There is a lot to build on in Detroit. After making the playoffs last year, they just missed out on the party in 2017. Now they are looking to add to that foundation with a new coaching staff. With new head man Matt Patricia having his background on the defensive side of the ball, and the Lions struggles on that side of the ball, I’d expect defense to be the majority of their focus. However, if they don’t develop a running game going into next year I’d be very surprised as well. Here’s how I see them attacking the draft this year.
First round – Harold Landry, EDGE, Boston College
Harold Landry might be the best pure pass rusher in this class. His combination of burst and bend are very good — even by NFL standards — and there’s a good chance he’d be the Lions best edge rusher. With new coach Matt Patricia coming to town with a new defensive philosophy, Landry’s versatility to play as a down lineman or a 3-4 outside linebacker will give Detroit the ability to move him around and show multiple creative looks. A perfect blend of need, fit, and talent.
Second round – Rashaad Penny, RB, SDSU
It’s no secret that the Lions are in the market for a running back in this draft. Rashaad Penny brings good quickness and the size (5’11, 220 lbs) to run through arm tackles. He also has the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. While this may be a tad early for Penny to come off the board for me, his great Senior Bowl showing paired with what I expect him to do at the Combine will likely elevate his stock into the mid-to-late second round.
Third round – Mason Cole, C, Michigan
The Lions are likely moving on from Travis Swanson in the off-season and will need to find someone to come in and take over at center. Mason Cole can be that guy. He’s got the length, experience, and quickness to thrive in a zone blocking scheme. After starting four years at the University of Michigan, there is no question he’s gone up against lots of great NFL-caliber competition.
Fourth round – Nathan Shepard, DT, Fort Hayes St
There may not have been a bigger winner from Senior Bowl week than Nathan Shepard. He flashed time and time again going against some of the best offensive linemen this draft class has to offer. He’s a small-school stud who dominated his level of competition. Expect him to become an instant contributor as part of the defensive line rotation, with the potential to become an impact starter.
Fifth round – Darius Phillips, CB, W. Michigan
Darius Phillips is a feisty little corner whose game is much bigger than his listed 5’9 height. He is quick and can make plays on the ball. He should be able to mirror even the quickest of NFL slot receivers. Additionally, Phillips has very good returning ability of special teams. This is the kind of depth, role player pick that really boosts the strength of an NFL roster.
Sixth round – The Lions traded this pick to the Rams for offensive tackle Greg Robinson.
Seventh round – Du’Vonta Lampkin, DT, Oklahoma
Du’Vonta Lampkin is a huge defensive tackle at 6’3, 335 lbs. He definitely needs some technical work, but he has the power to help anchor the middle of the Lions defense. A true nose tackle, Lampkin can eat up blocks and could be really good at it in a few years when he’s more polished. Don’t expect much pass rush, even if he develops, but he can open things up for everyone else.