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Detroit Lions 2021 mock draft: The Athletic proposes tempting trade down

If the Lions are truly committed to a long-term rebuild, this trade down scenario may be the best possible outcome in 2021.

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Jeff Nguyen (Detroit Lions)

The Detroit Lions’ possibilities with the seventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft are nearly endless. They could add their quarterback of the future. They could nab a receiver to fill the drastic need there. There’s also a good chance Detroit has their shot at the best defender in the draft, whether that be Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons or whoever you believe to be the top defensive lineman in this year’s class.

But The Athletic’s Dane Brugler goes an entirely different route in his latest mock draft. With the top three quarterbacks off the board—Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars), Zach Wilson (Jets), and Justin Fields (Panthers via trade)—the Lions would be in a pivotal position in the entire draft.

Trey Lance is still on the board, and many consider him the final quarterback of this class’s top tier. So Brugler has the Lions’ phone ringing off the hook, and they eventually trade down all the way to 19. But here’s what they get back from the quarterback-hungry Washington Football Team.

Washington receives

  • Lions’ first-round pick (No. 7 overall)

Lions receive:

  • Washington’s first-round pick (No. 19 overall)
  • Washington’s third-round pick (No. 82 overall)
  • Washington’s 2022 first-round pick

Dropping 12 spots is significant, and it likely means Detroit would put themselves out of contention for a blue-chip player in this class. However, the return here is big. Detroit picks up a third-round pick, giving them three in that round to go with their own original (72nd) and the Rams’ (89th). The trade also adds another 2022 first-round pick, which would mean Detroit would have five first-round picks in the 2022 and 2023 drafts combined. I’m already sweating.

Consulting the trade chart, here are the values of those picks:

Washington: 7th overall = 1,500 points

Detroit:

  • 19th overall = 875 points
  • 82nd overall = 180 points
  • 2022 first-round pick = ?

Total points = 1,055 + first-round pick in 2022

In order for this trade to be even, the first-round pick received from Washington next year has to be worth 445 points, which is the equivalent to the 45th overall pick—about midway through the second round. So if the Lions view a first-round pick for next year with about the same value as a similar pick this year, this trade is heavily in their favor. However, it’s a common practice in the NFL to discount a pick next year as one round later in this year’s draft. So having that 2022 first-round pick with the value of a mid second-round this year makes sense.

What could the Lions actually do with this draft haul? Brugler gives the Lions Notre Dame linebacker Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah with the 19th overall pick. Owusu-Koramoah is the tweener linebacker/safety combo that has become vogue in today’s NFL, where speed is needed at all levels of the defense. In just two years with the Fighting Irish, Owusu-Koramoah emerged as a huge playmaker, tallying 24.5 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks and seven passes defended in 25 games.

Chris Burke of The Athletic picked up from where Brugler left off and finished the Lions’ mock to see what the entire haul would look like. With the extra third-round pick, Burke selects UCLA defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa to go along with a bevy of defensive selections with Detroit’s other picks.

It’s a tempting combo mock draft, seeing as we know the Lions are taking a long-term view of this franchise. It may hurt to miss out on a top-tier player, but if Detroit really wants to commit to building a strong, young foundation, this is a scenario general manager Brad Holmes needs to seriously consider.