NFL mock drafts are good for a couple reasons. It’s an easily-consumed piece that can offer an introduction to the top draft prospects in that year’s class. They can offer a general overview of the value of players and who may be available at which spots.
But more than anything else, they create discussion and engagement: two things that sports media covets more than anything. And while mock drafts are an extremely easy way to create clicks, the discussions can also be worthwhile to the consumer—forcing them to consider viewpoints or scenarios in which they otherwise may not have explored.
This is all to say that NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah is going to generate a lot of reactions with his Mock Draft 2.0—especially when it comes to his two selections for the Detroit Lions.
Let’s get into it:
Pick 6 — Clemson edge Myles Murphy
Jeremiah makes the same pick that Todd McShay did for Detroit in his latest mock draft. Because I broke down a bit of Murphy’s game in that post, I won’t go deep on the defensive prospect. In short, Murphy is strong, has surprisingly quick twitch for a man of his size, and will win with his strength at the next level.
And while I like Murphy as a prospect, this pick is somewhat underwhelming. This feels like a classic case of the mock drafter switching up their pick for the sake of creating something different. In Jeremiah’s previous mock draft, he had the Lions taking Illinois cornerback Devon Witherspoon at six. Not only does Witherspoon fill a more pressing need and fits the playing profile of a Dan Campbell guy, but he’s also the fifth best prospect in this year’s draft according to Jeremiah’s own big board. Meanwhile Murphy ranks 18th on his list. Even if Jeremiah wanted to stick with an edge here, it’s a bit surprising he didn’t go with Georgia Tech’s Keion White, who is eighth on his big board.
At the same time, of course Jeremiah is going to switch up his mock draft. There’s little reason to publish monthly mock drafts and only change 15-20 percent of your picks. Still, Jeremiah could have switched things up by picking any other cornerback in the class or sticking with the consistency of his own big board.
Pick 18 — Florida QB Anthony Richardson
This pick will split Lions fans into two staunchly-opposed factions.
The first believes the Lions have their franchise quarterback, and there is no point in even discussing a first-round quarterback. Jared Goff is coming off one of his best years, and the Lions offense finished fifth in the league. Goff is still relatively young at 28, and while he’s not on a rookie deal, his cap hits of $31 and $32 million in each of the next two seasons are more than reasonable. Adding Richardson, they’d argue, could rattle Goff, create resentment, and would be a waste of an opportunity to improve the defense—the side of the ball that clearly needs more work.
The other side believes that unless you have a clear-cut elite quarterback in this league, you should always be looking to upgrade, especially if you have a chance to get a high-ceiling passer on a rookie deal. Additionally, the Lions are in a great position to have a top quarterback on the board either at six or 18—of even if they need to package the two to get the guy they love. Given the current trajectory of the team, it’s hard to know the next time they’ll have the draft capital to make a big move like that.
Also, one of the toughest places to be, as an NFL franchise, is with a mediocre or above-average quarterback, because they’ll demand an elite payday, but won’t be able to go toe-to-toe with the Patrick Mahomes of the world.
But a prospect like Richardson complicates this debate even more. As a one-year starter at Florida with terribly inconsistent tape, he is not an easy evaluation. There is little question about his physical tools: he’s big, he’s strong, he’s nearly impossible to catch in the open field, and he can make any throw. But while most believe Richardson got better as the year went on, it’s hard to completely overlook some truly concerning late-season performances, as well.
Some fans will quickly jump to a Malik Willis comparison from last year’s class. On the surface, the inconsistencies and need to develop make it an easy pairing. But there are several issues with this comp.
For one, Willis was far more raw. He played in an overly simplistic offense at Liberty and rarely faced good competition. Richardson, on the other hand, played in the SEC and worked within an offense that forced him to go through his progressions far more often. He’s far from polished in that aspect of his game, but he’s more experienced and has shown promise in that area. Also, Richardson is damn-near the perfect physical prototype for a modern quarterback (6-foot-4, 240), while Willis is built completely different (6-foot-1, 219).
I get the feeling Richardson to the Lions will be a common pairing this offseason because of Detroit’s situation. With Richardson likely needing some time to adjust to the NFL, learn a new offense, and fine-tune his physical skills, Detroit may be the perfect place for him to land. With Goff under contract for two more years, the Lions can give the veteran quarterback a couple opportunities to make a push for a title in Detroit while allowing Richardson to develop. If Goff can’t make it happen, the Lions could have an upgrade ready to go—and on a cheap rookie deal.
But therein lies the problem: will Anthony Richardson be a better quarterback than Jared Goff? His mobility alone gives him a higher ceiling, but given that Richardson is such a difficult evaluation, would the Lions take the massive risk of using a first-round pick on that bet?
As Lions general manager Brad Holmes said, “It’s a easier to get worse at quarterback than to get better at quarterback.”