Needs: The Lions’ offense was good enough to make the playoffs last year, but their defense was so poor Detroit didn’t stand much of a chance. The draft is a great way to turn that around. Detroit has big needs at cornerback and on the edge, but a hole at linebacker could be addressed in early rounds as well. On the offensive side of the ball, line depth at tackle should be addressed, as should wide receiver depth and the team’s running back issues.
Picks: First round (21), Second round (53), Third round (85), Fourth round (128), Fifth round (165), Sixth round (205, 215), Seventh round (250).
Raj MehtaRaj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
The Lions need a strong pass rusher for their defensive line and while Charlton isn’t the most sure-fire of prospects, his ceiling is as high as anyone’s in the draft, including the presumed No. 1 overall pick Myles Garrett. Charlton could be Julius Peppers (the hyper-prolific version, not the old and still shockingly useful version). While Charles Harris, the talented Missouri defensive end, will still be on the board at No. 21, the bold play is the right one — go for Charlton.
Brad MillsBrad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Shaquill Griffin, CB, UCF
Griffin is too good to be on the fringe of being selected on the third day, but his cornerback class is so deep that, alas, that’s where he is. He’s aggressive and hyper-athletic and best jamming receivers and helping in the run game. The Lions don’t need a No. 1 corner, but help at both No. 2 and in the slot are necessary, and Griffin can start immediately in both positions and be picked up in the second or third round.
Kyle TeradaKyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
ArDarius Stewart, WR, Alabama
Stewart isn’t built like a No. 1 receiver — he’s kind of stocky, which is a rare way to describe a wide out — but he gets the job done and that seems to be a theme with the Detroit pass-catching corps. There are better receivers who will blow the top off a Cover 3 defense or kill slot receivers in a West Coast, slant-heavy scheme, but Stewart can be thrown into any offense and provide value. He reminds me a lot of Doug Baldwin, which is just about as high of praise as you can get in my book. While that ceiling might be a pipe dream, the Vikings can land him in the third round and get another rock-solid receiver for Matthew Stafford.
Kim KlementKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jayon Brown, LB, UCLA
The Lions need a linebacker who can both attack against the run and get out and cover tight ends, running backs and wayward slot receivers. LSU's Duke Riley was the sideline-to-sideline backer. If he's off the board by Day 3, the Lions should look to the athletic but undersized Brown, who is one of the best coverage linebackers in this class. I believe he has one of the highest upsides as an overall sideline-to-sideline backer in this draft as well, but that needs to be developed over time.
Mark J. RebilasMark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Matthew Dayes, RB, North Carolina State
In my latest mock draft, I put Leonard Fournette on the Lions. It was bold, but the reasoning was sound (in my mind, at least) — the Lions’ run game has been inconsistent the past two seasons because they’re relying on third-down backs who are masquerading as every-down options. Dayes is not an every-down guy — he’s a first-and-second-down thumper — but that differentiation (like the one Fournette would provide), could be huge for Detroit. With a thumper in the backfield, the pressure would be off Stafford to make a handful of amazing throws on every possession. And that, in turn, will help the Lions’ defense. Dayes is no Fournette, but he’s capable of carrying water for an NFL offense. As a third-day pick, what more could you want?