So many players, so few picks.
The Detroit Lions are (likely) entering a rebuild phase, and that means the coming years will be focused on stockpiling assets, both draft picks and young talent. The Lions have the valuable seventh overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and there are plenty of directions they could go.
With multiple highly rated quarterbacks, the Lions could look for the heir apparent for Matthew Stafford—if Jared Goff is nothing more than a stopgap. Equally stacked this draft year is the wide receiver position, and with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Danny Amendola all free agents, the Lions could address that position early and often. Meanwhile, the 2020 defense was historically bad, and you could justify upgrading every position in the draft.
As the draft approaches, crushes are commonly formed. You start to envision that player on your team and how excellently they would fit. As the picks roll in, you whisper under your breath, hoping opposing teams don’t take them. Your team will likely proceed to pass on them, and the cycle continues until their next pick.
There are some players, however, that might make you sweat. The reason? You do not want them on your team. This can happen for multiple reasons. Perhaps the prospect is simply overrated and not very good, as per your expert opinion. Perhaps the position value is too rich—you can love a punter but hate the idea of taking him in the second round. Perhaps the prospect has some off-field issues you would rather steer clear from. All of these are valid reasons to dislike a prospect.
The Lions have a lot of holes in their roster, but there are still some prospects worth avoiding.
Today’s Question of the Day is:
Which prospect should the Lions avoid in the draft?
My answer: My pick is Gregory Rousseau.
A kicker or running back in the top 10 would obviously be an awful pick for the Lions, but I am going to look at realistic options. Positions that I see as unrealistic include running back, fullback, guard, safety, kicker, punter, and longsnapper. These are due to a combination of the Lions having good depth (guard), poor positional value (fullback, kicker, punter, longsnapper), or a lack of top-tier prospects (running back, safety). That still leaves a lot of spots for the Lions to draft.
As Ryan Mathews discussed on Saturday, Mac Jones is a massive “no” from me. However, I don’t envision him as a realistic option for the Lions at seventh overall—I hope I’m correct about this. The same sentiment can be extended to Kyle Trask, which would be even worse in my books.
I do not like the value of a linebacker in the top 10, but the Lions can justify it due to how poor their linebackers are. Micah Parsons is viewed as one of the best linebacker prospects in recent memory, but some off-field concerns might scare some teams away. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah would be an asset in coverage, something the Lions linebackers have immensely struggled with, but he is built like a safety. I would have concerns about drafting either player, but I think I could talk myself into the pick.
Gregory Rousseau is a realistic pick for the Lions, and one I hope they avoid. With Romeo Okwara entering free agency, and little proven depth behind Trey Flowers, a pass rusher is a need for the Lions. Rousseau is highly ranked on many draft boards, and if the Lions were to address their edge defenders, it would make sense to draft the top rated player at that position.
However, Rousseau is not that player. Last year, Rousseau was projected by many to be a top pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. As with many mock drafts written a year ahead, it is heavily based on projections. Rousseau, an athletic specimen that could pass as a basketball player, had plenty of traits to develop into a star. Unfortunately, he opted out of the 2020 college football season, and that left him with practically one year of tape.
Rousseau is a gamble that could pay off if the right team can turn his potential into consistency. His 15.5 sacks in 2019 stand out on the stat sheet, but his technical game is lacking, and a 2020 campaign would have been a great learning experience for a player once listed at safety. His hand usage, an important tool for beating top-tier offensive tackles, needs improvement, as do his counters. He was largely successful against guards, so while the versatility is a plus, his ability to win outside is a point of focus to improve upon. Run defense is not a strength either for Rousseau, although he has the frame to develop into one.
The other reason to avoid Rousseau is that he might not even be the best defensive end on his team, let alone the draft. Jaelan Phillips is also in contention for top pass rusher, thanks in part to his power. Injuries are a concern for him, so teams might view Rousseau as a safer pick to develop. A riser on many draft boards, Michigan’s Kwity Paye had the benefit of a 2020 season. He has valued to the top of many defensive end rankings as yet another athletic pass rushing prospect. He is a more rounded prospect than Rousseau or Phillips, and I think he is a decent option at seventh overall in comparison.
On paper, nabbing the top defensive end prospect sounds great, given the success of Chase Young, Nick Bosa, Bradley Chubb, and Myles Garrett. However, the 2021 class lacks elite prospects like many previous draft classes. You would have to go back to the 2012 NFL Draft to find a similarly weak group, and even that class had Melvin Ingram and Chandler Jones.
Some of these pass rushers will certainly work out, but in a draft class full of great quarterback and wide receiver prospects, I would rather the Lions address the position on Day 2 or 2022.