Less than three weeks before the 2021 NFL Draft gets underway, the potential landing spots for some of this year’s top prospects have begun to come into focus. The Detroit Lions will have a major say in how the first half of Day 1 unfolds, and here is Sidelion Report’s latest prognostication on how they may spend their draft capital this year.
The Lions are slated to select seventh overall, nicely positioned to add a difference-maker. However, they are also currently in possession of just six picks overall, tied for the fewest in the league. Trading down is always an intriguing possibility for teams, though we have Detroit standing pat across the board, making each of their selections that much more critical.
With the Lions readying for the next step in their most eventful offseason in decades, what key decisions will they make with their draft picks? Here’s how we see it potentially unfurling, starting with an offensive threat who could quickly become a star…
Selection #: Round 1 / 7th overall
Position: Wide Receiver
Height/Weight: 6-0 / 201
2019 statistics: 14 games played, 84 receptions, 1,780 yards, 20 touchdowns
Analysis: In this scenario, quarterbacks are selected 1-4 for the first time in NFL draft history. While it’s debatable whether or not that development benefits the Lions, they are able to take advantage of other premier prospects being pushed down the board. Here, they grab the gifted Chase, who could instantly upgrade their retooled receiving corps.
Chase did not play in 2020, as he chose to opt out of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The last time he stepped on an NCAA field however, he was putting the finishing touches on a dominant 2019 season, as he helped the Tigers win that year’s National Championship.
Chase was essentially uncoverable in 2019, leading Division I football in receiving yardage and touchdowns that season. He excels at practically every level of the field and can easily gain separation. He plays with strength and sheds tackles routinely.
Explosive plays come naturally for Chase; he registered eight touchdowns of 50 or more yards in 2019. Playing against top-level, NFL-caliber defenders regularly, he frequently won downfield with a variety of tricky grabs. He has strong hands and terrific after-the-catch acceleration.
Other than potential rust stemming from his 2020 opt-out, it’s hard to find too many faults in Chase’s game. Like most rookie receivers, he will have to adapt to NFL coverages, particularly press looks. He was also part of a loaded Tigers offense that pulled some attention away from him; how he adjusts to being a focal point of most defensive game plans will be important in his development.
Overall, this is almost a perfect outcome for the Lions. Receiver is arguably their biggest need, and Chase is the best in this class. He wouldn’t solve all of their problems, but he would give the Lions a bonafide blue-chip talent at a high-value position, something they haven’t had enough of in recent years.