‘Tough year’ for Detroit Lions at No. 2 in NFL draft, says ESPN analyst Todd McShay

Detroit Free Press

Brad Holmes may have already “had dialogue” about trading the No. 2 pick in April’s NFL draft, but one prominent analyst said he thinks the Detroit Lions will be hard-pressed to move out of that spot because of the lack of blue-chip prospects available.

“It sucks for Detroit this year because there’s … no elite quarterback where they can solve that problem moving forward,” ESPN’s Todd McShay said in a video conference Thursday. “And then there’s, knowing the quarterback situation, there’s no — the next two best players on a lot of teams’ boards are the offensive tackles, and they’re in really good shape there moving forward. I just think it’s tough how it plays out.”

If the Jacksonville Jaguars take Michigan pass rusher Aidan Hutchinson at No. 1, as many expect, the Lions could be left to pick between a handful of good-but-not-elite edge rush prospects, two top offensive tackles, a player at a non-premium position or overdrafting a quarterback.

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McShay said he does not think the Lions will take Liberty quarterback Malik Willis at No. 2, though that possibility has started to generate more buzz of late.

One general manager of a quarterback-needy team told the Free Press at the NFL’s annual meeting this week he thought the Lions would take Willis, who they coached at the Senior Bowl, to groom as a replacement for Jared Goff with the No. 2 pick.

Defensive linemen Travon Walker, Jermaine Johnson and perhaps Kayvon Thibodeaux also could be in the mix at No. 2, as could offensive linemen Evan Neal and Ikem Ekwonu, though the Lions appear set at the offensive tackle spots with Taylor Decker and last year’s first-round pick, Penei Sewell, under contract through at least 2024.

McShay said he rates Neal and Ekwonu slightly behind last year’s top tackles, Sewell and Rashawn Slater, as prospects.

“I would be surprised if they went offensive line,” McShay said of the Lions. “If (Hutchinson) goes No. 1 to Jacksonville, then probably the best two players — two of the best three or four players on the board are Ekwonu and Neal, so you’ve got to kind of weigh that, knowing that the offensive line is not a huge priority and that you’ve got other need areas.”

Just as surprising, McShay said, would be if the Lions were able to trade out of No. 2, given the lack of prospects teams will be angling to go up and get.

Hutchinson, Walker, Johnson and Thibodeaux are considered similar-caliber prospects as edge rushers, and McShay has identical grades on Ekwonu and Neal.

“I don’t see it happening, man. I don’t,” McShay said. “If you think about just moving up just one, two, three spots, how much you have to give up in order to do so because of the importance of those top picks, I just don’t see a team being willing. Now when we get into the teens and later in the first round, I think there’s going to be a lot of trades there. I really do, because teams want a quarterback, a run on wide receivers. The edge guys, the run is start coming to an end. But I don’t think at No. 2.

“I’d be surprised if Detroit got a legitimate, respectable offer to move out of that No. 2 spot. If they did, I would jump at it because the same player you’re going to get at three, four or five is what you’re going to wind up taking at No. 2 anyway, especially without that big need at offensive tackle.”

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Using the popular trade value chart as a guide, the cost to move up to the No. 2 pick is significant. The New York Giants, at No. 5, would have to give up second-, third-, fourth- and fifth-round picks to move up three spots. The Seattle Seahawks, at No. 9, would have to give up two second-round picks, plus third- and fourth-round choices.

No player in this draft seems worthy of that type of haul, especially considering the alternatives.

If the Jaguars take Hutchinson at No. 1, offensive line-needy teams still will have both top tackles on the board. If the Jaguars take a tackle, pass rush-needy teams will have multiple options on the edge, and the general belief is the Lions would take Hutchinson at No. 2.

“I think Hutchinson would be a perfect fit in Detroit from what they want to do from the character, the toughness,” McShay said. “Obviously, local guy, which would be really low on the ladder in terms of how important that would be. But it’s just a tough year to be in that No. 2 spot, but the good news they’re still going to get a great football player there.”

Contact Dave Birkett at dbirkett@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.

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