Road to the Draft

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Highlights from Mel Kiper Jr.'s conference call

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. released his second mock draft this week. He has the Lions selecting Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson with the No. 8 overall pick.

Hockenson (6-5, 250) is considered the best tight end in the draft with a dual skill set as both a pass catcher and in-line blocker. Even sharing snaps with fellow tight end Noah Fant, who is also a first-round prospect from Iowa, Hockenson won the John Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end and the Big Ten Tight End of the Year award, leading Iowa with 49 catches for 760 yards (15.5 average) and six touchdowns.

"Hockenson is a complete player who can run routes out of the slot on one play, then line up next to a tackle and blow up an edge defender in the running game on the next," Kiper wrote. "I'm not going to call him a Rob Gronkowski clone, but there are similarities, particularly when you see each as blockers. And remember that Lions coach Matt Patricia and GM Bob Quinn saw firsthand what Gronk did for the Patriots during their time in the organization."

Quinn has already said this offseason that upgrading the tight end position is a priority. That can happen via free agency or the draft, and not necessarily with the eighth pick, because this is a deep class of tight ends.

"This is a position of need," Quinn said. "We know that. It's a good year in the draft for tight ends. I'd say there's a really good crop and there's an unusual amount of underclassman tight ends in this year's draft which really fit what we're kind of looking for. So, there's numerous options there and in free agency."

View photos of tight ends that will participate at the 2019 NFL Scouting Combine.

But what about Lions fans who might still feel the burn of Eric Ebron not working out in Detroit? The former 10th overall pick by the Lions was released last offseason, then moved on to Indianapolis and had more success than he did in his first four seasons in Detroit.

"He's a blocker, I think that's the thing," Kiper said of Hockenson. "He will block in-line and help that running game. He's a complete tight end. He's not just a great athlete who will catch the ball. He'll do that, because he is a gifted athlete, but he'll also block, he's consistent. He's a quarterback's best friend. That's what he was at Iowa this year.

"He's kind of a throwback, but has the skills to fit in very well with today's NFL. I think he's going to be one of those that's going to skyrocket. He's a multidimensional tight end. He can do everything you want. He'd be a great asset, I think, for Matthew Stafford in that offense."

Kiper also took part in a national conference call Tuesday to talk about his second mock draft and everything surrounding the 2019 NFL Draft. Here are some other highlights from that call:

  • LSU cornerback Greedy Williams could also be a player in the conversation for the Lions at No. 8. Kiper said the thing Williams will have to prove to teams this offseason is his toughness and willingness to tackle, which is important to teams in today's NFL with all the bubble screens and quick passing games we see featured. Cornerbacks have to tackle, and teams will want to know that Williams is willing and able in that regard.
  • If the Lions want to draft a complement running back to Kerryon Johnson who has some power to his game, Oklahoma's Rodney Anderson in the middle rounds is a prospect Kiper really likes. He also mentioned Georgia's Elijah Holyfield and Kentucky's Benny Snell.
  • Michigan linebacker Devin Bush has the speed and skillset to play a big role in how defense is played in the NFL nowadays. Kiper thinks Bush will hear his name mentioned somewhere between the 20th and 30th picks.
  • Kiper said this draft has three super elite players – defensive end Nick Bosa (Ohio State), outside linebacker Josh Allen (Kentucky) and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams (Alabama).

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