ESPN continues to churn out their mock drafts, and while their three draft-centric writers—Mel Kiper, Todd McShay, and recently added Jordan Reid—are rotating weeks, there hasn’t been a lot of variety when projecting the Detroit Lions picks—save for Reid’s ability to think outside of a quarterback at pick No. 32.
Let’s take a look at what ESPN has projected for the Lions so far this offseason:
McShay 1.0: Aidan Hutchinson (EDGE) at No. 2, Sam Howell (QB) at No. 28
Kiper 1.0: Kayvon Thibodeaux (EDGE) at No. 2, Howell at No. 32
McShay and Kiper Combo Mock: Thibodeaux at No. 2
Reid 1.0: Thibodeaux at No. 2, Jahan Dotson (WR) at No. 32
McShay 2.0: Hutchinson at No. 2, Howell at No. 32
And on Tuesday, Kiper released his mock draft 2.0 ($) and it was more of the same: Hutchinson at No. 2, Matt Corral (QB, Mississippi) at No. 32. Let’s see if Kiper’s reasoning can explain more about why he switched quarterbacks.
Kiper on Corral:
Let’s end this mock draft with another quarterback, because I’m not convinced Jared Goff will be Detroit’s long-term signal-caller. Corral could be, though, and in this scenario he could get time to learn behind Goff in 2022, when the Lions almost certainly won’t be contending in the NFC North. Yes, they have several needs, but if they can get a quarterback with a fifth-year option, they could continue the positive momentum of their rebuild. Corral took a step forward in 2021, throwing 20 touchdown passes and just five picks. He’s a dual-threat quarterback who can beat teams with his legs, but he ran an RPO-centric offense at Ole Miss, and he’s going to need to learn how to adapt in the NFL. He can spin the football, though. Corral won’t work out for NFL teams at the combine, which means all eyes will be on his pro day in late March.
Nope. Kiper essentially said the same thing he said about taking Howell at pick No. 32 in his Mock Draft 1.0, pointing to Goff not being the answer and they’d get a quarterback (with a fifth-year option) who can sit and learn for a season. McShay also took the same stance in his explanations. With the Lions' situation at quarterback not expected to change much between now and the draft, I’m not anticipating either analyst to move away from this strategy in their mock drafts.
So, Kiper and McShay seem dug in on the Lions grabbing a quarterback, any quarterback, at pick No. 32, but is that the right strategy?
Last week, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah spoke with the media ahead of the Combine and was essentially asked this question. He said it’s all about getting a quarterback with a developmental ceiling higher than Goff, and he only believed one quarterback in this class had that potential.
“Yeah, if your comp or your ultimate upside for the player is Jared Goff, you’ve already got him, so don’t waste a pick,” Jeremiah said. “That’s why I think Malik Willis could potentially give you a little something different, and if it all works together and comes together, he could give you a little bit more. That to me is the one that I would keep an eye on.”
For what it’s worth, Willis went 20th overall in Kiper’s mock draft, with Corral being the next quarterback off the board. But Jeremiah believes the difference between the two signal-callers is notable.
“I think you could look at some of the other guys and say, ‘Okay, they’ve got a chance to be starters, but I don’t know that anybody is saying they’ve got a chance to be high-end starters,” Jeremiah summarized. “I think Malik Willis, while there’s obviously plenty of risk—and that’s why he could be there at the end of the first round—there’s also the potential of a big payoff.”
I tend to side with Jeremiah here. Switching out an average quarterback for another average quarterback is a waste of draft capital, which is why selecting a skill player—like Reid did in his first mock draft—may be more prudent at this stage of the rebuild.
Speaking of Reid, he’s next up in the rotation at ESPN, giving Lions fans something to look forward to.