Dave Birkett's mock draft 3.0: Analyzing 3 potential trade down options for Detroit Lions

Dave Birkett
Detroit Free Press

I decided to take a different approach with my third mock draft of the spring. By now, we all know that quarterbacks are destined to go with at least the first three picks of the draft, and there’s a very real chance they could go 1, 2, 3, 4 for the first time in NFL history.

The three best non-quarterback prospects in the draft are, in some order, Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell, Florida tight end Kyle Pitts and LSU receiver Ja’Marr Chase.

If the Detroit Lions stay at No. 7, they should end up with one of those players — unless they love the fifth of the big five quarterbacks, whoever does not go in the top four among Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields, Trey Lance and Mac Jones. 

If the Lions trade down from No. 7, well, a whole new class of prospect comes into play. What follows are three potential trade-down scenarios – the first six picks remain the same in each, but a different team trades up, starting a domino effect that yields the Lions a new player each time.

Here are the picks:

1. Jacksonville Jaguars

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson

Lawrence might as well start looking for property in Jacksonville, if he hasn’t already.

2. New York Jets

Zach Wilson, QB, BYU

Jets general manager Joe Douglas came close to acknowledging the Jets were going to take Wilson after this week’s trade of Sam Darnold.

Alabama quarterback Mac Jones. 2019 stats: 81-for-116 (69.8%) for 1176 yards, 11 TDs and 3 INTs.

3. San Francisco 49ers

Mac Jones, QB, Alabama

The 49ers are going quarterback here, and as much as I like Trey Lance as a fit — especially if the 49ers are serious about keeping Jimmy Garoppolo in 2021 — the consensus is building that Kyle Shanahan has eyes for Jones.

4. Atlanta Falcons

Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State

The Falcons are reportedly open to a trade down here, which makes sense. But it makes more sense that they draft their quarterback of the future.

5. Cincinnati Bengals

Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon

Joe Burrow needs better weapons, but those won’t do him any good unless the Bengals keep him upright to find them.

6. Miami Dolphins

Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida

Pitts or Chase? Chase or Pitts? Either way, Tua Tagovailoa is happy.

Scenario 1: Lions trade No. 7 pick to Denver Broncos for No. 9 and a third-round pick No. 71.

7. Denver Broncos: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

8. Carolina Panthers: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

9. Detroit Lions: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

Why Waddle: The Broncos have kept their quarterback intentions close to the vest, but if new GM George Paton is lukewarm on Drew Lock he could pay a small price to move up a few spots and guarantee a team like New England, Washington or Pittsburgh doesn’t jump the Broncos to get Fields.

With Chase off the board, I see the Lions’ options here as being one of the top two remaining receivers, Waddle or Alabama’s DeVonta Smith, Northwestern offensive lineman Rashawn Slater or Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons. Any of those four would fill a need and be a fit, and while I’d have reservations about taking a receiver other than Chase this high, Waddle has the speed the Lions seem to covet at the position and might get a slight edge as a prospect overall.

Former Alabama wide receiver Jaylen Waddle is an explosive player on everything from sweep handoffs to deep posts.

Scenario 2: Lions trade No. 7 pick to New England Patriots for No. 15, second-round pick No. 46 and a fourth-round pick in 2022.

7. New England Patriots: Justin Fields, QB Ohio State

8. Carolina Panthers: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

9. Denver Broncos: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama

11. New York Giants: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

Mock draft 1.0::Why Trey Lance to Detroit Lions at No. 7 makes sense, even after Jared Goff's arrival

Mock draft 2.0:Florida TE Kyle Pitts is 'a rare dude;' don't be surprised if Detroit Lions draft him at 7

12. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

13. Los Angeles Chargers: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama 

14. Minnesota Vikings: Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami

15. Detroit Lions: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

Why Paye: The Lions are moving down a tier of prospect by going to No. 15, but the drop may be worth it given the extra compensation netted. In the middle of Round 1, the Lions can work on upgrading their defense, and here they get the choice of the No. 2 cornerback (Caleb Farley), No. 2 linebacker (Jamin Davis or Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah) or No. 2 edge rusher available.

Michigan defensive lineman Kwity Paye sacks Rutgers quarterback Artur Sitkowski during the first half on Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, at Michigan Stadium.

I went with Paye based largely on positional value here. Pass rushers are more difficult to find — and expensive to keep — than linebackers, and the Lions spent a high first-round pick on a cornerback last season. I don’t know that Paye can play outside linebacker, if the Lions truly want to go to a 3-4 scheme, but he has some versatility up front and gives the Lions another high-upside pass rusher to go with Romeo Okwara and Trey Flowers, and perhaps eventually take over for the latter.

Scenario 3: Lions trade No. 7 pick to Washington for No. 19, third-round pick No. 82 and a first-round choice in 2022.

7. Washington: Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State

8. Carolina Panthers: Ja’Marr Chase, WR, LSU

9. Denver Broncos: Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

10. Dallas Cowboys: Patrick Surtain, CB, Alabama

11. New York Giants: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State

12. Philadelphia Eagles: Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama

13. Los Angeles Chargers: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama 

14. Minnesota Vikings: Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami

15. New England Patriots: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech

16. Arizona Cardinals: Kwity Paye, DE, Michigan

17. Las Vegas Raiders: Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC

18. Miami Dolphins: Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina

19. Detroit Lions: Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky

Why Davis: That’s a big drop down from No. 7 to No. 19, but doing so would provide the Lions a third first-round pick in 2022 and put them (along with the Philadelphia Eagles) in control of next year’s draft. They would have the ammunition to potentially trade up and grab a quarterback, or fill multiple holes with top-tier prospects.

At No. 19, I went with Davis because he fits the prototype of the modern-day linebacker, one who seems as comfortable dropping into coverage as he does playing the run. He’s intelligent. He adds speed to a unit that lacks athleticism. And he fortifies a position that ranks with receiver as the thinnest on the team. Notre Dame’s Owusu-Koramoah also would fit here, and it’s possible the Lions see him as a starting safety; Brad Holmes did say this was a strong safety class. Davis, though, is bigger and longer, better built to withstand the rigors of the NFL.

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.