The Lions have several positions on their roster that still need to be upgraded, and a few spots where a rookie could challenge for a starting role, including wide receiver, linebacker, and safety. With two draft picks in the next three selections—they also hold pick No. 34—the Lions have an opportunity to land two more immediate impact players.
When examining the players available, the first thing that jumped out about this mock draft was the fact that no off-the-ball linebackers had been selected up until this point, giving the Lions the opportunity to have their pick of the class. There is a healthy debate about which linebacker is worthy of the top spot with the focus surrounding Utah’s Devin Lloyd and Georgia’s Nakobe Dean. Both would look good in Honolulu Blue.
The Lions could also look to safety here, and with Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton and Michigan’s Daxton Hill off the board, Georgia’s Lewis Cine is the perfect combination of talent and fit. Because there was a run on wide receivers—seven were selected in Round 1 —the best available are Western Michigan’s Skyy Moore and North Dakota State’s Christian Watson. Moore’s talent is deserving of this spot, but he is a bit redundant to Amon-Ra St. Brown, while this feels a bit early for Watson as he is not as polished.
There is also an argument to be made that the Lions could look to the future at quarterback, and with Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder available, they could be interested. While Ridder is talented, most signs coming out of Detroit point to them preferring to continue their rebuild by adding impact players at other positions, while they operate the offense with Jared Goff as their signal-caller.
The bottom line here is that the defensive players mentioned above represent a better combination of talent, value, and need for the Lions. That should be the focus of their next two picks in this mock draft. When considering Lloyd, Dean, and Cine at this pick, Lloyd represents the best value on Pride of Detroit’s draft board and therefore he will be the pick, with the plan of grabbing Cine with their next selection.
Lloyd (6’3, 237 pounds) is a true modern-day linebacker who can stay on the field for all three downs and fill a multitude of roles in a variety of concepts/schemes. His skill set and experience allow him to operate behind both three and four-man fronts, making him a terrific fit for what the Lions do on defense.
Statistically, Lloyd was a consistent, high-level producer for all three years he was a starter (33 games) at Utah. He was a two-time captain who was recognized as a hard worker—both on the field and in the film room—which showed up on the field every game.
As a senior, Lloyd led the team in tackles (111), tackles for loss (22, which was second in FBS), interceptions (4), and defensive scores (2). He also recorded a forced fumble and six pass breakups over those 14 games.
Beyond the box score, Lloyd’s instincts and closing speed are elite and the basis for nearly everything he does well on the football field.
Against the run, Lloyd reads gaps with proficiency, often sliding between assignments with ease. He attacks the ball with violence and is a downhill pursuer when he gets a sliver of daylight or is one-on-one with a tight end. He routinely sniffs out screens and other trick plays, and has the desire/athleticism to pounce on the play. As a tackler, he is an intense hitter, who wraps up with solid technique. While he rarely misses tackles, he can get overaggressive at times.
When driving through gaps, both against the run or as a blitzer, Lloyd’s first-step quickness allows him to get to his spot before the offensive linemen, which keeps him clean in his pursuit. His length (33-inch arm length) also aids him in this venture, as he has the ability to deliver a punch or dip under blocks ahead of the linemen’s schedule. If he does get caught, like most linebackers at his size/weight, he can struggle to get free, but he never quits on the play.
Lloyd’s first step and length can also be utilized as a blitzer off the edge, both situationally or in a subpackage role. This doesn’t need to be a featured part of his role on defense, but having an off-the-ball linebacker also be able to pressure the quarterback—similarly to Derrick Barnes—is an extra tool that defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn would love to have in his arsenal.
As a former safety, Lloyd’s coverage instincts show up when he drops into a zone but is still being polished in man situations. He is comfortable working in space, has the length to cover his window, the natural feel to break on the ball, and the hands to create turnovers.
At the end of the day, Lloyd is close to being a complete player at this stage in his career and would represent a leader who could anchor the middle of the Lions’ defense for the next half-decade or beyond.