ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. conducted a national conference call Monday to coincide with the recent release of his Mock Draft 2.0.
Kiper included trades in his newest mock, and has the Lions trading out of the No. 7 spot with San Francisco, who has the No. 12 pick. Kiper has the 49ers selecting Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields with Detroit's No. 7 pick.
With the No. 12 pick, Kiper has the Lions selecting arguably the best defensive player in the draft in Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons.
"With the Lions moving down in my mock trade with the 49ers, that takes them out of the quarterback race but gives them extra draft capital," Kiper wrote. "Jared Goff is going to remain on their roster in 2021 because of his salary, but he might not be the long-term solution. And I don't expect Detroit to improve next season, which means it could have another valuable pick (plus it has the Rams' first-round picks in 2022 and 2023).
"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."
The Lions were ranked in the bottom five in the NFL in just about every major statistic on defense last year, including allowing the most yards and points in franchise history.
Kiper said trading down to No. 12 puts great value at the linebacker position. He said staying at No. 7, the Lions would get more value selecting one of the top receivers, with Kiper suggesting Alabama's Jaylen Waddle there.
Asked specifically about Parsons and the linebacker position, Kiper thinks the Lions need to add at least two players to the position this offseason, and views Parsons and Notre Dame's Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah as the two best linebackers in this draft.
"His play range and game-day range is phenomenal," Kiper said of Parsons. "I think his range against the run, tracking down quarterbacks that are mobile and fast, he can do all that.
"Is he better than Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame in that area? As an open-field tackler Owusu-Koramoah is the best I've seen in a long, long time. As a cover linebacker, he's the best I've seen in a long time. So that's the debate there. Which one do you like better? Pretty close. Owusu-Koramoah played (in 2020), Parsons didn't (due to an opt out). Maybe you give the edge to Owusu-Koramoah from Notre Dame."
Other highlights from Kiper's call include the following:
1. Kiper said the Lions shouldn't consider drafting a quarterback at No. 7, instead suggesting the team build the roster around the reported trade for Jared Goff.
"I would not consider a quarterback if I was the Lions," Kiper said. "Jared Goff is a 26-year-old quarterback and has been to a Super Bowl. (He) was off to the races, was a No. 1 pick overall and all that. You have people (in Detroit) who are familiar with him (and) he's familiar with. It starts with the front office.
"To me, build around the quarterback, and that's been the issue with Matthew Stafford. He didn't have enough talent around him. Defensively, they always had issues. They've tried to fix the offensive line, get the right running back, have their receivers stay healthy, they added the tight end. They've never had everything working together. They would always have a strength in this group or that group, but because of injuries and players not living up to their potential, or whatever went awry, were never able to put it together for Matthew Stafford.
"Hopefully with the new organization they can do that for Jared Goff. I think Jared Goff can be a good quarterback in this league. Can he be super elite? Well, there was a time that he was considered one of the bright young quarterbacks and a really good quarterback and had a chance to be great when he was leading that team to a Super Bowl. I think if he can kind of recapture those moments and get back the confidence he had back then, which I think was lost a little bit this year, I think Jared Goff is the right man for the job."
2. A Chicago Bears reporter asked if any of the top five quarterbacks in the draft would be available at 20 for the Bears. Kiper said he doesn't expect any of the top passers to fall that far, and if the Bears want one, Kiper said they'll probably have to move up into the top 12 and potentially top 10 to select one.
3. What about some University of Michigan prospects?
Kiper said he has a first-round grade for edge rusher Kwity Paye, a second-round grade for offensive tackle Jalen Mayfield, a second or third-round grade for receiver Nico Collins and a fourth-round grade for cornerback Aubrey Thomas.
4. Kiper says wide receiver is the strongest and deepest position group overall in this draft.