The 2021 NFL Draft begins on April 29, which means that The Game Haus will be writing draft profiles for every team. Each NFL team will be evaluated heading into this year’s draft, as our staff recaps their last season, highlights their needs and pinpoints their potential 2021 NFL Draft targets. The Detroit Lions are the subject of today’s 2021 NFL Draft profile.
Yet another new era of Detroit Lions football has been ushered in, beginning after Week 12’s loss to the Houston Texans. The team was 4-7, and trending downward. Thus, head coach Matt Patricia was fired after failing to bring “the Patriot Way” to Detroit. General manager Bob Quinn was also let go the same day.
Now, the Lions have hired former Dolphins and Saints tight ends coach Dan Campbell, who gave one of the strangest introductory press conferences in the history of sport. After his hiring, Detroit said goodbye to one of the best Lions of all time, Matthew Stafford, in a trade that gave them Jared Goff (including his massive contract), and two first round picks.
Five pass catchers have left Detroit, including Kenny Golladay. Two linebackers took deals elsewhere, along with two corners (one of whom signed with the rival Bears). Even their kicker of seven consecutive seasons went ring-chasing with the Arizona Cardinals.
In short, Detroit is in a full rebuild. Here is how they can start that rebuild with their four picks in the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.
2021 NFL Draft Picks
The Lions have four picks in the first three rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft.
First Round (one pick) – No. 7
Second Round (one pick) – No. 41
Third Round (two picks) – No. 72, 101
Cornerback- The Lions still have not found a replacement for “Big Play” Darius Slay at the corner position and their defense suffers because of it. They are also still feeling the sting of losing Quandre Diggs who acted as a sort of hybrid safety/corner. The defense needs to re-tooled almost completely, but it will not matter much if they cannot grab someone to stop the top-tier receivers in their own division.
Wide Receiver- Marvin Jones, Jr. and Kenny Golladay both left town in the 2021 offseason. That is the bad news.
The good news is, with a top-10 pick in this year’s draft, Detroit could replace one of those talents right away. If that pick is too rich for them to spend on a receiver, though, there is yet again plenty of pass-catching talent peppered throughout the 2021 draft.
Inside/Outside Linebacker- The Lions’ linebacking core is one of the worst in the league. Under Matt Patricia they were woefully undermanned and under prepared in this facet of the defense. In April, Lions fans will inevitably see how committed new coach Dan Campbell is to building a tougher defense. That should start with his linebackers.
2021 NFL Draft Targets
Pick No. 7: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
As stated above, the Lions lost both of their first two options at wide receiver in the offseason. Kenny Golladay is now a Giant and Marvin Jones is now a member of the Jaguars.
The team needs a true number one, and there will be nothing but options at pick number seven. Any combination of Jaylen Waddle, Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith and even Kyle Pitts will be available here. Considering the Lions already have their franchise tight end (T.J. Hockenson), Smith is risky due to his small stature and Ja’Marr Chase would benefit more from an established system, Waddle should be the choice here.
He is NFL ready and was having an even better year than the Heisman-winning Smith before an injury limited his production. The injury is a bit scary, but his talent overshadows it. Waddle can step in for Golladay in a big way, immediately.
Pick No. 41: Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
Nick Bolton is exactly the player for which the Lions are searching as they try and revamp their linebacking core.
In a pandemic-shortened season, he totaled only five fewer tackles than his previous career high, doubled his career sack total and notched his first career fumble recovery. In 2019 and 2020 Bolton was awarded First Team SEC and Second Team All-American honors.
Maybe Bolton’s most promising aspect is his injury-free career, though. Detroit has become notable of late for falling victory to the injury bug, so sturdy players are a good bet.
Pick No. 72: Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
Grabbing two players that play the same position in a row is usually not advised, but there is some seasoned linebacker talent in the draft that could be a huge boon to Detroit’s defense right away.
Perennial redshirt Jamin Davis was finally named a starter in 2020 and responded by immediately leading the Wildcats in tackles. He also racked up 1.5 sacks, four tackles for a loss, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery and three interceptions. Davis managed to return of those picks 85 yards for a touchdown.
He is riding that momentum right into the 2021 NFL Draft, as he should. The Lions will surely recognize his multi-faceted production at the linebacker spot, if given starters’ minutes.
Pick No. 101: Keith Taylor, CB, Washington
Taylor is simply the best available cornerback that will be available at this point in the draft. The fact that Washington played only four games in 2020 is not ideal, though, as it would be nice to have a larger body of work to see before he is selected. Either way, he shows promise and is versatile when it comes to schemes, which is invaluable given the coaching shakeups of the 2021 offseason.
In 2019, Taylor earned a starting position, playing in all 13 games of the season and racked up an impressive 59 tackles at the cornerback position. He also contributed to Washington’s pass rush, collecting two tackles for a loss.
The flexibility is what Detroit is buying in exchange for their third round pick, here. Taylor covers well, but is not defined by that ability alone. A smart pick if they can get him with the 101st selection.
Featured Image courtesy of Logos World
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