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PFF mock draft: Detroit Lions throw caution to the wind, address zero needs early

In the latest mock draft from Pro Football Focus’ Mike Renner, the Detroit Lions opt for depth and ignore team needs with their most prized selections.

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The tampering period wasn’t a very exciting time for the Detroit Lions. There were no splash signings, there were no credible trade rumors that had any legs to stand on, hell, the team has only signed two external free agents in wide receiver DJ Chark and tight end Garrett Griffin. Aside from that, the team has opted to bring back a lot of their own from a year ago. Tracy Walker, Charles Harris, and Kalif Raymond headlined the team’s list of (re)acquisitions to kick off the league’s new year.

For many, the decision to bring back so many players from a football team that went 3-13-1 last year is puzzling. Where are the upgrades? How does the team plan on addressing needs?

The Lions own nine selections in this year’s NFL Draft and considering general manager Brad Holmes’ background in regards to college scouting, it seems as though the draft will provide answers to those questions.

Unless you’re Pro Football Focus analyst Mike Renner.

In Renner’s latest three-round mock draft, he projected the Detroit Lions to select North Carolina State’s Ikem Ekwonu with the second overall pick. Ekwonu is an offensive tackle who Renner proposes the Lions play at guard in the time being before eventually taking over as Taylor Decker’s replacement at left tackle. [Editor’s note: Decker is under contract through 2024 and has $24.25 million in guarantees remaining on his contract.]

Aidan Hutchinson did get selected first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it’s hard to imagine Detroit passing on the opportunity to select Kayvon Thibodeaux, who went fourth overall to the New York Jets, or Travon Walker, who went seventh to the New York Giants in this mock draft.

With Detroit’s next selection, pick No. 32 from the Los Angeles Rams, Renner slots Arkansas wide receiver Treylon Burks to the Lions. Renner acknowledges that the Lions have added speed on the outside in the aforementioned move to acquire Chark, but instead of adding a player where Detroit has an immediate need, the team adds a “power forward” to help revitalize the wide receiver room.

And you know what, that’s fine. Burks would add an element to this team they don’t currently have on the roster given his style of play and skill set. Plus, Detroit has a selection at 34 to begin addressing needs and there are plenty of players still on the board to accomplish that.

So Renner, without explanation, gives Detroit a running back at 34 despite currently having five running backs under contract. Iowa State’s Breece Hall is one of the top running backs in the draft, but would be the second running back drafted in the second round by Detroit in the past three years—D’Andre Swift was the 35th overall pick in the 2020 draft. Safeties like Daxton Hill and Jaquan Brisker, as well as linebacker Nakobe Dean, and EDGE Drake Jackson were still on the board at this point.

Renner finishes his mock draft by grabbing LSU linebacker Damone Clark at 66 and Ohio State tight end Jeremy Ruckert, but at this point, it feels like too little, too late. Spending the team’s first three picks on players who don’t help address immediate needs with a team looking to improve and build off their strong finish a season ago seems, to put it politely, asinine. It looks like something a six year old would put together.

“This three-round NFL mock draft represents what I’d do right now if I took over as general manager for all 32 NFL teams,” says Renner before his three-round mock. Luckily, Lions fans can find solace in the fact that Renner will not be taking over as Detroit’s general manager.