Detroit Lions: Replenishing the linebacker position through the NFL Draft

(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

The Detroit Lions have a laundry list of needs heading into the 2021 NFL Draft, but the linebacker position needs to be atop the list.

General manager Brad Holmes will have plenty of opportunities to improve the Detroit Lions roster through the draft.  As it stands now, the organization is set to make six selections in the first five rounds of the NFL Draft.  It is not a stretch to feel that Holmes may have an opportunity to draft five starters heading into the 2021 season.

When you start to dissect the Lions depth chart, you will find a plethora of holes that need to be filled.  The team needs to add a receiver, a couple of offensive linemen, plus help at all three levels of their defense.

Needless to say, the Lions will be in the market to add an abundance of bodies after the draft concludes and before training camp begins.

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I assume there is a significant chance the Lions will trade down come Thursday and add some additional much-needed draft capital.  Trading back will help in various ways; it allows the organization to add picks in 2021 and hopefully another future top three-round pick or two in 2022.

The Detroit Lions are a sure-bet to re-tool the linebacker position through the 2021 NFL Draft.

I’ve mentioned time and time again that my overall top target for the Detroit Lions should be left tackle Penei Sewell, and I will not waiver now.  If Sewell is available when the Lions are on the clock with the seventh overall pick, Holmes needs to submit the ticket.  The only way I’d even entertain trading out of no. 7 with Sewell available is if Holmes swaps first-round picks in 2021, plus gets an additional choice in the mid-rounds of ’21 plus a future first-round pick in 2022 from another organization.

Adding multiple first-round choices really speeds up a rebuild.

So, if Sewell is available and there are no great trade offers, select him with confidence, and the Detroit Lions can address the linebacker position later in the draft.  If the Lions have an opportunity to trade back somewhere between 10 and 15, there is a pretty good chance the organization will be able to pick Penn State’s, Micah Parsons.

Parsons is the top backer in the draft class; he’s a three-down backer that can play inside or out, he’s strong enough to defend the run on first and second down inside, and quick enough to come flying around the edge to rush the passer on third down.

Parsons is a tremendous athlete that can scream sideline-to-sideline, and that is something adored in the NFL these days.

If the Detorit Lions miss out on Parsons, there are a few more options in rounds two or three to land a starter.

Holmes will likely have an opportunity to pick LSU’s Jabril Cox with the 41st overall pick if he’d like to go that route.  Cox is an elite coverage backer that would pair very nicely, playing opposite and eventually taking over for Detroit’s veteran Jamie Collins in the years to come.

In that same group of linebackers expected to be available when the Lions are on the clock are Pete Warner, Chazz Surratt, Baron Browning, and hopefully Jamin Davis, but I don’t believe Davis sees the second-round, meaning I expect he will be selected at some point in the backend of the first round.

If you’ve followed my work, you know I am a big fan of Cox, and he’d be my first choice in this group if Davis is indeed unavailable.

So the Lions could have the opportunity to go Sewell and Cox in the first and second round.  That’s two plug-and-play players.

Now, if the linebacker position is not on Holmes radar with the 41st overall pick, or he opts to go with Parsons in the first round and wants to select a receiver such as Rondale Moore, or Dyami Brown with the 41st overall pick, Detroit will have another opportunity to land another backer with one of their two third-round picks.

I’m not convinced he will be available when the Lions are on the board with the 101st overall pick, so if they hope to land Michigan’s Cameron McGrone, they better do it with the 72nd overall pick early on in the third round.

McGrone projects as a three-down linebacker working inside, something the Detroit Lions desperately need.  I’m sorry, but Jahlani Tavai just won’t cut it, and at the moment, he’d be the projected starter. Yikes.

The former Wolverine is extremely athletic and often popped in Don Brown’s blitz-heavy defense.  There is potential to land yet another starter here for Detroit. If McGrone happens to be the first linebacker Detroit selects, I would be very content; that means they’ve addressed other needs and still get a three-down linebacker at 72.

The Lions may hope McGrone slides to 101, but they’d be playing with fire. After McGrone, Detroit will be forced to start looking at Dylan Moses, Monty Rice, Derrick Barnes, Charles Snowden, Justin Hilliard, or Joshua Ross.

One thing is for certain; the organization will have plenty of opportunities to address their linebacker issues in various ways.

My perfect scenario would have the Lions trading back, adding draft capital along with selecting Micah Parsons, followed by Liam Eichenberg, or Landon Dickerson, and then Nico Collins in the third round.

Next. Mock Draft 3.0: Trading back in the first round. dark

If the Lions fail to trade back I would be just as satisfied to see Holmes select Sewell, Cox, and Collins or D’Wayne Eskridge.