Mock draft season is in full swing with this year's slate of pro days set to begin next week. As it stands right now, a majority of the draft analysts and mock drafters have the Lions selecting a wide receiver with the No. 7 overall pick.
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Why: The Super Bowl showed us what speed and athleticism at the second level can do for a defense. Parsons brings those tools to Detroit.
Mel Kiper Jr., ESPN: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State (w/ No. 12 pick after trade with SF)
Why: The Lions allowed 6.3 yards per play under former coach Matt Patricia last season, which ranked last in the league. They need help on defense. Parsons is a versatile linebacker with some pass-rush upside.
Todd McShay, ESPN: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Why: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola are all pending free agents, meaning the most productive wide receiver on the roster returning right now is Quintez Cephus, a fifth-round rookie who had 349 yards in 2020. It's a problem, but not one that the Heisman winner can't help solve. Smith is explosive, piling on 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns in his senior year.
Chad Reuter, NFL.com: Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
Why: After the Lions traded for Jared Goff and a bundle of draft picks, new coach Dan Campbell said the team was building toward two years from now. Well, selecting the athletic, strong-armed, but inexperienced Lance to learn for a couple of years behind Goff is in that same vein.
Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Why: The Lions could go in a number of directions here, including cornerback or linebacker, but with almost an entire receiving corps set to hit free agency, Chase could serve as a splashy WR1 for their new QB.
Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Why: GM Brad Holmes and Co. display their trust in Jared Goff by adding an explosive pass catcher to the lineup.
Charley Casserly, NFL.com: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Why: The Lions are in desperate need of talent throughout the roster. They take the best defensive player in the draft here – if they don't trade back.
Ryan Wilson, CBSSports.com: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Why: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Danny Amendola are all headed for free agency, and while the Lions will almost certainly try to keep Golladay, who was injured for much of the 2020 season, adding a home-run threat like Waddle would certainly brighten Jared Goff's spirits.
Josh Edwards, CBSSports.com: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Why: Detroit is slated to lose the entire wide receiver room to free agency, which creates a need at the position. Ja'Marr Chase would be an elite option for Jared Goff or whoever is under center.
Chris Trapasso, CBSSports.com: Azeez Ojulari, LB, Georgia
Why: This is the highest you'll probably see Ojulari. But I really believe he's the super-explosive, bendy type of edge rusher who typically flies up boards during the pre-draft process.
Pete Prisco, CBSSports.com: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Why: They will likely lose Kenny Golladay in free agency, so they need a young speed player outside. The big concern with Smith is size, but he can fly.
Nate Davis, USA Today: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Why: A fair evaluation of the QB would entail having a No. 1 target on board – Waddle seems better suited to that role than slightly built Crimson Tide teammate DeVonta Smith – and Detroit could desperately need help with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones unsigned.
Michael Fabiano, Sports Illustrated: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Why: The Lions have not always had the best luck with first-round wide receivers, but Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., and Danny Amendola are all slated to be free agents. Even if Golladay is tagged or re-signed, Waddle would still be a nice No. 2 option at wideout for Jared Goff.
Zack Patraw, Sports Illustrated: Azeez Ojulari, DE, Georgia
Why: The Lions have a bundle of choices at pick number seven, along with an abundance of needs. The new coaching regime will have Jared Goff to build around but they choose to go defensive with this pick. Ojulari is arguably the best defensive prospect in this class and the Lions need to start building a defensive line that can get to the quarterback.
Eric Herauf, Sports Illustrated: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Why: [The Lions are] facing the reality of losing Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola. Adding Waddle could entice Golladay to stay and it would be intriguing to see how that duo could help aide Jared Goff moving forward.
Eric Edholm, Yahoo Sports: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Why: Waddle limped back onto the field for the national title game, and his rare explosion was nowhere to be found that night, as he clearly was playing at less than full strength. Even still, Waddle had more receiving yards than DeVonta Smith when Waddle got hurt in the fifth game last season, and Waddle is expected to make a complete recovery.
Matt Miller, The Draft Scout: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Why: While not the biggest receiver, Smith is the smoothest in this draft class and has the best hands. The Lions have a need at the position regardless of what free agent Kenny Golladay does this offseason. With Jared Goff in the fold for at least 2021, the Lions have to go wide receiver early.
Anthony Treash, Pro Football Focus: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Why: Detroit's defense was brutal across the board in 2020, and adding Parsons – the best off-ball linebacker prospect since Luke Kuechly – would certainly help the team get that side of the ball out of the liability tier.
Austin Gayle, Pro Football Focus: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Why: The former Penn State off-ball linebacker is currently PFF's sixth-ranked prospect on the 2021 NFL Draft board. Parsons also finished the 2019 season as the highest-graded off-ball linebacker (91.6). He also possesses role versatility that Dan Campbell and the Lions should covet in that he can play off-ball alignments on early downs and rush off the edge or blitz on passing downs.
Vinnie Iyer, Sporting News: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Why: The Lions will need some wide receiver help for Jared Goff in some form as they won't be able to re-sign both prime Kenny Golladay and aging Marvin Jones Jr. Someone who can complement T.J. Hockenson and D'Andre Swift well in the passing game would be ideal. Smith is falling on some boards because of concern about his frame, but it's hard to ignore his Heisman Trophy-worthy dominant production, especially when it peaked during the College Football Playoff games and put him into the conversation for best wideout in the class.
Brad Gagnon, Bleacher Report: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Why: Smith is coming off a ridiculous season in which he won the Heisman with 1,856 receiving yards and 23 touchdowns in the SEC. He'll ideally add bulk to his 175-pound frame, and it helps that he's at least a solid 6'1". That, combined with tremendous hands and excellent route-running ability, makes him an easy target, and with the ball in his hands, it's often game over for opposing defenses.
Steve Serby, New York Post: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama
Why: Apparently new coach Dan Campbell isn't only looking for a few good men, he's looking for guys who will bite kneecaps, so he'll be tempted by LB Micah Parsons to upgrade a defense that set franchise records for points (519) and yards (6,716) allowed in a single season. But QB Jared Goff needs someone to throw to, with Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr. set to test free agency. Check out the Heisman Trophy winner's electric national championship highlights against Ohio State. He just needs to put more meat on his 175-pound bones.
Tom Fornelli, CBSSports.com: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Why: Chase opted out of the 2020 college season, and considering how LSU's offense looked, it was probably a good decision. He's a very talented player who reminds me of Michael Crabtree in a lot of ways, but with a bit more speed and quickness.
Charlie Campbell, Walter Football: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama
Why: Detroit is probably going to lose Kenny Golladay and may not be able to re-sign Marvin Jones Jr. The Lions need more receiving weapons for Jared Goff and badly need some game-changing talent on both sides of the ball. Here's a home run hitter who would be a plug-and-play upgrade for the Lions.
Walter Cherepinsky, Walter Football: Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU
Why: Matthew Stafford was traded to the Rams, but I don't think the Lions are going after a quarterback with this pick because they're likely to give Jared Goff a try for one year. If so, Detroit will focus on its other big issues, including their receivers. Both Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones are impending free agents. Jones is as good as gone, while Golladay is likely 50-50 to return. Chase caught 17 passes in his freshman year, then took a huge step forward in 2019, displaying the ability of a top-10 prospect.