I’ve made it known numerous times already; USC’s Drake London is my favorite receiver in this draft class, but if the Detroit Lions have any chance of drafting him, they’ll need to trade back in the first round.
London is a bit of a throwback as the league trends to smaller, shiftier playmakers; he’s a towering pass-catcher standing 6-foot-5 with a wingspan that Jared Goff only dreams of having at his disposal on the outside. Unfortunately, London suffered a season-ending ankle injury but put on a show in the eight games he played with the Trojans.
The star receiver committed to USC as a two-sport athlete and, in addition to playing football, had also been a member of the basketball team. As a senior in high school, London averaged 29.2 points, nearly 12 boards, and two blocks per game before landing at USC. London only appeared in two games, with the Trojans never scoring a point, hauling in three rebounds in six total minutes of court time.
In his first two seasons with USC, London predominantly lined up in the slot proving his worth as a massive mismatch totaling just 567 yards and five scores over 13 games as a freshman. London followed that up with 502 yards and three scores on 33 receptions in six games due to the COVID-19 shortened season.
As a junior, London blossomed, playing nearly exclusively on the outside, making 88 grabs totaling 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns in just eight games.
According to PFF, London caught almost 68% of his contested targets, making a nation-leading 19 contested receptions, plus earned an overall grade of 87.1 when playing against man coverage. London forced 22 missed tackles in ’21, which ranked seventh-best in the country, plus 456 of his receiving yards came on deep routes, which ranked 32nd in college football, but again, remember London only played eight games due to injury.
Although London is a big-bodied receiver, he’s not just a one-trick pony. London is a dynamic threat when he has the ball in his hands. He may not be a polished route runner like Ohio State’s Chris Olave but seems more advanced in this area than DK Metcalf or N’Keal Harry when they were drafted.
Creating a path for the Detroit Lions to draft Drake London.
This is where things get tricky for the Detroit Lions, who currently sit with the no. 2 overall pick in addition to likely either pick no. 31 or no. 32 depending on how the Los Angeles Rams season ends.
We’re still in January, so there is plenty of time for players’ stock to drop and rise following the NFL combine ahead of the late April draft.
London is a player that has continued to climb draft boards over the past month. If you go back to Christmas, London had been available in the late 20s, and as the Detroit Lions were slated to pick somewhere between no. 25 and no. 28, there had been an outside chance Brad Holmes would be able to snare London late in the first round. If not London, there would be plenty of other dynamic playmakers available such as Treylon Burks, Chris Olave, Jahan Dotson, and David Bell.
If the Detroit Lions hope to draft Drake London, they will need to make a massive trade with someone scheduled to pick in the teens. The perfect candidate? The Philadelphia Eagles.
The Eagles currently sit with three first-round picks, all in the teens, including back-to-back picks at no. 15 and no. 16 overall in addition to no. 19.
Before you freak out, this is unlikely, but I can create a path where the Eagles if they desire, have the draft capital to move up to no. 2 overall. What if the Eagles offered the Detroit Lions picks no. 15 and no. 19 plus their first-round pick in 2023 for the no. 2 overall choice? That gives the Detroit Lions three first-round picks in 2022 and 2023.
For those who want a visual;
For this to happen, the Eagles would need to fall in love with someone at the top of the draft.
IF this were to happen (again unlikely), having three picks in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft would give the Detroit Lions the necessary draft capital to move up and draft their next franchise hopeful quarterback, whether it’s Bryce Young or C.J. Stroud.
The Detroit Lions would potentially have an opportunity to draft Drake London at no. 15 plus perhaps someone like Nakobe Dean or Devin Lloyd at no. 19, plus maintaining the no. 31 and no 34 overall choices. To paint the whole picture, would you prefer Aidan Hutchinson (the likely pick at no. 2) or London and Dean plus next year’s first-round pick?
London is the perfect complement to Amon-Ra St. Brown, plus they know each other exceptionally well, having played together with USC. The Detroit Lions will also benefit by getting Quintez Cephus back from injury along with potentially signing a proven pending free agent to bolster the receiver position.