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NFL Draft 2021: Detroit Lions trade down in Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft

With an opportunity to draft what many project to be a franchise quarterback at No. 7, Kiper proposes an alternative.

NCAA Football: Penn State at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

If Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons were both available when the Detroit Lions were on the clock at pick No. 7 in this year's NFL draft, there would be plenty of debate over which player the team should select.

Fields offers them a potential quarterback of the future, while Parsons is a Day 1 impact player on defense, and the Lions could use both.

ESPN’s Mel Kiper offered his latest 2021 Mock Draft, and this exact scenario presents itself. Given this premium choice, the longtime NFL prognosticator believes the Lions would turn to door number three and field phone calls for their pick, as there will be plenty of teams looking to upgrade their quarterback spot.

Kiper suggests the San Francisco 49ers would offer a very tempting trade proposal and one that would be too good for the rebuilding Lions to pass up.

“Another trade, and this one could cost the 49ers a lot of capital,” Kiper said. “It’s tough to project the exact details, but moving up five spots in a talented quarterback class means there will be competition.”

Kiper cited recent trades, like the Chicago Bears moving up for Mitchell Trubisky and the Pittsburgh Steelers moving up for Devin Bush, as benchmarks for compensation and arrived at the following deal:

49ers acquire pick No. 7 and select Fields.

Lions acquire picks No. 12 and No. 43, plus a first-round pick in 2022.

Kiper calls this deal “a win-win deal for both sides” but this looks like it would be an absolute fleecing by Lions general manager Brad Holmes and the Lions, because after moving back five spots they are still able to land Parsons at pick No. 12.

“With the Lions moving down in my mock trade with the 49ers, that takes them out of the quarterback race but gives them extra draft capital,” Kiper continued. “Jared Goff was always going to be on their roster in 2021 because of his salary, but he might not be the long-term solution. And I don’t expect Detroit to improve next season, which means it could have another valuable pick (plus it has the Rams’ first-round picks in 2022 and 2023). The Lions allowed 6.3 yards per play under former coach Matt Patricia last season, which ranked last in the league. They need help on defense. Parsons is a versatile linebacker with some pass-rush upside.”

This offseason the Lions will be in the market for a linebacker who has the size to play on the line of scrimmage, the instincts to play off the ball, the athleticism to fluidly drop into coverage, and the upside to anchor a defense for years to come. There may only be three linebackers like that in this draft class and Parsons (6-foot-2, 245 pounds) is the best of them.

Pairing Parsons with Jamie Collins Sr. would give the Lions a linebacker duo with elite athleticism who rarely have to leave the field. The pair both have the skill set to rush the passer, drop into coverage, and adjust to defensive playcalls regardless of where they're lined up on the field.

Add in the second-round pick acquisition and the Lions would come out of Day 1 of the draft ahead of the curve on their rebuild.