Wow, what a month! For most of the offseason, most of us on PoD have been wanting the Lions to double-dip on defense in Round One. And then the first week of free agency happened…
I wondered what Brad Holmes meant a few weeks ago when he said he hoped to find two players in the draft. Now I think I know what he meant: He hopes to draft two players who can start right away. Ten days ago, that meant at least one DB. Now, having signed Sutton, Moseley, and Gardner-Johnson, I’m not sure there is a DB – even my draft crush Brian Branch – who could start on Day One of the 2023 season. And since I don’t see a DL who is a sure thing to start and we know that Holmes isn’t going to draft a LB on Day One, it could be that we need to look to the offense for potential starters in this draft class.
Right now, I see four possible positions on offense that Holmes might spend pick #6 on: a starting RG, a replacement for DJ Chark at WR, a co-starter at RB alongside David Montgomery (trade Swift for a 3rd-round pick?), or – the one exception to Holmes’ "find a starter" focus – a backup quarterback.
If Stroud miraculously fell to 6, I’d jump all over him. Young is too small, Levis is wooden. Then there is AR. A month ago, I would have thought Richardson was too high-risk at #6. Now, with the overall team having improved so much, this could be the year to take a flyer on developing a phenomenal athlete at QB. So, if AR is there at 6, while I am not quite ready to say, "He should be the pick," I nevertheless would be excited if Holmes thought highly enough of AR to draft him.
On the other hand, if Holmes doesn’t buy the hype and thinks that AR is another Malik Willis, I’d say go for either Bijan or Jaxon at 6, and then take the other one at 18 if he’s still there. If the option for a second offensive weapon at 18 is gone, then use that pick to draft a starting RG, either O’Cyrus Torrence, or Broderick Jones or Paris Johnson who would be preferable to Torrence because either could serve as OT3 while starting at RG.
If AR is gone at 6, the ideal would be for the Lions to trade back a small number of spots (heck, I’d settle for trading #6 to the Raiders for #7 and #70) and then pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Let me briefly recap the reasons for drafting JSN so high:
1) Sheer ability. First, he is good enough to start on Day 1, which seems to be Holmes’ first draft criterion. JSN’s amazing agility (6.57 3-cone, 3.93 shuttle) is why he gets open so often. His former OSU teammates, Wilson and Olave, who finished first and fourth respectively in the OROY balloting in the NFL last season, both say JSN is better than they are. His 2021 production is solid evidence that he is.
2) Economics. WRs are very expensive in FA. I think Jaxon would get open more often than Chark (even though Chark has faster straight-line speed) and would cost less. Plus, by locking him up for potentially five years, the Lions could stay out of the FA market for WRs for the next few seasons.
3) Fun. Admit it: Watching opponents trying to cover Jamo, Saint and Jaxon all at the same time would be a blast. Plus, drafting Jaxon to keep the Vikings from lining him up beside Jefferson and Osborn should bring a smile to our faces, too. After all, why should the Vikes have the fun instead of the Lions??
If Bijan is still on the board at 18, take him – great player, great person, and good enough to start on Day One. If he isn’t available (which is probable) then get a RG at 18 and use pick 55 (or maybe #70 if we make that trade with the Raiders) to get a fast RB like Tyjae Spears or Devon Achane – both of whom are weapons in the passing game, too.
So, there we have it: A case for the Lions to go offense twice in R-1 – and this from a guy who for months firmly believed that they needed to go defense with those two picks. How quickly Brad Holmes has transformed the picture. It’s coming into clearer focus now – admittedly more for Holmes than for me. But it’s fun for us fans to keep guessing how Brad is going to continue to upgrade the Lions’ roster. You’re doing great, Brad! Go Lions!