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Lions Draft Targets at 16

The Detroit Lions are currently slated to select in the 16th slot of the first round tonight.  The top two picks of the draft have already been traded and many experts are predicting more trades.  I don’t anticipate a trade up for the Lions since they have such limited draft capital in the first three rounds.  Any trade up would require the use of 2017 picks and that is something that seems very out of character for Bob Quinn.

The Lions primary needs seem to match up very well with players that are expected to be available when they pick.  Some of these targets will likely be drafted by the time the Lions are on the clock, some players that are predicted to be there are not on my list.  I have excluded players that I do not expect to be there at 16.

My preference for the pick at 16 is an offensive tackle, followed by a pass rusher.  Those two positions are very thin in this draft and the Lions need players that can play right away at those two spots.

Ideally, the Lions would be able to get somebody that can come in and upgrade the LT spot, but I don’t think that is going to happen.  After all the issues the Lions had with protection last season, I just don’t see the coaches turning over the LT spot to a rookie.  If the Lions take a tackle in the first, he will start off competing for the RT spot and ideally can compete for the LT spot next season.  He may just have first dibs on the LT slot next year if the Lions move on from Reilly Reiff.

I do not expect Laremy Tunsil or Ronnie Stanley to be available, but there is hope that Jack Conklin will be there.  Conklin is more athletic than he is given credit for and has the nasty mentality you want in an offensive lineman.  If Conklin isn’t there, Taylor Decker is a decent fallback option.  Decker will have a steeper learning curve coming from a gimmicky scheme and he needs technique work.  Jason Spriggs is believed to be a second round player by many experts, but I have a feeling he will go in the first.  16 may be too high, but he could go there or be a target if they trade down.

Pass rusher isn’t as urgent a need on the surface, but if Ziggy Ansah were to miss six games this fall the Lions’ pass rush would disappear.  Shaq Lawson is the presumptive favorite if the Lions go DE.  I agree he is probably the best target at 16, but I have some concerns about Lawson.  I’d only go that route if Conklin and Decker were both gone and I had confidence Spriggs would be there at 46.

I really like Emmanuel Ogbah as DE, but 16 seems too high.  He’s not as productive as Lawson, but he has rare athleticism and NFL coaching can correct many of his weaknesses.  I also love Chris Jones in the second round if he’s there, but that’s a different conversation.  Leonard Floyd could be an interesting pick, but he doesn’t quite fit the profile of the other pass rushers the Lions have.  He is a two-down LB that can blitz or rush from a three-point stance on passing downs.  More of a Von Miller type, but obviously not at that same talent level.

Now, many players that are mocked to the Lions don’t make my cut.  I am not a fan of Jaran Reed, Andrew Billings, Vernon Butler or A’Shawn Robinson at 16.  All of them project as run stuffing DTs that will not offer a lot in the pass rush.  The Lions have Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker whom are both excellent run stuffers signed for this season.  Walker is young enough that he could still be in the long term plan for the Lions.  I’d much prefer an explosive pass rusher at defensive tackle in the first round.  This is a very deep draft for DTs and run stuffers can be found in the middle to late rounds in average drafts.  I’m not the biggest fan of Sheldon Rankins, but if they go defensive tackle in the first, he’s about the only one that I feel offers the pass rushing the Lions need.

There has been talk of C Ryan Kelly at 16 and I am not a huge fan of that direction either.  The Lions do need to improve at center, but I feel tackle and pass rusher are far greater needs and better value.  If Conklin, Decker, Lawson and Floyd are all gone, then I’d be more on board with a Kelly pick.  However, that would be a secondary preference to trading down if possible.

There is a chance the Lions could do the unexpected and go with a skill position player, but I don’t feel that is likely.  The Patriots rarely chose receivers or running backs high in the draft and usually waited on defensive backs until the second or third rounds.

The Lions won’t be on the clock for another 2-3 hours so there is a lot that needs to shake out between now and then.


Anthony Kuehn can be found on Twitter @KuehnObserve

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