a superb athlete like Justin Madubuike in Detroit. A true QB threat rushing from the interior, Madubuike has some issues in run support and utilizing the length that he has, but his exceptional skill set as a pass rusher and athletic gifts make him a tough player to pass up.
Logan Wilson, LB, Wyoming
It wasn’t too long ago I was still finding Logan Wilson in the later rounds of mock draft simulators and wondering when they’d catch up. Just before the draft there were some predicting Wilson was the kind of guy who could find his way to a linebacker-needy team in the end of the first round. With the Seahawks taking a chance on the speedy Jordyn Brooks, it’s apparent teams were certainly ready to gamble. Wilson has a solid frame to put on some additional muscle without losing any athleticism and has the range and discipline to be a valuable member of an NFL linebacking corps early in this draft.
Malik Harrison, LB, Ohio State
Scholars have often asked themselves, “What if Jarrad Davis could turn a corner or change direction on command?” While Harrison showed some issues in coverage at OSU and flashed his own problems in space at times, he’s a very similar prospect to Jarrad Davis when he was coming out of Florida. That also means that he’s a guy may projected to go in the beginning of the second round who could’ve snuck into the first if a team had found a fit. Due to the tackle/receiver/corner runs, guys like Harrison get dropped even further so it’s an excellent time to find the right value.
Marlon Davidson, DT, Auburn
Having taken Jeffrey Okudah over Derrick Brown in the first round, the Lions will still need help on their defensive line. While the team was high on Brown, they likely got a long look at his line-mate in Marlon Davidson and likely came away impressed with his ability to use his quickness and length to cause disruption.
Michael Pittman Jr., WR, USC
Pittman was my choice in the third round of the Pride of Detroit community mock draft, but I talked about how it wouldn’t have surprised me to see him taken at the tail end of Round 1. He’s in play for any of the Lions picks on day two and would be an excellent long-term addition to this wide receiver group, pairing with Kenny Golladay in 2021 and beyond to create a potentially devastating tandem.
Neville Gallimore, DT, Oklahoma
Gallimore’s terrible agility drills surprised some who watched his college tape, but not all interior rushers make their living by being quick. Some are simply explosive and faster than anyone else on the interior, and Gallimore blends those athletic gifts with quick processing allowing him to disrupt the interior of an offensive line and muddy the backfield.
Ross Blacklock, DT, Texas Christian
Blacklock suffered an Achilles injury in 2018 and those types of injuries can completely derail the career of an interior rusher who thrives by being explosive (remember Kerry Hyder?). Blacklock bounced back in a big way in 2019, though, and rightly sits near the top of many people’s boards for Day 2. He isn’t as lengthy or big as the Lions tend to like on their interior, but he’s an intriguing option nonetheless as he has the ability to truly create problems on the interior.
Yetur Gross-Matos, DE, Penn State
When lining up pass rushers that are a scheme fit for the Detroit Lions you have to look at someone like Yetur Gross-Matos and check that box. Gross-Matos would slide in where Devon Kennard left and fill that position the moment his uniform and helmet are on. Where Kennard was pretty much solely an edge setter, Gross-Matos provides that and the ability to pressure the quarterback on his own, giving the Lions an option to pair with Trey Flowers and give quarterbacks less time to throw.