The Detroit Lions will have the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. This draft is going to look like something along the lines of a real-life fantasy football draft, except conducted by a handful of people like Jerry Jones and Bill Belichick, who still choose to handwrite and calculate their own fantasy football league scores because they don’t know ESPN will do it for you. Hopefully no teams forget the start time or leave it on auto-pick…although, the Bears might want to try that strategy out and see how it goes.
The league announced that all picks will be made virtually by one person from each team in their private homes and the NFL world is losing their minds over it. For the first time in as long as I can remember, it’s going to be harder to predict whether or not we’re going to have a season than it will be to figure out what the Lions’ game plan is in this year’s draft.
General Manager Bob Quinn is on the hot seat after Detroit yet again failed to make the playoffs in 2019 after a 4th Place finish in the NFC North, so I would expect him to try anything crazy early on with the third overall pick. Quinn’s draft history hasn’t necessarily been something to brag about, but he has brought in some significant starters through the draft such as WR Kenny Golladay (2016, 1st Round) and C Frank Ragnow (2018, 1st Round). This third overall pick in the draft is the Lions’ second consecutive top-ten pick and their highest since drafting Ndamukong Suh with the first overall choice back in 2010.
Will they trade down? It’s possible considering that some teams will try and jump up to take Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa. Even in that case, Detroit will not put themselves in any situation where they could possibly miss out on the guy sitting at the top of their draft board. However, we’ll see who meets their asking price because I guarantee you teams will be fishing for that pick.
Unless they decide to become one of the many teams to change franchise quarterbacks this offseason and or bolster their offensive line, a defensive player in the first round seems like the likely case scenario for Detroit here. Based on their draft needs, I would be pretty shocked if the Lions don’t take the top cornerback on the board.
Before we get into pick predictions, let me lay out the Lions’ needs as we enter the 2020 draft.
Team Needs: OL, DL, CB, WR, RB
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This appears to be a match made in heaven. The only thing that’s convinced me that this might not happen is the fact that all but about four mock drafts in America have the Lions taking Okudah, whether they trade down or not. This choice makes sense across the board for a handful of reasons. First of all, the Lions gave up 400.4 yards per game last year, second worst in the NFL. Secondly, they just traded their top defensive back in Darius Slay. They need a new cornerback and they kept quiet during free agency when guys like Chris Harris and Byron Jones were getting paid, so it shouldn’t shock anyone if they have their hearts set on replacing Slay via the draft.
The Lions haven’t drafted a defensive back with the first overall pick since 1998, but Okudah is the clear-cut choice for a team looking to improve their secondary. The Lions made similar decisions in 2010 when they drafted Ndomukong Suh with the first overall pick and continued to build a stout defensive line in the draft in the following years (Nick Fairley, Zeke Ansah). Suh was not only the best player on the board, he started the rebuilding process of the Lions’ defensive line that became one of the top units in the league for a few years.
While Lions’ GM Bob Quinn has only drafted a defensive player in the first round one time since taking over, the Lions have a blatant weakness on defense that needs to be addressed and Okudah is easily the best at his position.
Despite adding Trey Flowers and Mike Daniels to an already-strong defensive line last year, the Lions struggled mightily when it came to pressuring the quarterback. That’s not going to go over well in a division with Aaron Rodgers and Kirk Cousins. Replacing Damon Harrison should be one of this team’s top priorities and Gallimore is an elusive lineman that is not only 300+ pounds, but can probably outrun more people than you think. He had a 4.79 40-yard dash time.
The Lions have the third overall pick in the second round, where the Lions have drafted a defensive player in three of the last four years. It seems like Detroit is going to go all-in on rebuilding the defense this draft, and their offseason moves have indicated the same.
The Lions’ philosophy has always been built around having a stout defensive line. Detroit finished second-to-last in total sacks in 2019 after almost cracking the top-ten in 2018. Bob Quinn will likely look to get back to that level on defense, because they’re wasting the precious time of Matthew Stafford or anyone else they put back there if they don’t.
This pick fits Bob Quinn’s draft philosophy over the years when it comes to the offensive line. Ruiz is an athletic big man that can play multiple positions on the line. The Lions allowed 43 sacks last year which ranked 19th in the NFL. Frank Ragnow, the Lions first overall pick in 2018 and current center, also played a lot of right guard in college. Ruiz’s flexibility could be a huge asset to the offensive line.
Stafford is coming off of a season-ending back injury, so the need for a strong offensive line has never been higher. If the Lions want to protect their QB and allow time for guys like Golladay and Marvin Jones to get downfield, they’ll have to address it in the draft as they lost Graham Glasgow and Ricky Wagner to free agency.
Have I mentioned that Detroit likes to stack the defensive front? Detroit also needs an edge rusher just as much as they need to strengthen their O-Line and the secondary, but I don’t see them addressing it until about this point. Bradley Anae was named to the All-Pac-12 team in back-to-back years in 2018/2019. His 6’3’’/257 pound frame will fit right in on the line. With the additions of Danny Shelton and Nicholas Williams to the defense, this will give any defensive lineman they draft time to learn the system before being thrown into a starting role.
With basically their entire receiving core scheduled to hit free agency next year, the 6’2’’ wideout from Florida was one of the best route runners in college football and would look good lined up on the opposite side of the field of Kenny Golladay. Van Jefferson fits the Lions’ offensive. scheme and would have a year to develop before Golladay and Jones test the free agent market.
He appeared in all 13 games last year at University of Florida and set career-highs in multiple categories. He led the team with 657 receiving yards on 49 catches and also tacked on 6 touchdowns. His height and speed would certainly make a difference on this offense, and we know how much Stafford loves to air it out.
The Lions could look to add depth at the safety position late in the draft. Ohio State’s Jordan Fuller was nothing less than a ballhawk for his last three years at school. He led the team in tackles in 2018 and finished near the top in both 2017 as well. He didn’t have his best season last year, but the young safety would add some nice depth behind Juron Harmon and Tracy Walker.
Anderson is a versatile running back that also caught 22 passes last year for TCU as a senior. He’s 5’11’’, but fits the Lions’ draft narrative and has a size and playstyle similar to Ty Johnson from Maryland, the running back-turned-receiver who Detroit took a shot on late in the draft last year. Anderson is a flexible player who played some tough defenses in the Big 12 last year. He didn’t have his best season, so I could certainly see him sliding to this round.
The 6th round of the NFL Draft won’t typically make or break your team, but there are a lot of NFL stars succeeding in the league right now who also didn’t hear their name called on the first couple days of the draft. An offensive lineman makes a lot of sense here for Detroit. They filled up the empty holes on the defensive side of the ball and will have likely added a receiver or a running back by now. Kevin Dotson out of Louisiana is a raw talent that will likely fall later in the draft because he’s not considered completely NFL ready. However, the 32- pound former All-American will definitely get a chance to prove himself to an NFL team.
With their final pick in the 2020 draft, look for Detroit to add more depth to their wide receiver corps with the hope that at least one of these guys will become a playmaker and save them some money next offseason. Jeff Thomas out of Miami is a short, fast wideout that would have a full season to learn from veterans like Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola. I would be shocked if the Lions didn’t take a receiver with one of these last two picks. Thomas will likely be one of the better players on the board at this time and the Lions need a deep threat.
Detroit has one of the more interesting picks in the draft because they’re the only team picking in the top-3 without a guy set in stone. Joe Burrow will be a Bengal, and Chase Young is almost certainly going to be a Redskin. Who will the Lions take at No. 3? The idea of a team trading up to select Tua or Justin Herbert remains a real possibility if Detroit can still grab who they want with their first pick.
When he was hired, Bob Quinn insisted that the team would “establish a mesh of need and best available” and that’s how their draft board would look. I see the Lions filling a lot of holes on both sides of the ball in this draft, specifically solidifying their offensive and defensive lines and their secondary. Whether they will make any trades or not later in the draft will definitely depend on what happens with that third overall pick.
With each team drafting from their living room on one big conference call, this could be one to remember.