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Who will the Detroit Lions draft in rounds 1-4?

Draft day is finally here! Detroit Lions fans all across the Motor City will have their eyes glued to a phone, tablet, laptop, or tv screen. And it’s all in anticipation of the obvious thing.

What will the Detroit Lions do with the 7th overall pick? 

It’s a great question to ask for a few reasons. Firstly, the Lions have a ton of holes to fill. Outside of selecting a Patrick Surtain, there probably won’t be much pushback from fans on who they draft. Secondly, the front office has done an excellent job of playing coy. No one knows what direction they’ll go. It’s night and day from what fans saw last year. 

You know, when former Lions GM Bob Quinn essentially left no mystery that they’d draft Jeff Okudah. That’s not the case with new Lions GM Brad Holmes. Whether fans like what he has said or not, he’s played his hand well so far. 

Nevertheless, regardless of which direction Holmes and the Lions go in, there will be fans who think they could’ve done better. 

And for that group of fans, Pro Football Focus (PFF) has something for you.

On the PFF website, they have a 2021 Mock Draft Simulator. On the simulator, you can select which team(s) you would like to draft for and even proposed trades with other franchises, swapping picks in this draft and future ones. Additionally, the simulator has adjustable settings to dictate what type of draft you’ll have. 

For the armchair GM, this is a dream. And it’s also a fun way to kill time before the draft. In their draft simulator, people who picked for the Lions did well. On the PFF leaderboard, the average grade for a Lions’ overall draft was an A-. Currently, that’s fifth on the board out of all 32 teams. As of now, there have been over 657,000 Lions’ Mock drafts on the PFF simulator.  

And it wouldn’t be complete without another one. So here are my selections for the Lions in the first four rounds based on it. 

No. 7 (First Round): Kyle Pitts, Tight End, Florida

Dec 19, 2020; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Florida Gators tight end Kyle Pitts (84) catches the ball against Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Brian Branch (14) during the first quarter in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

There is probably no chance that Pitts even falls this far. With the San Francisco 49ers trading up to No.3, they’ll select either him or Justin Fields. Pitts is arguably the best athlete in the draft. First, look at his size. He’s 6’6 and 240 pounds, running a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash. He has great hands, is an excellent route runner, and a physical force. Pitts can line up anywhere on the field. Depending on which team drafts him, he could lineup at a tight end or wide receiver. The possibilities are endless. 

Pair Pitts with Hockenson could be a nightmare for defenses. It’s something he already alluded to as well. If he falls to the Lions, he’s an absolute no-brainer.

PFF Grade: A+

No. 41 (Second Round): Elijah Molden, Safety, Washington

Nov 17, 2018; Seattle, WA, USA; Washington Huskies defensive back Elijah Molden (3) jumps on the ball after it hit an Oregon State Beavers player on a punt for a turnover during the third quarter at Husky Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Lions desperately need to improve the secondary. After all, they were historically bad last season. And the was with a “defensive guru” as the head coach. Washington’s Elijah Molden can help fix that and be an instant contributor. PFF ranks him as one of the best defensive backs in the draft. It’s for a good reason too. He has a high motor and IQ and is known to bait quarterbacks into ill-advised passes. As a two-year starter in Washington, he earned All-Pac-12 honors in 2019 and 2020.  

His best statistical season, however, was in 2019. Molden had 30 tackles, 12 pass deflections, three force fumbles (one recovered), and four interceptions. NFL.com compares him to Tyrann Mathieu. Landing anyone compared to the “Honey Badger” would be great for Detroit. Along with comparing him to Matthieu, NFL.com also projects him as a third-round selection. Other sites project him going off the board somewhere in the second round. Either way, Detroit needs help. If they like Molden, they should take him when they have the chance.

PFF Grade: A-

No. 72 (Third Round): Jabril Cox, Linebacker, LSU

Detroit Lions
Oct 31, 2020; Auburn, Alabama, USA; Auburn Tigers receiver Eli Stove (12) is tackled by LSU Tigers linebacker Jabril Cox (21) during the second quarter at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned above, the Lions defense was historically bad last season. Along with revamping the secondary, the Lions need to address their LB corps. Simply put, what they have now is not good. NFL draft scouts and experts project Jabril Cox to come off the boards on day 2. He demonstrates exceptional instincts in zone coverage and plays great against running backs in man coverage. Cox dazzled scouts with his excellent pro day, clocking a 4.52 in the 40-yard dash. Regarded by many as one of the best coverage linebackers in the draft, he should be on Detroit’s radar.

PFF Grade: A-

No. 101 (Third Round) Kendrick Green, Guard, Illinois

The offensive line is the best unit on the Detroit Lions roster. However, Taylor Decker’s remarks about the COVID-19 vaccine are something to keep an eye on. After emphatically saying he’s against the vaccine, the Lions could opt to add more depth at that position. That’s where Green comes in. While there are questions about his power and technique, he’s athletic, quick off the ball, and maintains his aggressiveness until the end of the play. He’s a project. So if drafted, don’t expect to see him on the field right away. 

PFF Grade: C+

No. 112 (Fourth Round) Milton Williams, Defensive Tackle, Louisiana Tech

By now, it’s evident that my thoughts are the Lions will focus mainly on defense in the first four rounds. Last season, they allowed the fifth-most rushing yards in the NFL. That can’t happen again this season. Milton Williams is another project-type player for the Lions. Due to his frame, it’s questionable where he’d line up for the Lions. Despite that, he’s the definition of an athlete. His RAS, Relative Athletic Score, is second-best among lineman in the draft. 

Scouts tout his IQ, quickness, and his core strength as his best abilities. Louisiana Tech coach Skip Holtz says that Williams is a leader by example. With the Lions looking for guys to fit their culture shift, Williams could be that guy.

PFF Grade: A-

So what was the overall grade for my Detroit Lions draft?

Overall, Pro Football Focus gave me an A for my drafting in the first four rounds. It’s arguable that reaching for Kendrick Green hurt my overall grade. Despite that, I still stand by the selection given the Taylor Decker situation.

Before the draft begins, fans should test this out to see how they do as an armchair GM. Round 1 of the NFL Draft kicks off Thursday evening at 8pm.

 

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