ESPN’s Mel Kiper’s 2021 mock drafts tend to be rollercoasters and this year is no different. So far this offseason, Kiper paired the Detroit Lions with QB Justin Fields (Ohio State) in version 1.0, then had them trading back for LB Micah Parsons (Penn State) in version 2.0.
In his third mock draft installment, Kiper paired the Lions with an Alabama wide receiver, but with both Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith on the board in his scenario, did he pick the right one?
Let’s set the table.
As always, the Jacksonville Jaguars take QB Trevor Lawrence (Clemson) with the top pick, setting up the New York Jets to land their favorite quarterback and Kiper pairs them with Zach Wilson (BYU). The first twist comes with the Carolina Panthers trading up to pick No. 3 and select Fields. The Atlanta Falcons make it a clean sweep of quarterbacks at the top of the draft by grabbing Trey Lance (North Dakota State).
Having all four quarterbacks selected in the first four picks is becoming a common theme in mock drafts right now, and it will be an interesting storyline to follow as we get closer to the draft.
The first non-quarterback taken is TE Kyle Pitts, who lands in with the Cincinnati Bengals, and it’s a bit of a surprise as it’s a shift from most mock drafts that pair them with LT Penei Sewell (Oregon). The Philadelphia Eagles get to pick their favorite flavor of wide receiver and land on Ja’Marr Chase (LSU), who most consider the top player at his position.
So, with both Alabama wide receivers still on the board, Kiper had another flavor profile to match with the Lions and he went with: Smith.
“The Lions’ projected starters at wide receiver? New signings Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman,” Kiper said. “There’s not much else behind them, with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. both signing elsewhere. I would say this pick is likely going to the best wideout on the board, and Smith would be a tremendous choice. The Heisman Trophy winner doesn’t have the biggest frame (6-foot-1, 175 pounds), but you shouldn’t underestimate him. He is one of the best route runners I’ve scouted, and he beats any corner put in front of him. Detroit is clearly rebuilding, so I also wouldn’t be surprised if it trades down to pick up more draft capital.”
There’s plenty to like about Smith—his production, route running, and hands are all elite—and the Lions would be a better team for adding him to the roster, but there is also a case to be made for Waddle fitting the wide receiver mold the Lions have been adding this offseason.
What do Williams, Perriman, and recently signed Kalif Raymond all have in common? Speed for days. Williams ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at his pro day, Perriman clocked in at 4.26 at his, while Raymond knocked out a 4.39 and plays even faster.
Neither Smith nor Waddle ran a 40-yard dash at Alabama’s pro day on Tuesday so we have to speculate a bit of what their times may have been. But in previous events, Smith has clocked in at 4.49, while there is video of Waddle running step-for-step with Henry Ruggs who ran an official 4.27 at the 2019 NFL Combine—something that matches up with Waddle’s GPS speeds. Even without firm numbers, it’s clear Waddle is an elite speedster.
Smith is plenty fast and brings a ton of other intangibles to the field, but Waddle can fly as well as being a lethal offensive weapon.
So did Kiper get it right? Which Alabama WR would you rather see in Honolulu Blue?
Which Alabama WR would you prefer the Lions draft?
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