Huddle up! With the NFL Draft on Thursday, here are three key questions surrounding the Lions and college teams in the state.
1. How will the Lions use their draft capital?
Darn you, Baker Mayfield.
If Mayfield — last year’s backup quarterback for the Los Angeles Rams who started the last few games of the season in place of the injured Matthew Stafford — hadn’t led the Rams to a couple of wins late in the year, the Lions might be drafting in the top-3.
As a reminder, the Lions acquired the Rams’ first-round pick in a previous trade involving Stafford.
The Lions will still be drafting No. 6 and No. 18 overall in the first round (No. 6 is the one it got from the Rams, while No. 18 is their own) and have five of the first 81 selections in the draft.
But there’s an elite pass rusher, Alabama’s Will Anderson, expected to be the first defensive player taken. If only the Lions were sitting at No. 3 instead of Arizona or at No. 2 instead of Houston, they would be in a great position to nab what some feel is a generational prospect.
Now, the question becomes, what do the Lions do?
Should they go all in and sacrifice all their draft capital to move up to No. 3, or No. 2, sending Arizona or Houston a plethora of picks they can’t refuse in order to pair Anderson with Aidan Hutchinson as a lethal pass-rushing tandem?
Would moving up to No. 3 even be enough if Houston is considering taking Anderson at No. 2 overall and not a quarterback?
Or do the Lions just hang on to their war chest of picks and draft multiple players who can help complete a roster expected to be the best in the NFC North, even if those players aren’t on the level of Anderson?
Thus far, this might be the defining decision of general manager Brad Holmes’ 3-year tenure with the franchise.
2. Who will be the first U-M player taken?
At the moment, many pundits feel defensive lineman Mazi Smith will be the first player from the University of Michigan taken in the draft. Some analysts feel he can be taken late in the first round, but it’d be surprising if he fell beyond the second round.
If it’s not Smith, cornerback D.J. Turner had an outstanding combine season, wowing scouts with his speed. He could end up sneaking into the first round.
Tight end Luke Schoonmaker and center Olusegun Oluwatimi could also be taken within the first three rounds.
3. Will MSU have a player drafted?
Two years ago, Michigan State saw a streak of having at least one player taken in the draft snapped at 80 years. Last year, running back Kenneth Walker helped the MSU program get back on track somewhat by being taken in the second round by Seattle.
But coming off a 5-7 season, the Spartans aren’t filled with high-end draft prospects this year. Wideout Jayden Reed, defensive tackle Jacob Slade and linebacker Ben VanSumeren appear to be the best bets to be taken. Reed could be as high as a second or third-round choice, but the others likely won’t get drafted until the mid-to-late rounds.