The NFL Draft in Nashville is a little more than two weeks away, which means the national draft analysts are busy putting together their final mock drafts, taking part in national conference calls and prepping for their television coverage of the three-day draft.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay took part in a conference call Tuesday, and touched on a number of different subjects pertaining to the Detroit Lions and the draft in general.
Here are five takeaways from McShay’s conference call:
1. McShay released his three-round mock for every team. For Detroit, he has them selecting Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson at No. 8, Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson in the second round (No. 43), and Iowa State wide receiver Hakeem Butler with their third pick (No. 88).
“Detroit fans might feel the hairs on the backs of their necks stand up when they see a first-round tight end after Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew didn't quite work out, but Hockenson's rare combination of size, speed and athleticism should make him an immediate high-impact weapon for Matthew Stafford,” McShay said. “The off-the-charts collegiate production of Ferguson (FBS-high 17.5 sacks in 2018) addresses the glaring need of an effective edge rusher, and Butler provides a bit of a vertical threat.”
McShay thinks the drop off after the top three tight ends – Hockenson, Noah Fant (Iowa) and Irv Smith Jr. (Alabama) – is more significant than the drop off along the defensive line after the top-tier players. That played into McShay’s selection of Hockenson, knowing the Lions need to add a young tight end to their group who can make an impact.
The depth along the defensive line, according to McShay, is much better in round two than that of the tight end position. In fact, McShay said the fourth best tight end in this group has a third-round grade from him. He listed five to six defensive linemen with true late first to second-round grades.
View photos of NFL prospect T.J. Hockenson.
2. Is Houston defensive lineman Ed Oliver a risky pick because of his lack of production this past season?
Oliver played in eight games due to injury and saw his tackles, tackles for loss and sack numbers decrease as a junior vs. his numbers as a true freshman and sophomore.
“I get what you’re saying in terms of the production and the way he finished,” McShay said. “I also think he could have been used differently and more effectively. I think playing at nose tackle really kind of limited him. I think he’s a three technique (defensive tackle), meaning get him on the outside shoulder of the guard and let him explode up the field and let him do what he does best, which is go chase and make plays on the move. That’s who he is.
“He’s not Aaron Donald. I know the comparison is made a lot. There are similarities there in terms of the size, speed and the explosiveness. Donald was always just a natural finisher as a pass rusher. If (Oliver) is developed properly, he’s got a chance to be one of the two or three best players in this draft.”
3. When looking at this cornerback class, and there’s an argument for cornerback being a need for the Lions, McShay sees Byron Murphy (Washington), Greedy Williams (LSU) and DeAndre Baker (Georgia) as first-round picks.
What if the Lions are looking to fill that spot with their second-round pick (No. 43)? Who could be in the conversation there? McShay listed four: Rock Ya-Sin (Temple), Justin Layne (Michigan State), Trayvon Mullen (Clemson) and David Long (Michigan).
4. McShay described this offensive tackle class as “solid,” but said the interior linemen class is “really good.” That could be good news for the Lions, who might be looking to add a young player into the mix for their open right guard spot.
5. McShay lists the top three quarterbacks in this class as Kyler Murray (Oklahoma), Dwayne Haskins (Ohio State) and Drew Lock (Missouri). They are locks in the first round, and players he thinks can make immediate impacts in the right situation.