The Defensive Line
Quinn and Patricia first must decide on some of their current players in question. Mike Daniels says he’s healthy and wants to return. Damon Harrison is pondering retirement and A’Shawn Robinson wants to return but they may want to move on from him.
But even assuming that all three return at their prime level of play, none of them factored into putting pressure on the opposing team’s quarterback at any time in 2019. Therefore, unless they can find a strong pass rusher in free agency, the focus at the top of the draft must be on the defensive line.
Either Ohio State EDGE Chase Young or Auburn’s defensive lineman Derrick Brown, whichever available must be chosen. Fast and powerful studs that can penetrate the opponents’ offensive line, blow up a play, or collapse a passing pocket quickly.
And since the Lions need more than just one, they may need to trade back up into the first round to get another top-flight player. This Motor City team needs to become an attacking defense. One impact player simply won’t do. That may mean giving up a high 2021 draft pick to get him.
There are five or more potential draftees that fit that description. Certainly, Young, if available, would be a no-brainer choice. But Brown and South Carolina’s Javon Kinlaw, among others, would satisfy that need. The NFL Scouting Combine is certain to reveal more unknown players that can surprise as well.
Many experts are saying that Ohio State cornerback Jeffrey Okudah should be Detroit’s top choice, assuming Washington will grab Young with the second pick. Okudah may well be the coveted best athlete available at that spot.
But without a pass rush, opposing quarterbacks still have many downfield receivers to choose from, and far too much time to find them. Forcing a quick pass with strong pressure shortens the field of coverage for all the defensive backs and results in making every pass defender more effective accordingly.
Using a third overall pick on a cornerback, no matter how talented he may be, is a luxury only better teams with fewer needs can afford. A lockdown cornerback, no matter how effective, can only defeat one player. While an overpowering defensive lineman can negate the efforts of all 11 opponents on offense with immediate pressure. It’s just simple math.