Road to the Draft

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O'HARA'S MOCK 8: The first prediction

Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray is a wild card who could strengthen the Detroit Lions' hand – either to deal or stand -- with the eighth pick in the 2019 draft.

With the Lions standing at No. 8, a pass rusher is projected as the position the Lions will target in the first round of my Mock 8 1.0 draft – with a trade possible.

In a draft expected to be dominated early by quality defensive players, the talent pool for the Lions' first pick includes pass rushers Rashan Gary of Michigan, Josh Allen of Kentucky, Clelin Ferrell of Clemson and perhaps others.

Cornerbacks Greedy Williams of LSU and Byron Murphy of Washington are less likely choices for the Lions but potential options depending on who's on the board at No. 8.

Tight end, wide receiver, backup quarterback and overall depth are other needs that can be filled in later rounds.

Based on the current roster makeup, and in advance of free-agent signings that begin in March, a pass rusher is a priority for head coach Matt Patricia's defense. It improved steadily in the 2018 season, both against the run and in the pass rush.

The Lions had 43 sacks, tying them for 11th in the league, without an individual with double digit sacks. Romeo Okwara led the Lions with 7.5 sacks, followed by Devon Kennard with 7 and linebacker Jarrad Davis with 6.

There is more to come in the draft process, and more mock drafts, before the draft starts with the first round on April 25. This week's Senior Bowl, the annual Combine in March, pro day workouts and individual visits to team headquarters are ahead.

Murray's presence in the draft can impact the Lions in multiple ways.

If he's taken ahead of the Lions, it leaves a player available to draft at another position.

And if he's still on the board at No. 8, a quarterback-needy team such as the Broncos, Bengals and Dolphins might want to deal with the Lions to move up.

Mock 8 1.0 follows the format of previous years, with trades not allowed – even though trading in the first round for the first time in Bob Quinn's four years as general manager of the Lions is a legitimate option.

As always, feel free to disagree. And remember: There's more to come.

1. Arizona Cardinals (3-13): New head coach Kliff Kingsbury was hired to advance quarterback Josh Rosen's development. The strength of the draft is on defense, and a pass rusher goes first. 

Pick: DE Nick Bosa, Ohio State. Only three games in 2018 because of an injury, but he had 26 tackles for loss with 17 sacks in 30 career games.

2. San Francisco 49ers (4-12): They've drafted three defensive linemen in the first round in the last four years. Time to add a pass rusher to play behind them.

Pick: DE/OLB Josh Allen, Kentucky. 17 sacks in 2018.

3NY Jets (4-12): They used the No. 3 pick last year to draft quarterback Sam Darnold and have hired head coach Adam Gase this year to coach him up. Now they protect him.

Pick: OT Jonah Williams, Oklahoma. Best O-lineman in the draft.

4. Oakland Raiders (4-12): They traded Khalil Mack, who had 12.5 sacks for the Bears. As a team, the Raiders had 13 in 2018. They took a chance on Maurice Hurst of Michigan last year and can look to Ann Arbor again for another talented defender.

Pick: DE Rashan Gary, Michigan.Injured part of 2018 after a big 2017 season – 12 tackles for loss with six sacks.

5. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11): They've replaced one veteran offensive-minded head coach (Dirk Koetter) with another (Bruce Arians). So they'll draft for defense. Makes sense to me.

Pick: CB Greedy Williams, LSU. Good size (6-3, 183) to go with ball skills. Led the SEC in picks with six in 2017.

6. NY Giants (5-11): Right draft spot and team to take a quarterback to learn while Eli Manning finishes out his career – which could be the Giants' bye week in 2019.

Pick: QB Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State. A good combo of size (6-3, 220) and production (50 TD passes in 2018). Needs time to develop and will get it.

7. Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11): No team in the top seven has a more clear-cut need at any position than the Jags do at quarterback. They can sign a free agent -- Teddy Bridgewater or Joe Flacco – and draft a quarterback to develop.

Pick: Kyler Murray, Oklahoma. Talent and impact – 42 TD passes, 1,001 yards rushing in 2018 -- trump size.

8. Detroit Lions (6-10): Choices, choices. The more the better in Bob Quinn's fourth draft as GM. Among them are the following possibilities and factors:

Opportunity: Quinn has the draft capital and positioning to maneuver, with a high first-round pick, picks in all seven rounds, and an extra pick in each of the sixth and seven rounds.

Trades: Quinn has been active in the market in his first three seasons, but never in the first round. He hit big last year, trading up to get running back Kerryon Johnson of Auburn in the second round and defensive lineman Da'Shawn Hand of Alabama in the fourth.

Needs: It cannot be overstated how much a top-flight pass rusher helps a defense. The Lions were good last year without an individual with double-digit sacks. A group effort produced 43 sacks.

Add an edge rusher who commands double teams, and it opens more opportunities – and leads to more than the puny 14 takeaways they had last season.

As Quinn said in his postseason press conference, the depth of this year's draft is on defense. That matches up with the Lions' primary need.

Pick: DE Clelin Ferrell, Clemson. A durable, productive three-year player who in 44 career games produced 50 tackles for loss with 27 sacks.

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