Road to the Draft

10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: Who should the Lions take at 20?

Posted Apr 24, 2018

Tim Twentyman answers 10 fan-submitted questions as the Lions prepare for the 2018 NFL Draft.

From time to time this offseason Tim Twentyman will answer 10 good questions from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

20man: I’ve gone back and forth with this for a month now, and the idea of taking an offensive lineman is really starting to grow on me, but I’m going to say Alabama defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne.

Lions new head coach Matt Patricia told beat writers at the Combine that he prefers to build his defense from the ball out. You can’t get any closer to the ball than defensive tackle. Payne is just as athletic as he is strong, and I think he provides more upside as a pass rusher than his former Alabama teammate A’Shawn Robinson.

Payne dominated both Clemson and Georgia in the college semifinal and final this past season, which was an eye opener for me. He also had a terrific Combine. This was a 311-pound man who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.91 seconds. Payne's 1.67-second split was one hundredth of a second faster than that of Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa, who went No. 3 overall in the 2016 draft. That’s a big man who can get off the ball.

I think Payne has a chance to be really good under a coach like Patricia, who is considered to be one of the best defensive teachers in football.

20man: The front seven on defense, and by that, I mean versatile defensive linemen and multipurpose linebackers.

Look at the signing of Devon Kennard in free agency. Here’s a linebacker that started at the SAM (strong side) off the line for the New York Giants, but was also used a lot as a rusher and blitzer. Think size and position versatility at linebacker.

The same thing goes for the defensive line. A player like Vita Vea, who is big enough to play the nose but athletic enough to move over to the three-technique. Edge rusher Marcus Davenport has the experience rushing from a two-point stance, but has the frame and skillset to also put his hand in the dirt and rush from a 4-3 edge. I think players with size, position versatility and wide-ranging skillsets will be valued more in these new defensive schemes.

20man: Quinn has said on multiple occasions that his philosophy is really a blend of both. He wants the best player available, but if that so happens to be a quarterback this year, I can tell you with almost 100 percent certainty he’s not taking a quarterback at No. 20. He’ll take the next highest player available on his board at a position he’d like to bolster.

It’s a good approach. Best player available with one eye on need.

20man: I would not be surprised at all if they did. As it stands right now, the Lions have just six picks, which is tied with a few other clubs for the lowest total in the draft. Quinn had 10 picks his first year and nine last year.

“I’m always in the business of getting more draft picks,” he said at his pre-draft press conference last week. “I think that’s just good for business. The more you get, the more you’re going to hit on, so if we can acquire more picks, that would be something I’d look forward to.”

20man: This seems like a natural follow up question.

I’m not going to pretend I know all of the needs of the teams selecting after the Lions, but here is one example for you.

Reports out of New England are that the Patriots have been kicking the tires on some of the quarterback prospects. They reportedly are “intrigued and impressed” by a pre-draft visit with Lamar Jackson, per the NFL Network. Reports say they also worked out Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph. If both players are still on the board at No. 20, given Quinn’s history and familiarity with Bill Belichick, maybe a call is made from Boston to Allen Park.

The Patriots have the 23rd pick and the 31st pick. The Bengals pick at No. 21. They could be looking for Andy Dalton’s eventual replacement. The Bills pick 22nd. If they didn’t select a quarterback with their 12th pick earlier on, maybe they could look to do so here.

In my scenario, maybe those are two teams the Pats want to get ahead of. There are hundreds of trade scenarios out there. We’ll just have to wait and see how the first round plays out.

20man: There is always a chance that Quinn and the Lions have a really good grade on LSU’s Derrius Guice or Georgia’s Sony Michel, and they turn out to be at the top of their board at No. 20. It’s my opinion that those would be the only other two backs after Penn State’s Saquon Barkley that are of first-round value. I’d say 25 percent if I had to put a number on it.

I just think this is such a terrific class at running back that a need along the front seven on defense can be addressed first, and there will still be a terrific number of backs in Day 2 that can step right in and help a team. Names like Nick Chubb (Georgia), Rashaad Penny (San Diego State), Royce Freeman (Oregon), Kalen Ballage (Arizona State) and Kerryon Johnson (Auburn) all make sense for Detroit somewhere in Day 2.

20man: I think one area the mocks haven’t really covered when it comes to Detroit is their secondary, especially the safety position.

Detroit returns starters Glover Quin and Tavon Wilson, but Quin is 32 years old and will be a free agent after the 2019 season. The Lions could already have his replacement on the team in Quandre Diggs, but safety is a position that hasn’t gotten a lot of buzz with the Lions.

What if Derwin James (Florida State) slips down the draft? Ronnie Harrison (Alabama) and Justin Reid (Stanford) are two other highly thought of safeties.

20man: I really like Michel as a second-round possibility for Detroit, but I don’t know if he makes it all the way to pick 19 and selection 51 overall in the second round, which is where the Lions are at in that round.

Michel has a bigger frame (220 pounds), which is something the Lions could certainly be on the lookout for based on the signing of Blount in free agency. Michel looks to have the proper skillset to be a three-down back with size, big-play ability and tools in the passing game. I think he’ll be a great pick-up for a team that has an idea of using him like Kareem Hunt or Alvin Kamara.

20man: Let’s start with the bigger area of need. I believe it to be defensive line. There are some question marks on the edge in terms of the long-term future of Ziggy Ansah, and how Kerry Hyder Jr. will be perform coming off a major Achilles injury. This is a team that needs to be more consistent both rushing the passer and stopping the run. That starts upfront.

A’Shawn Robinson has been good but not great along the interior. This is a big year for him. Sylvester Williams and Akeem Spence are solid vets along the interior, but the Lions could stand to add another young tackle to that rotation to compete with Jeremiah Ledbetter for playing time.

I really like the addition of veteran running back LeGarrette Blount. He’s exactly what that backfield needed for the upcoming season. He fills an immediate need for 2018, but the Lions could be on the lookout for a bigger back with his kind of skillset for the long term. Those players can be found on Day 2 and even Day 3 with how talented and deep this RB class is.

In terms of tight end, the Lions have likely done some homework on the position. With Luke Willson and Levine Toilolo set to hit free agency next offseason, it could be an area of need for the long term, but not so much for 2018. That makes me believe it’s a Day 2 or Day 3 issue, and not one that will be addressed at No. 20.

20man: That really remains to be seen. I believe Graham Glasgow will be a starter at one of those spots. Where really depends on the draft. As it stands right now, Glasgow is the likely center, and veterans Kenny Wiggins and Joe Dahl are competing for the left guard spot. If the Lions draft a player like Iowa’s James Daniels and view him as a center, then Glasgow probably shifts over to guard. If they draft a guard-only prospect, like UTEP’s Will Hernandez, he joins the left guard competition, and Glasgow is the center.

This is a really deep draft of interior offensive linemen, so it won’t shock me at all if they grab one in the first two days of the draft, add him to the competition, and see which five emerge as the best.

“We’re going to put them out there and see what’s the best five,” Quinn said. “I think our thing is we’re going to play the best five players, no matter what position, as long as they are able to do that specific role.”