4 thoughts on the Lions draft with 4 weeks to go

USA Today

Exactly four weeks from tonight, the sports world will turn its eyes to Detroit for the 2024 NFL draft. The hometown Lions don’t pick until No. 29 overall in the first round, and since the last edition of Lions draft thoughts two weeks ago, GM Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell have candidly spoken with the media at the NFL owners’ meetings.

Four weeks out, here’s what I’m thinking about the Lions and what they might do in the 2024 NFL draft

None of the players the Lions draft this year will be projected starters as rookies

Lions wide receiver Jameson Williams makes a catch during warmups before the NFC divisional playoff game between the Lions and Buccaneers at Ford Field on Sunday, Jan, 21, 2024.

For far too long, anyone drafted by Detroit in the first three or four rounds was immediately projected as a Week 1 starter. The dilapidated state of the roster almost demanded it.

Looking at the Lions roster one month out from the draft, I don’t see any Week 1 starting openings. Jameson Williams will slide into Josh Reynolds’ spot at outside wideout; that was certain to happen even if Reynolds came back as a free agent and played a part in why Reynolds is now in Denver. The team also seems happy enough to let re-signed Donovan Peoples-Jones and a healthy Kalif Raymond round out the top four wideouts if needed, with some hopeful growth from Antoine Green too.

D.J. Reader will start above any defensive lineman the Lions could draft at No. 29. The same is true for the Josh Paschal/Marcus Davenport battle to start opposite Aidan Hutchinson at EDGE–presuming both are healthy. Carlton Davis and Amik Robertson are the Week 1 starting outside corners, though a ready rookie (or a healthy Emmanuel Moseley) could conceivably beat out Robertson by the end of the season. Robertson won’t give that spot up without a fierce fight, however.

What does that mean for the draft?

It means the Lions will be more concerned with the team’s upcoming needs in 2025 and beyond than with plugging immediate holes in the starting lineup. That’s something good teams do. Adapting to the draft mindset of being a good football team will take some acclimation for a lot of Detroit fans. It also leaves Holmes, already an eager wheeler-dealer in the draft, the freedom to trade out of the first round for extra assets in the 2025 draft.

Bonus thought: There’s a school of thought that the Lions wouldn’t possibly trade out of the first round with the draft in Detroit. I don’t buy into that one bit, and I don’t think Brad Holmes would think twice about trading out if the offer is right. Remember: the NFL is hosting the draft, not the Lions. If past drafts I’ve attended are any indication, well more than half the in-person audience in the stage area will be from other fan bases and locations.

Offensive tackle remains glaringly unaddressed in free agency

Detroit Lions offensive tackle Dan Skipper (70) against the Atlanta Falcons during the first half of a preseason NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 12, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)

The Lions did a fine job addressing offensive guard in free agency by bringing back veteran Graham Glasgow and signing venerable Kevin Zeitler to replace highly-paid free agent Jonah Jackson

Offensive tackle has been a different story. Top reserve Matt Nelson left for the Giants. And while Dan Skipper came back, he typically only plays as an extra tackle. He’s the extent of the proven tackle depth chart behind Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell. Last year’s fifth-rounder, Colby Sorsdal, is still transitioning into guard. That leaves undrafted 2023 rookie Connor Galvin as the Lions depth chart at tackle. 

I very strongly expect that to change before the end of second day of the draft. It’s a fantastic year to need an offensive tackle in the draft; one recent national mock draft had eight of them in the first round

It’s very possible the best player available in Lions’ eyes at No. 29 is an offensive tackle like Arizona’s Jordan Morgan or Troy Fautanu from Washington. That both those guys can also play guard only broadens their appeal for a Lions team that won’t expect any of its rookie class to start in Week 1.

Into Day 2 and perhaps early Day 3, some tackles to note that the Lions have shown some interest:
Kingsley Suamataia, BYU

Blake Fisher, Notre Dame

Kiran Amegadjie, Yale

Christian Jones, Texas

Garrett Greenfield, South Dakota State

No QBs or RBs

David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Before yesterday’s re-signing of Nate Sudfeld, I thought that the Lions might take a late-round stab at a No. 3 quarterback, or at least bring in an undrafted free agent after the draft. With Sudfeld back to man the No. 3 role throughout the spring and summer, I don’t see the team having much interest in devoting more than a favor to an agent to bring a quarterback into the rookie minicamp.

The quarterback room is set with Jared Goff, Hendon Hooker and now Sudfeld. So too is the running back room, or rather, it could be. David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs are as good of a 1-2 punch as any RB tandem in the league. Craig Reynolds is back as the trustworthy No. 3, and the team also brought back Zonovan Knight. Jermar Jefferson, who the team still likes more than you might expect for a player with 15 carries in three seasons, is still in the den too.

Could the Lions draft a running back late in the process? Sure, they could; nothing can be ruled out with Holmes at the controls. But it would be quite surprising if the Lions use a draft pick on a quarterback or running back in 2024.

Day 3 prospects I’m studying more with an eye for the Lions

Florida Atlantic defensive tackle Evan Anderson (8) sacks Monmouth quarterback Marquez McCray

Based on some feedback gleaned from various sources at the Senior Bowl, NFL Scouting Combine, recent pro days and off-the-record conversations, I’m brushing up my knowledge on a few Day 3 prospects. These players might be worth familiarizing with for Lions fans…

Isaiah Adams, OL, Illinois

Evan Anderson, DT, Florida Atlantic

Khristian Boyd, DT, Northern Iowa

Jaylon Carlies, S, Missouri

Jalen Coker, WR, Holy Cross

Ryan Flournoy, WR, SE Missouri State

Brennan Jackson, EDGE, Washington State

Cedric Johnson, EDGE, Ole Miss

Trevor Keegan, OL, Michigan

Hunter Nourzad, C, Penn State

Kitan Oladapo, S, Oregon State

Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint, WR, Georgia

Trey Taylor, S, Air Force

Eric Watts, EDGE, UConn

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