We are full-on into mock draft season now, and while some analysts are stuck in a repetitive loop, others are starting to explore the space and think outside of the box. One of those analysts is The Athletic’s Dane Brugler, who always seems to be ahead of the curve in his projections and is constantly working to provide readers with up-to-date information.
On Wednesday, Brugler released his Mock Draft 2.0 ($ubscription required) and he joins a growing trend of projecting the Jacksonville Jaguars to select an offensive tackle—though his tackle selection is different than most, but one that has been quietly building momentum for weeks now.
With a tackle off the board at pick No. 1, that leaves the Lions with both popular edge rushers available to them, and Brugler projects the Lions will select...
No. 2 Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan
Brugler points to the Bosa brothers as a comparison for Hutchinson, noting that he doesn't have their “bend or arc skills” but “there are similarities when you talk about their quickness, power and skilled hand play to defeat blockers and disrupt the pocket.” I’ve often suggested Hutchinson is a mashup of the Watt brothers, offering similar edge setting and power traits of J.J, as well as the underrated athleticism and relentlessness of T.J.—good company to be compared to, regardless of which set of brothers you think he resembles.
But it’s Hutchinson’s intangibles that I believe would separate him from Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux for the Lions. Thibodeaux has been a dominator for years and still hasn't reached his ceiling, but as Brugler points out, Hutchinson is “wired in a way that will appeal to head coach Dan Campbell.”
As The Athletic’s Chris Burke points out in his analysis of Brugler’s mock draft, having an offensive tackle go first overall could open up some possibilities for a potential trade down, as the “Jets, Giants or Panthers get a little itchy about possibly missing out” on the next available tackle. This would surely please the Lions’ community that is hoping for the Lions to land Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.
Things continue to fall in the Lions favor as Brugler’s mock draft rolls on and by the time the mock reaches the Lions pick via the Rams, they land another instant impact player from the Big Ten:
No. 28 Chris Olave, wide receiver, Ohio State
Brugler points out that the Lions won’t “feel pressured to take a wide receiver here, especially with the emergence of Amon-Ra St. Brown”, but the opportunity to grab “an immediate playmaker” is too good to pass up.
Burke would go on to point out that the combination of St. Brown and Olave would a tandem capable of creating mismatches for the Lions' offense as “both are capable of thriving from the slot or outside; both can be used as a frequent motion/misdirection playmaker.”
While St. Brown and Olave are similar in their impact, they also complement each other’s skill set as well. As Burke points out, “Olave forces defenders to turn and run, and he’s explosive out of breaks to get underneath them when they do.” Having Olave as a capable vertical threat will open things up over the middle of the field and down the seems, which will not only open things up for St. Brown but also T.J. Hockenson as well.
At this stage of the mock, Brugler had three quarterbacks selected, Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett (No. 11), Mississippi’s Matt Corral (No. 18), and North Carolina’s Sam Howell (No. 20) leaving Liberty’s Malik Willis, Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder, and Nevada's Carson Strong all available.
All three would be selected in the next 20 picks, but the Lions passed on all of them with their second-round pick, instead, going with...
No. 34 Roger McCreary, CB, Auburn
McCreary is probably a top-five corner in this draft class, and if the Lions aren’t anticipating getting Jeff Okudah (Achilles) or Jerry Jacobs (ACL) back in time for the regular season, this is an understandable selection, as the Auburn product would immediately challenge to start.
But once again, I fall in line with Burke in my evaluation of this situation and believe there are players with equal grades, at positions of greater need, that may provide the Lions with better value at this spot. Burke points out players like “safeties Lewis Cine (Georgia) and Jaquan Brisker (Penn State) and linebacker Christian Harris (Alabama)” would be other options to consider. I would also add underrated linebacker Chad Muma (Wyoming) to the conversation.