Detroit Lions: 3 safeties to keep tabs on during the 2021 NFL Draft

(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images)
(Photo by Don Juan Moore/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Lions
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The Detroit Lions are entering year one of what is expected to be a complete overhaul.  It’s something we have not seen this franchise do in years, but it’s long overdue.

Don’t misconstrue this; the running joke surrounding the Detroit Lions is and will be until proven otherwise–rebuilding since 1957.

It’s a completely new regime and coaching staff in Detroit.  The fact that head coach Dan Campbell received a six-year contract tells us all we need to know; this will take some time, and ownership is willing to see this through.

As we trek towards the 2021 NFL Draft, I can’t help but sift through mock drafts, positional rankings looking for potential draft choices that can help improve the roster and positional needs.  One group that will need some maintenance is the safties.

Here are three safeties the Detroit Lions need to keep tabs on entering the NFL Draft.

First, let’s remember what we’ve got, and who likely won’t be back.

The biggest name hitting the open market is Duron Harmon.  Although Harmon had his moments, he did play as Detroit’s most reliable player at the position in 2020.  At this point, I don’t expect Harmon will be a candidate to be re-signed.

Harmon played 1,102 of the teams’ defensive snaps last season, making 68 total tackles, two interceptions en route to a 65.3 overall mark courtesy of Pro Football Focus (PFF).

With Tracy Walker entering the final year of his current deal, expect the former third-round selection to be a little bit more motivated in 2021 to impress this Detroit Lions organization in hopes of landing a new deal.

Walker played 755 defensive snaps in 2020, recording 76 total tackles and one sack but failed to come away with a single interception and struggled mightily in coverage.  Walker earned an awful 51.0 overall grade, according to PFF last season.

The Detroit Lions selected Will Harris a year after Walker also in the third-round. Like Walker, the organization has yet to see any production that warrants the draft position.  As it stands today, Harris would be slated to be paired with Walker to start the season.

Harris earned a 50.5 overall grade last year in PFF’s eyes, playing just 312 total defensive snaps.

Tyree Gillespie should be on the Detroit Lions’ draft radar.

Tyree Gillespie is a senior coming out of Missouri.  Gillespie stands 5-foot-11 and plays at about 210-pounds.

Gillespie is a strong safety that will excel playing in the box; he has the strength to fight through the wash and make a living in run support.  Gillespie is a big-time hitter and has the ability to identify the ball carrier quite quickly and meet running backs in the hole, often lowering the boom.

The same can be said in pass coverage; although he’s much-better in run support, the young man at times will struggle in man coverage. And won’t likely excel in a defensive scheme with a single-high safety.

Over four seasons and three as a regular, Gillespie failed to record a single interception.  Pro Football Network suggests he will only run a 4.6 40-yard dash, meaning he will need to excel with his instincts, especially in coverage.

At this point, we can expect Gillespie to be a third-round draft choice in the 2021 NFL Draft.  CBS Sports currently has the Mizzou safety listed as the seventh-ranked player at his position and 87th overall.

The Detroit Lions have a history of drafting safeties in the third-round; this one may be justifiable despite being a new regime.  The Lions currently have a pair of third-round choices and may choose to replace Will Harris with the rookie.