Holmes has the enviable task of trying to extract maximum value out of that pick, either by using it to nab a cornerstone for the Lions’ rebuild or by dealing it to acquire additional draft capital, which he can then use to fortify his roster.
“It’s very exciting to be looking at this crop of players that would be worthy of selecting,” Holmes said.
I detailed five players I think the Lions realistically can land at No. 7, but the draft doesn’t end there. Whoever the Lions take — or whatever they do — will be part of a chain reaction that eventually leads to the rest of their draft picks.
The Lions currently have six selections, all in the first five rounds, and four of the draft’s top 102 picks. That’s not an abundance of resources, but it should be enough for the Lions to fill a few holes with promising young talent.
Here are three ways I can see the picks panning out for the Lions on the first two days of the draft.
Scenario 1: Anchor’s away
First round: No. 7-OT Penei Sewell, Oregon. Second round: No. 41-WR Elijah Moore, Ole Miss. Third round: No. 72-LB Dylan Moses, Alabama; No. 102-CB Tay Gowan, Central Florida.
If the Cincinnati Bengals go skill player at No. 5, there’s a good chance the best offensive tackle in the draft will be on the board for the Lions at seven. Whether that is Sewell or Rashawn Slater is up for debate, but either player would be a safe pick in Round 1 and a future anchor on the Lions’ emerging offensive line.
The Lions have bigger needs than tackle, and they can spend Day 2 addressing those. I’m banking on Moore getting pushed down to 41 by the depth of the receiver class, but between him, Rondale Moore and Rashod Bateman, the Lions should find help at the position. Moses adds speed to the middle of the defense, and while Gowan is a bit of a project after he opted out of the 2020 season and played 2017-19 at three different colleges, the Lions have the staff in place to develop young cornerbacks.
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Scenario 2: Catching up
First round: No. 7-WR DeVonta Smith, Alabama. Second round: No. 41-LB Jabril Cox, LSU. Third round: No. 72-S Andre Cisco, Syracuse; No. 102-OT Spencer Brown, Northern Iowa.
There are three blue-chip receivers in this draft, and no matter how they feel about the value of the position, it is imperative the Lions come away with a true difference maker. Smith, undersized at 166 pounds, is an artist running routes and would give Jared Goff a dependable target to throw to.
The Lions need to add speed, and both Smith and Cox fit. Cox starred at North Dakota State, then transferred to LSU, where he stood out again. Cisco tore his ACL last season, which could hamper his draft stock, but Holmes noted the depth of the safety class earlier this spring, and the Lions have one starting spot up for grabs. Brown is a project at tackle, but the Lions would have the luxury of sitting him in 2021 behind Tyrell Crosby.
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Scenario 3: The trade down
First round: No. 9-CB Patrick Surtain II, Alabama. Second round: No. 41-S Jevon Holland, Oregon. Third round: No. 71-WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC; No. 72-OLB Joseph Ossai, Texas; No. 102-DT Marvin Wilson, Florida State.
Holmes would love to trade down, and with the Carolina Panthers shopping the eighth pick to quarterback-needy teams, maybe the Denver Broncos at No. 9 will be willing to give up third-round picks this year and next to move up two spots and grab a sliding Justin Fields. In this scenario, the Lions miss out on Pitts, Chase and Sewell, and take the highest-ranked defensive player on their board.
Surtain would give the Lions the makings of a lockdown secondary with Jeff Okudah, last year’s first-round pick, opposite him. Holmes helped the Los Angeles Rams find a number of Day 2 starting defensive backs as college scouting director, and he goes with the talented Holland, a ballhawk who opted out of the 2020 season, early in the second round. The Lions use their extra third-round pick on a new slot receiver, then spend their final two choices of the day on the front seven. Ossai adds pass rush help on the edge, while Wilson beefs up the middle of the defensive line.