For the past three offseasons, new Lions general manager Brad Holmes was running the Los Angeles Rams' college scouting department and heading up their draft efforts without having a first-round draft pick. Los Angeles traded away their first-round picks in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The last time the Rams selected in the first round was 2016, when they took Jared Goff No. 1 overall.
Holmes and the Rams still had a ton of success building their roster through the draft and assembling a consistent winner.
For a talent evaluator like Holmes, this has to be a pretty exciting time in Detroit being able to evaluate all of this year's college talent with the Lions having the No. 7 overall pick. Holmes didn't have to spend a lot of time on the top prospects in recent draft cycles because he knew he'd never get an opportunity to draft them. This year is different, and everything is on the table when it comes to Detroit's No. 7 overall pick.
So, who are some of the prospects Holmes and the Lions might consider at No. 7 if they stay with the pick?
1. Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
This is who my colleague Mike O'Hara selected for Detroit at No. 7 in his first mock draft of the season. Parsons is the best pure linebacker in the draft, which is a position of need for the Lions. He's got a terrific blend of size (6-3, 246), speed and instincts. With Parsons, the Lions would address one of their biggest overall needs, which is adding talent to an underperforming defense. In 13 games in 2019, Parsons had 109 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, five sacks, five passes defended and four forced fumbles.
2. DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
It's unlikely the Heisman Trophy winner is still on the board at 7, but crazier things have happened on draft night. There are some concerns about Smith's slim frame, but there's no denying the results he got on the field. He's a silky smooth route runner with terrific speed and hands. He caught 117 passes for 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns this past season. Detroit's top three receivers last season – Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay and Danny Amendola – are all unrestricted free agents this offseason.
3. Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
The Lions aren't shelving the idea of drafting a quarterback, per a league source, even with the news that Detroit has reportedly agreed to trade Matthew Stafford to the Rams for Jared Goff and draft picks when the new league year starts mid-March. Wilson is coming off a 2020 season that saw him complete 73.5 percent of his passes for 3,692 yards with 33 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Very accurate passer.
4. Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Chase opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 and has instead spent the last three months training for the pre-draft process and next season. The last time we saw Chase on the football field was in 2019, when he was quarterback Joe Burrow's favorite target on their way to a National Championship. Chase caught 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns that season, averaging 21.2 yards per reception. The Lions currently have just two receivers under contract for the 2021 season – Quintez Cephus & Geronimo Allison. Some draft analysts think Chase could potentially be selected before Smith.
5. Penei Sewell, T, Oregon
Not sure Sewell would get by the Bengals at No. 5, who'll likely be looking for help protecting Burrow, but if he gets to seven, he could certainly be in play. Imagine coming away with arguably the best offensive line prospect in this draft, and have bookend tackles in Sewell and Taylor Decker for the foreseeable future. Halapoulivaati Vaitai showed this past year he could slide inside and play guard.
6. Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
It was an up and down season for Fields in 2020, but we saw the raw potential in that six-touchdown performance against Clemson in the College Football Playoffs semifinal. Fields has a strong arm to make plays down the field, and he can make plays with his feet too. In a full season in 2019, Fields topped 3,000 yards passing with 41 touchdowns and just three interceptions. He also rushed for 10 touchdowns. He had 22 passing touchdowns and six interceptions in eight games this season, plus five rushing touchdowns.
7. Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami
Seven might be high for Rousseau going by the mock drafts that are out there, but if there's one thing I've learned in more than a decade covering the NFL, it's that teams love pass rushers. This is a strange year where there aren't a lot of dominant pass rushers or defensive linemen overall at the top of the draft class, but the Lions could certainly use more talent and depth upfront. Rousseau (6-7, 253) opted out of the 2020 season, but ranked second in the FBS with 15.5 sacks and tied for seventh in tackles for loss with 19.5 as a redshirt freshman in 2019, earning him All-ACC honors. He was also named the conference's defensive rookie of the year. The pre-draft evaluation process will be important for him, and could shoot him up some boards.
8. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Waddle might be the fastest player in this draft. He could provide Detroit's offense with instant explosiveness at the receiver position. He was electric in college the last three seasons, even though some of his teammates – Smith, Henry Ruggs III and Jerry Jeudy – got more headlines. The medicals will be important for him coming off a broken foot this year, but he never averaged less than 17.0 yards per receptions in any of his three season at Alabama. He's a big play waiting to happen every time he touches the ball.
9. Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Lance only played in one game this season and has just 17 starts in his career, which makes him a bit of a wild card in this draft. Lance has great size (6-4, 226) and athleticism, and he was terrific in 2019, though it wasn't against FBS talent. Lance threw for 2,786 yards with 28 touchdowns and no interceptions in 2019. He also rushed for 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns. The pre-draft process will be interesting when it comes to projecting how Lance's unique skill set translates to the NFL.
10. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
A versatile hybrid defender the Irish used at both linebacker and safety, Owusu-Koramoah had 142 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss and five forced fumbles over the past two seasons. He could step in and play a number of different linebacker roles in Detroit. He's a bit undersized (6-1, 215), but he can cover and play in space, which is becoming a prerequisite for linebackers in today's NFL.