Final 7-round mock: Lions load up on defense early in the draft


In my 10 or so years of writing about the NFL Draft, I can’t recall a year where there was this much uncertainty near the top. Back in late March, Aidan Hutchinson was still the overwhelming favorite to be selected first overall. Now he has been replaced by Travon Walker (-300 per DraftKings Sportsbook). Instead, Hutchinson is now the favorite to be drafted No. 2 by the Lions (-150) with Kayvon Thibodeaux nipping at his heels (+130).

Silly season doesn’t end until the Jaguars are on the clock, so that means we’ve still got time for another mock draft. This year, I’m using Pro Football Network’s simulator, which is free to use. Let’s get into it.

1st round (2): Aidan Hutchinson, EDGE, Michigan

In this simulation, the Jaguars took offensive tackle, Evan Neal, with the first overall pick. I think that’s the right pick for them, but it seems unlikely to actually happen. Still, there is a decent chance that Hutchinson is available here anyway and ultimately it came down to who I liked more between Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux.

Hutchinson has an elite athletic profile and is a perfect fit for what the Lions are looking for in an edge rusher. The only real knock on him as a prospect is his lack of arm length (7th percentile).

1st round (32): George Pickens, WR, Georgia

The way the rest of the first round shaped out was very unfortunate for us. Guys like Lewis Cine, Nakobe Dean, Daxton Hill, Jaquan Brisker, among others, all went ahead of the Lions’ second first-round pick. Ideally Detroit would take a top safety or linebacker that fell to this spot, but since most of those guys were gone, I feel good about taking the best receiver available here.

If the Lions make this pick, you can bet that you’ll be hearing “kneecap biter” quite often. If not for the injury history and missing some time, Pickens would likely have cemented himself as a first-round pick. He is the most physical receiver in this draft class and fits perfectly in that “X” receiver role that the Lions are looking for.

2nd round (34): Devonte Wyatt, DL, Georgia

Everyone wants to take a Georgia defender in this draft, but Wyatt might not be the one that Lions fans are expecting. He’s gone a bit under the radar due to playing next to guys like Travon Walker, Nakobe Dean, Lewis Cine… the list goes on. However, if Wyatt is still on the board at this point, I think this would be an absolute steal for the Lions, who are still looking to get more production from their interior defensive linemen.

The Lions already drafted two defensive tackles in the early rounds last year, but are still waiting to see that turn into some real production in terms of rushing the passer. If they can develop those guys, and they get a stud like Wyatt, then that’s a great problem to have.

3rd round (66): Leo Chenal, LB, Wisconsin

I really wanted to get a safety or linebacker here because I think waiting until 97 or Day 3 would be waiting far too long to address either position. Ultimately I had my options down to Chenal, Brian Asamoah, Channing Tindall and Damone Clark at linebacker, and Kerby Joseph, Bryan Cook or Nick Cross at safety.

In the end I went with Chenal for a couple of reasons. The Lions haven’t had someone who has top-end speed, but can also completely shut down the run game at the same time in as long as I can remember. Sure, there are obvious concerns about Chenal’s stiffness and coverage limitations, but I’m willing to take that risk and see if those areas can improve, while knowing that he can be elite in other areas.

3rd round (97): Bryan Cook, S, Cincinnati

Luckily for me, I was able to have one of those guys that I considered at 66 fall to me at 97. Cook would be a fantastic get for the Lions at the bottom of the third round since they still need plenty of help at safety. I really like Cook’s value at this spot, and I think that you can also go a few other ways with the 97th pick. Cook’s teammate, Coby Bryant (CB) was available here and would be a solid option. Tight end was also a consideration here with Jelani Woods and Cade Otton still on the board.

Cook fits well with the Lions as a split-zone safety who is a very efficient run defender and can develop into a starting role if he can improve on his coverage skills.

5th round (177): Jamaree Salyer, OG, Georgia

For some reason PFN has Salyer rated pretty low (167th on their board), so the Lions get some offensive line depth by drafting the best player available that could go as early as the second round. Salyer started most of his games at left tackle for the Bulldogs, but does have some experience on the right side, and took snaps on the interior line during Senior Bowl week. Salyer is projected to move full-time as an interior lineman at the next level.

6th round (181): James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech

If not for a torn ACL shortening his season, Mitchell would probably be in consideration for a late Day 2/early Day 3 pick. If he can stay healthy, he has the potential to earn some starting snaps and use his speed/route-running ability to create some mismatches.

If the Lions are unable to address the tight end position earlier on, they should still have a few decent options at this point in the draft.

6th round (217): Max Borghi, RB, Washington State

With our final pick, it’s time to take a swing on a late-round running back. At 5-foot-9, Borghi is not going to be your workhorse back, but he has very good instincts as a runner for his size and will be a solid target in the passing game. Think of him as a potential change-of-pace back.