| The Detroit News
With the decision to not use the franchise tag on Kenny Golladay, the wide receiver’s days in Detroit are likely numbered. And even with the signing of Tyrell Williams becoming official on Tuesday, the Lions are going to need some serious help at the position heading into the 2021 season.
Up first is free agency, but safely assuming the franchise isn’t looking to spend big after passing up a chance to retain Golladay, the draft offers plenty of intriguing options at the top, where the Lions currently hold the No. 7 selection.
If you ask Daniel Jeremiah, the former scout and current NFL Network draft analyst, the Lions couldn’t go wrong with any of the top receiving options at that spot, but there’s one who stands out above the rest.
“To me, it would be Ja’Marr Chase, just because of everything he can do,” Jeremiah said. “I think a lot of time when you’re watching receivers, you see guys that can win with separation and quickness and you see guys that can win with physicality and kind of contested catches. When you watch him at LSU in 2019, you see examples of both, where he can separate from people off the line of scrimmage, he can separate the top of his route, he plays big to go up and get the football, and then after the catch, he gives you that strength and physicality to break tackles.
“He is, to me, the best receiver in the draft,” Jeremiah said. “I can’t imagine he would be there, but man, that would be a home run pick for the Lions if he was.”
As part of Jeremiah’s top-50 prospect rankings, posted on NFL.com last month, he had Chase as No. 2 overall, behind only Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
“Overall, I love Chase’s attacking style of play and see him as a faster version of three-time Pro Bowl selectee Anquan Boldin,” Daniel wrote.
Like many top prospects, Chase opted out of the 2020 season. In 2019, as part of LSU’s national championship team, he was named the Biletnikoff Award winner as the country’s best receiver, catching 84 passes for 1,780 yards and 20 touchdowns.
But assuming Chase is off the board by the time the Lions are on the clock, Jeremiah thinks the team would still do well to grab either Jaylen Waddle or DeVonta Smith, a pair of Alabama standouts.
Smith, this year’s Heisman winner, caught 117 balls for 1,856 yards and 23 scores for the Crimson Tide.
“DeVonta Smith is a pristine route runner,” Jeremiah said. “He’s obviously, everybody knows, is real thin, but man he’s really long armed and can go up and get it, as well.”
Jeremiah ranks Smith No. 8 on his big board, two spots behind Waddle. The analyst admits it boils down to skill set preference, but Waddle’s rare speed is the difference.
“I just thought what you get after the catch, with some of the shiftiness, and just the home-run speed from Waddle is why I ended up with Waddle over Smith,” Jeremiah said. “GPS (time) stuff is going to be big this year because we haven’t had as much verified numbers. Talking to some teams around the league, Waddle has the fastest GPS of any receiver in the country. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you when you’re watching him. He’s freaky fast.”
Assuming the Lions don’t go receiver, another logical option would be linebacker. Most observers feel No. 7 is to high to address the position, but in his most recent first-round projection, Jeremiah had the Lions taking Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons at No. 7.
“With Parsons, you know, (he has) the ability to do everything off the ball,” Jeremiah said. “You can also rush him a little bit. As impressive as his range and instincts are against the run, to me, it’s what he does in coverage. You see him cover tight ends up there at Penn State, you see him cover backs.
“…He would fit in with that versatility that everyone is looking for,” Jeremiah continued. “More than anything else, with linebackers right now, and I’m sure we’ll get into it with more of these guys, I’m looking for guys that can really run and cover and he can do it.”