Growing up a Lions fan, I’ve always had a pretty level head when it comes to this franchise. When it comes to the draft, there’s always been a player I’ve wanted them to take. Most of the time, they don’t take that player, but most of my picks were based on the coaching staff that was in place and the players that were on the roster. Last year, I really wanted the team to take Jarrad Davis, and sure enough, they did. Prior years, I wanted players such as Lane Johnson and Odell Beckham Jr. We know how that turned out.
Fast forward to the 2018 NFL Draft, and I have no idea who I want this team to draft. Despite adding players like Devon Kennard, Sylvester Williams and DeShawn Shead, the Lions still have plenty of needs. Personally, I wouldn’t mind seeing them draft Justin Reid (S from Stanford) or Isaiah Wynn (OG from Georgia) with the 20th overall pick. However, I don’t think either one of those players will be there when the Lions select with the 20th pick.
Trading down is definitely an option for the Lions, but there’s no guarantee that a trade will present itself. If that’s the case, then staying put is their option, so let’s take look at what positions they should draft and what players will be Detroit Lions when they take the field for the 2018 season:
First Round – 20th Overall Pick
Taven Bryan, DT from Florida (#93 DT in video above)
This might not be a popular pick among the consensus, but I fully expect the Lions to draft defense with their first round pick. They could easily look at EDGE rushers such as Josh Sweat or Lorenzo Carter, but the Lions will be looking at the versatility a player brings, and Taven Bryan provides that in droves. Not that the players above don’t bring any versatility, but Bryan brings it from an interior defensive lineman role.
He has the experience playing as a 5-technique, 1-technique, and his most natural fit, 3-technique. Wherever you plug him, he’s going to be the most explosive player you have on your defensive line. He’s consistently the fastest player off the ball and has a solid punch out of his stance. One thing that the Lions will be looking at are players with high motors and high character guys. Bryan fits that mold and would be a great fit along Matt Patricia’s defensive line.
With his size, he has to become more disciplined. What do I mean by that? Becoming a more active rusher with his hands has to be step one, but also getting to the heels of the offensive lineman is crucial for his production. There’s a reason why he only has 10.5 tackles for loss in his career, and a lot of it is because he’s spent too much time in the deeper half of the backfield and away from the running back. While he’s a raw interior defensive lineman, he’s got the upside to develop into one of the more productive defensive tackles from this class. The Lions will covet a player of his skill set and plugging him next to A’Shawn Robinson will give the Lions the player they need to rush the passer and stop the run.
Second Round – 51st overall Pick
Ian Thomas, TE from Indiana –
Many fans of the Lions will hate this pick because they feel that we need to spend every pick on defense. That’s where I’ll stop them and tell them they’re wrong. The Lions could easily utilize a running back from this class, an interior offensive lineman, and a tight end. Every other position is pretty much set. However, they’ve made it clear they could be targeting a tight end in this class. They were targeting tight ends after drafting Eric Ebron in the first round, and they’re going to target them now that he’s gone.
On the surface, Thomas is very much a raw pass catcher. He’s not the most fluid route runner, and at times looks stiff in the open field. But his upside is higher than any tight end in this class. He’s a solid run blocker who has plenty of experience with split-zone, base blocking, and chipping off and getting to the second level. From that perspective, he’s already a plus for a Lions offense that is in desperate need of improving their rushing attack.
With only 28 career receptions and two years worth of Division I experience, many will consider him too raw of a prospect for the 51st overall pick, but his draft stock is picking up. There’s a reason why he’s been my top-ranked tight end, and he fits what the Lions are looking to accomplish on offense. I love this pick, and you should too. FYI, I do know they signed Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo to one-year contracts. Here’s the thing, one of those players might not even make it out of training camp. Thomas provides you the next four years to have a solid option at tight end.
Third Round – 82nd Overall pick
Kyzir White, S from West Virginia
Looking at the depth chart of the safety position for the Lions, it’s narrow. They have Miles Killebrew waiting in the wings and Quandre Diggs has experience playing as a nickleback and as a safety. But adding another player to the position group to provide a brighter future is important.
The Lions do have Glover Quin, who’s playing better with age, and Tavon Wilson, who is familiar with Patrica from his days in New England. However, Wilson signed a two-year contract, and at this point, he’s become expendable after this year.
Kyzir White has experience from covering the slot in a Cover 1 defense to the deep half in a Cover 2 defense. He needs to become more fluid when flipping his hips and, at times, he tracks a receiver while in coverage rather than staying in his hip pocket. But he’s a plus run defender and brings the versatility that Matt Patricia will covet for safety that can play closer to the box.
Fourth Round – 117th Overall Pick
Mason Cole, OC from Michigan (#52 LT above)
Signing Kenny Wiggins doesn’t move the needle for me as a fan. He’s worked is way into a starting role as a left guard, but to be honest, Graham Glasgow did just fine as the starting left guard. The biggest issue with the Lions’ offensive line was that Taylor Decker wasn’t healthy to start the year at left tackle and Travis Swanson had far too many concussions to start at center. Within this draft, the Lions get a fresh start at the position.
Even as a Spartans fan, I really enjoyed what I’ve seen from Mason Cole. His lateral agility is a plus, but he’s also durable. He’s played in every single one of his collegiate games, and it should continue at the next level. He’s a punishing run blocker who does a nice job at finishing and getting to the second level.
Operating in space isn’t an issue for him, but he will need to get better with his hand placement. He’s often too grabby or doesn’t bring his hands inside enough. But he’s versatile, provides a good push in the run game and is an average pass blocker. Moving back inside should do him wonders, and pairing him next to his former teammate, Graham Glasgow, should help them both.
Fifth Round – 153rd Overall Pick
Marcell Frazier, EDGE from Missouri
There would probably be an angry mob at my front door if I didn’t put an EDGE rusher in this draft. Despite adding a versatile defensive lineman in the first round, the Lions will add another. Before the Shrine Game, I had high hopes for Marcell Frazier. He was having great practices during that week, and his 6’5″ frame was standing out to teams across the league.
Then I put on more of the tape, and I just didn’t see a consistent player. He lacks a high motor and puts it on when he wants. There’s a reason he’s fallen this far down the board. When he puts everything together, he’s an active rusher, from his hand usage, swim move, and the way he counters back inside. Despite setting the edge well and reading off the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle, he needs to get faster. He has average athletic ability, and his length is what allows him to create separation and get to the football.
While there are negatives to his game, he is a positive addition for this team, especially when you factor in where they’re drafting him, he provides depth and upside for the EDGE rusher position. Last year, the New England Patriots drafted Deatrich Wise Jr. in the fourth round. Think of that for this pick, but just in the fifth round.
Seventh Round – 237th Overall Pick
Steve Ishmael, WR from Syracuse
One of the least talked about receivers in this class is Steve Ishmael. In 2017 he had 105 receptions, and I’m the only evaluator talking about them. It’s weird that he doesn’t get enough addition, but he definitely should.
For the Lions to draft a wide receiver in the 7th round, it’s no harm – no foul. It wouldn’t surprise me if they attempted to draft a fifth wide receiver to provide depth for the position. Ishmael provides that, and could turn into a number three receiver down the line. Yes, that’s too rich for most of you, especially for a seventh round pick, but he’s got the skillset.
He has a deep ball presence with his strong hands, but he’s also got the ability to run short and intermediate routes. He’s not the most polished route runner in this class, but the upside is there. Despite having a quiet offseason, there’s plenty to like with Ishmael, and a lot of his game reminds me of Stevie Johnson from Kentucky in the 2008 NFL Draft. Keep in mind that Johnson went on and had a pretty good career with the Buffalo Bills and Los Angeles Chargers. Ishmael doesn’t possess the same kind of speed as Johnson, but he did run a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day. They have similar traits, and if the Lions can get that type of return, this will be a steal.