The 2021 NFL Draft is just over two weeks away and analysts are producing mock drafts at a persistent pace. Recently, ESPN’s Mel Kiper put out his latest two-round mock draft and while he stayed consistent in giving the Detroit Lions a wide receiver—his previous mock had them landing DeVonta Smith—this time they managed to grab the top option.
Here’s how it played out, leading up to the Lions pick at No. 7:
- Jacksonville Jaguars – Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson
- New York Jets – Zach Wilson, QB, BYU
- San Francisco 49ers – Mac Jones, QB, Alabama
- Miami Dolphins trade with Atlanta Falcons – Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida
- Cincinnati Bengals – Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon
- Atlanta Falcons – Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota State
With the top wide receivers all on the board, as well as QB Justin Fields (Ohio State) and OL Rashawn Slater (Northwestern), the Lions had plenty of options to choose from. But in the end, WR Ja’Marr Chase (LSU) was too good to pass up.
“The 2019 Biletnikoff Award winner led the country that season with 1,780 receiving yards and 20 touchdown catches, and he’d instantly be the Lions’ top receiver on a depth chart that includes new signings Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman,” Kiper said. “He’s great at making contested catches and can break tackles and run after the catch. He’s a legit No. 1 wideout, which is sorely needed in Detroit.”
No surprises here as Chase has been consistently mocked to the Lions when available and fans would surely be elated with this pick. However, Kiper’s second round selection could very well elicit the opposite reaction from fans.
With the 41st pick overall, Kiper has the Lions selecting EDGE Malcolm Koonce (Buffalo).
“Trey Flowers hasn’t lived up to his free-agent price tag, and the Lions’ pass rush as a whole has disappointed the last two seasons,” Kiper said. “Koonce is a natural pass-rusher who had 14 sacks over the past two seasons. He has great length and can be disruptive as a situational edge defender. He’s being underrated in the lead-up to this draft, but I love his tape.”
I’m not sure if Kiper is throwing a name out there to help fans familiarize themselves with a player he likes, as analysts often do that in mock drafts, or if he seriously believes Koonce is a top-50 player—because if he does, he appears to be alone in that evaluation.
Here’s where Koonce sits on some of the other draft analysts rankings:
- NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein gives him a fourth round grade, labeling him a “good backup who could become a starter.”
- PFF slots him in as player 161 on their draft board, projecting him to be “limited to a role as a designated pass-rusher” due to his struggles against the run.
- The Draft Network lists him as the 166th best player in the draft and says his ideal role is a “Developmental edge rusher or 3-4 outside linebacker”.
- The Athletic’s Dane Brugler assigned him a seventh round grade in his draft guide, labeling him as a “tweener” that could be a “subpackage rusher”.
So to recap, across the board, leading draft analysts all say Koonce has NFL potential as a pass rusher, but his issues setting the edge and stopping the run will leave him in a situational role at the next level. Kiper himself even calls Koonce a “situational pass rusher”.
So this raises an obvious question: Why does Kiper think he will be selected with the 41st pick?