Detroit Lions land Heisman Trophy winner with No. 7 pick in Todd McShay’s latest mock draft

Detroit Free Press

Tyler J. Davis | Detroit Free Press

The way Todd McShay sees it, the Detroit Lions are locked into a wide receiver with the No. 7 pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

In his second mock draft released Wednesday, McShay predicted the Lions would pick DeVonta Smith, the Heisman Trophy-winning Alabama wideout. Smith racked up 1,856 yards and 23 touchdowns on 117 receptions in 2020.

McShay, ESPN’s longtime draft analyst, in his first mock draft had the Lions taking Ja’Marr Chase, an explosive LSU wide receiver who sat out the 2020 season.

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The reason Smith is available to the Lions in McShay’s latest projection is because the Philadelphia Eagles, who pick sixth and have struggled to draft and develop effective pass-catchers, take Chase instead. And while Chase doesn’t own the coveted stiff-arming trophy, he did amass 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns on his 84 receptions in 2019.

Smith is the third overall prospect in the draft, according to Mel Kiper Jr.’s big board, and Chase is the fourth. Standing 6 feet 1 and weighing 175 pounds, there are concerns about Smith’s durability. But there are no concerns about his playmaking: He not only won the Heisman but he was the Offensive MVP of the College Football Playoff National Championship game.

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Though he had 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns vs. Ohio State in the title game, none of those totals matched his season highs in what was truly a dominant year. He has showcased an ability to make contested catches downfield and take short passes for big gains.

Wednesday’s mock from McShay features the first four picks of the draft each being a quarterback as well as a trade for a team (not the Lions) to enter the top five.

The Lions can address an array of deficiencies with the seventh pick, or, of course, trade out of it. Impending free agents make receiver a concern and quality offensive line depth never hurts. All three levels of the defense could use the infusion of talent a first-round pick brings; the 2020 Lions gave up more points and yardage than any team in franchise history.

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Smith could, in theory, replace Marvin Jones and/or Kenny Golladay, whose contracts expire in March. The Lions (5-11) hired a new front office and coaching staff after finishing last in the NFC North for the third straight year.

Some Lions fans may be clamoring for a quarterback, but after the franchise traded Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff, the odds of a first-round passer being taken seem slim. New general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell could always have their sights set on a quarterback later in the draft, or maybe one of next year’s prospects.

Read the full mock draft here

Follow the Free Press on Facebook and Twitter for more news. Tyler Davis can be contacted at tjdavis@freepress.com or on Twitter @TDavisFreep.

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