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Highlights from Mike Mayock's conference call

The Detroit Lions have obvious needs on the defensive side of the football, and according to NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, they should be able to address a lot of those needs in a very deep defensive draft class.

Mayock, speaking with reporters Monday on a conference call ahead of this week's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, was particularly high on this class of pass rushers, cornerbacks and safeties.

The Lions could certainly use more talent and depth at defensive end and cornerback in particular. Detroit's 26 sacks this past season were the second fewest in the league. Opposing quarterbacks also completed 72.7 percent of their passes.

"I think it's one of the best defensive drafts I've seen," Mayock said. "I think when you start getting into the middle of the (first) round (Detroit selects at No. 21) ... I think Derek Barnett (Tennessee) is one of the hardest working, toughest edge rushers in this draft or any draft. I think he's going to go somewhere, let's say 10 to 22, somewhere in that range.

"Solomon Thomas from Stanford, the kid can play outside on run downs and inside on pass downs. There's been some comparisons to Aaron Donald. I'm not sure I see that, but I love his versatility. Then you start talking about Taco Charlton from Michigan, who's really gifted, a long edge guy. Charles Harris (Missouri).

Mayock thinks this draft is so deep on the defensive side of the ball that very good edge rushers and cornerbacks will be found into day two of the draft.

"The nice thing for the Lions is even if they decide to go in a different direction (at No. 21), like a linebacker for instance, you can get a corner in the second or third round," he said. "You can get an edge guy in the second or third round. This defensive draft at edge and corner is outstanding."

Mayock also touched on a couple other topics as they relate to the Lions:

View photos of the prospects participating in the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.

On how Detroit should go about improving their run game: "I'm always bullish on inside out to help yourself in the run game with an offensive lineman. That's probably the best way to go about it, but when you look at the Lions running backs, it comes down to who is healthy and how do you use them?

"What they really don't have, I don't think, is that big banger that is the 1st and 10 back, your fourth-quarter back. You've got pass catchers, you've got quick guys, you've got fast guys, but I think you need that back and they don't have that bigger back. From my perspective, pairing a big back with what they have in-house would really help them."

On which running backs would be a fit: "If you're Detroit, and you're looking for a running back, are you looking for a big, physical guy that can handle the load in the fourth quarter in your four-minute offense, runs downhill and bangs? Or are you looking for a guy that can go out in the slot and wideout and play all that, you already have (Theo) Riddick?

"Dalvin Cook (Florida State), (Christian) McCaffrey (Stanford), Alvin Kamara (Tennessee) and throw (Joe) Mixon (Oklahoma) in there, because those guys are today's NFL. They're going to get 20 touches, but its probably going to be 12 or 13 in the run game and six, seven or eight in the pass game.

"If you draft (Leonard) Fournette (LSU), you better give him 25 touches in the run game. You have to have a plan.

On drafting help at linebacker: "Atlanta did an unbelievable job rebuilding their defense over a two-year period and almost winning the Super Bowl and it was based on a couple things. They drafted that safety Keanu Neal. He set a tone. They drafted in the second round Deion Jones, the linebacker out of LSU, one of the fastest linebackers that ever ran at the Combine. He had a great year. De'Vondre Campbell, another linebacker they took in the fourth or fifth round, again, tough guy who can run.

View photos of the prospects participating in the 2017 NFL Scouting Combine.

"In a similar situation with Detroit. (Linebacker) Reuben Foster is gone (by the time Detroit drafts at No. 21), I think the three guys you have to talk about are Haason Reddick (Temple), Zach Cunningham (Vanderbilt) and Jarrad Davis (Florida). All three of them fit the bill of guys that can run, highly competitive and tough.

"Now, Cunningham is kind of a high-cut guy, where the other two are just more low-cut and explosive, but they're the three that have to be in the conversation if you were going to pull the trigger on a linebacker at 21.

"Beyond that, there's some guys in the second round – and a couple of those guys could fall into the second round, Reddick or Davis might even be there in the second round – but there are good football players. Alex Anzalone from Florida in the second or third round. Tyus Bowser in the second or third round. I think there's linebackers that can help Detroit and I think they can get them in the first three rounds."

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