The Detroit Lions committed to a long-term rebuild this offseason when they traded Matthew Stafford to Los Angeles and hired Dan Campbell as head coach. No one expects the Lions to make much noise this year, and Detroit faces its fourth consecutive losing season. It’s all part of the franchise’s grand plan to rebuild through future drafts.
Campbell’s goal this offseason is to add players that can help Detroit win three or four years down the road. With four picks in the top 101 selections, the Lions could add immediate starters and some developmental pieces. However, even an elite class of rookies won’t help Jared Goff drag this talent-deprived Detroit roster to more than five wins.
I used The Draft Network’s mock draft machine and Pro Football Focus’ mock draft simulator to justify each of my selections. At least one website had the chosen players available at their listed picks over several simulations. I didn’t include any trades and added an “ideal pick” after every selection for optimistic fans.
Round 1 (No. 7): Ja’Marr Chase, WR LSU
Chase is the third-best player in the 2021 NFL Draft. He dominated at LSU two years ago, even outperforming teammate Justin Jefferson. However, it wasn’t easy taking the star pass catcher over Rashawn Slater. The versatile Northwestern product could immediately start at right tackle or either guard position for Detroit, but Chase is a different breed.
The Lions experienced a mass exodus at wide receiver this offseason, losing Danny Amendola, Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, and Mohamed Sanu. Campbell can’t completely abandon Goff, even if plans on tanking. Chase is already better than any receiver on Detroit’s roster and would become the franchise’s best offensive weapon since Calvin Johnson.
Ideal pick: Penei Sewell, OT Oregon
Round 2 (No. 41): Dillon Radunz, OT North Dakota St.
Radunz could easily go in the first-round after standout performances at the Senior Bowl and his pro day. However, the athletic tackle didn’t face much NFL-caliber competition in the FCS, and his technique is still raw. Like many developing tackles, Radunz uses his traits well in the run but struggles with footwork and beating defenders to the top of the rush.
Fortunately, Radunz has a mauler mentality and fires off the line of scrimmage with an explosive burst. His hand placement is exceptional, and Pro Football Focus claims the 6-5, 304 lb. tackle didn’t allow a sack over the past two seasons.
Radunz could start at either right tackle or right guard for the Lions, depending on how the franchise views his development. While he has high upside, Radunz could begin his career as a guard and kick outside once he’s adjusted to the NFL.
Ideal pick: Jamin Davis, LB Kentucky
Round 3 (No. 72): Kelvin Joseph, CB Kentucky
Joseph wowed football fans with a 4.28 40-time at Kentucky’s pro day. Immediately, he rose into the second-round on many mock drafts, but push back in recent weeks could keep the one-year standout in the third-round.
Joseph initially committed to LSU, but he saw limited playing time with the Tigers and was suspended by the team late in the 2018 season. Joseph transferred to Kentucky, where he intercepted four passes last year. However, he displays a lack of play recognition, needs to adjust his backpedal, and doesn’t play at the speed his 40-time suggests.
On the positive side, there’s plenty of foundational elements in Joseph’s game. He has good ball skills, is active against the run, and plays with aggression. Joseph should become a full-time starter in 2022.
Detroit could target Syracuse’s Ifeatu Melifonwu if Joseph goes in the second-round.
Ideal pick: Amari Rodgers, WR Clemson
Round 3 (No. 101): Cameron McGrone, LB Michigan
The Lions swung and missed on Jarrad Davis several years ago. While McGrone isn’t anywhere near what Davis was as a prospect, the former Wolverine could develop into a starting middle linebacker. McGrone uses his excellent mobility well against the run, diagnosing plays and weaving his way to the football.
While McGrone makes plays downhill, he doesn’t have much experience in coverage. He has the athleticism to become proficient in that area, but plenty of higher-ranked athletic linebackers have failed to make that jump. The Lions won’t know McGrone’s true value until he’s seen more reps in coverage.
Ideal pick: Jackson Carman, OT Clemson
Round 4 (No. 112): Marvin Wilson, IDL Florida St.
Wilson never fulfilled expectations at Florida St., but the 6-4, 303 lb. defensive tackle should still have plenty of suitors. He has powerful hands which strike and lift opponents quickly. However, Wilson doesn’t generate much action as a pass rusher and could find himself pegged as a pocket pusher or run-stopping specialist.
The Lions might ask Wilson to shed some weight and play closer to 280 lbs. He’s an athletic defensive lineman, but his current frame saps some of those natural gifts.
Ideal pick: Talanoa Hufanga, S USC
Round 5 (No. 153): Dazz Newsome, WR North Carolina
Newsome hurt himself with a horrendous pro day. I thought he could slip into the third-round before all of the testing numbers came in. Newsome ran a 4.59 40-time and finished below the 20th percentile for wide receivers in the short shuttle and three-cone. Most 5-10 receivers have speed or agility that separate them from “X” receivers, but Newsome ran slower than most tall striders.
Despite his poor testing numbers, Newsome generally plays with good speed but little to no burst. He flashes quick footwork, which aids with releases and makes up for some of his inefficient route running. Newsome should see snaps from the slot and possibly as a punt returner for the Lions.
Ideal pick: Jaylen Twyman, IDL Pittsburgh