So much of the focus for the upcoming 2021 NFL draft is on the first round. But there are seven full rounds, and the Detroit Lions sit near the top of the second round with another critical pick.
Rookie GM Brad Holmes and the Lions need to get a player with the No. 41 pick who is capable of contributing right away and emerge as a good long-term starter at his position. No matter what happens in the first round, the new regime has to be ready to land an impact fit on Friday night of draft weekend, too.
Here are 10 players at various positions who generally project to be available when the Lions draft in the second round. Not all will be on the board when Holmes and his experienced braintrust make the pick, and the unknown first-round selection could render some of them moot.
Terrace Marshall Jr., WR, LSU
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Marshall would fill the void of a bigger playmaking receiver on the outside in Detroit. At 6-3, 200 pounds and a legit 4.40 40-yard dash time, Marshall definitely has the traits to fill the role. Inexperience and consistency of performance are issues for Marshall as a prospect. While he’s capable of making the spectacular and often does things others cannot do in traffic and along the sideline, Marshall doesn’t yet run great routes and really lacks focus at times, particularly as a blocker. He’s the kind of talent you hope clicks with a hard-nosed coach like Dan Campbell to push him and maximize the considerable physical talents Marshall possesses.
Jamin Davis, LB, Kentucky
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One of the draft media darlings of the 2021 NFL draft process, Davis burst onto the scene for Kentucky in 2020 after being an underwhelming player prior to that season. Last fall he put it all together with his tremendous speed, agility, closing burst to the ball and knack for being in the right place at the right time. As an off-ball LB, he’s not as big of a hitter as others in this class, and there should be very real concern that he only thrived for one season. But the arrow is pointing up and he might be the best athlete for his position in the entire draft. He’s a very similar type of player to Demario Davis, who turned into a Pro Bowler in New Orleans with Lions DC Aaron Glenn and head coach Dan Campbell on the staff. It’s easy to see them seeing that parallel, too.
Elijah Moore, WR, Ole Miss
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Moore is a dynamic presence in the slot, one of those receivers who knows how to inherently “get freaking open”, as Lions head coach Dan Campbell stressed in his recent press conference. He’s got the instant acceleration, joystick-like agility and sense of exactly when to catch the coverage between steps or leaning just the wrong way. Moore is also dangerous with the ball in his hands. He can operate out of the backfield and on jet sweeps. He’s smallish (5-9/185) and doesn’t appear to offer much as a receiving threat beyond about 12 yards from the line of scrimmage. Moore really shone when he got consistent QB play and could blossom into a big-time weapon in the NFL.
Nick Bolton, LB, Missouri
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If Lions special assistant Chris Spielman is looking for a clone of himself to help build the middle of the Detroit defense, chances are he zeroes in on Bolton. Fans who remember Spielman patrolling the middle as a hard-hitting, sure-tackling, cerebral force at ILB will see a lot of that in Bolton. He’s quite easily the best run-defending LB in this draft class and it’s not particularly close. His instincts, his ability to sift through the trash and attack the ball–they’re very reminiscent of Spielman (a second-round pick) in his Lions heyday. Bolton isn’t an elite athlete and doesn’t offer more than adequate coverage skills, however. He’s good enough to stay on the field but not enough to consider Bolton an asset in the passing game.
Joe Tryon, EDGE, Washington
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Tryon opted out of playing in 2020 and that causes the Huskies pass rusher to be more under the radar than he should be. He was building a strong case to be a first-round selection with his play in 2019, too. At Washington, Tryon was inconsistent at pretty much everything. Some of that was attributable to how the Huskies moved him around the formation; he never got truly comfortable at one spot and never got to focus on one position. Give him that focus as a stand-up EDGE and Tryon can be great. He’s got the athleticism, the length and the twitch to be a high-end pass rusher. Tryon is the kind of prospect you trust your coaches can work with to bring out his best, the way the Saints did with Trey Hendrickson as a pass-rushing specialist. Tryon is that kind of player, only with a higher all-around ceiling.
Kadarius Toney, WR, Florida
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Toney was a playmaker extraordinaire for the high-octane Gators offense in 2020. His ability to create from the slot and make magic happen with the ball in his hands is incredibly appealing. Toney also has experience operating out of the backfield and can be especially dangerous on things like jet sweeps and tunnel screens. Sounds awesome, right? So why is a dynamic dude like Toney possibly available in the second round? Foremost is his lack of attention to detail. His routes are often freelanced or very basic. Toney will put the ball on the ground more than other receivers in this class, often trying to run before he catches it. He’s also had issues with a shoulder injury that forced him to miss significant time in two separate seasons. There’s a lot of risk with Toney but the reward could be a fantastic skill player who energizes the offense no matter who is at QB.
Richie Grant, S, UCF
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Remember Louis Delmas, Lions fans? Richie Grant shares many of the same characteristics and style of play that made Delmas a very successful second-round pick by the team before injuries ruined his promising career. Like Delmas, Grant plays from the high safety spot like a heat-seeking missile. It will occasionally whiff on more agile targets, but it’s beautiful to watch the explosion when it hits. He’s got ball skills and quick-footed range to either sideline from a single-high look. Grant picked off 10 passes in three seasons and shows an opportunistic vein in zone coverage. He’s not great in man and, as noted above, will have some oddly ugly missed tackles in space. That’s why he’s (potentially) available at No. 41 and not the top-25 pick his talent often dictates he should be.
Dillon Radunz, OT, North Dakota State
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Radunz was a force for the Bison at the FCS level, and his size and technical prowess should allow him to translate well to the much higher level of the NFL. He’s got outstanding feet and balance while engaged, two traits that Lions offensive line coach Hank Fraley values highly. Radunz showed out well enough at the Senior Bowl to merit consideration in the early second round, though he’s a player who might need more reps and seasoning before he’s ready to start at right tackle. The Lions don’t necessarily need a 2021 starter there, which makes Radunz a good fit for a developmental future starter.
Trevon Moehrig, S, TCU
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Moehrig is the top overall safety on most draft boards, and it’s easy to see why. He’s got an anticipatory approach to playing free safety in coverage and uses his excellent length wisely. Moehrig can make plays on the ball–six INTs and 26 PDs in 22 starts–and isn’t afraid to lower a shoulder and hit, either. His range and lateral quickness are only good-not-great, and the path to the tackle can be a misadventure at times; he’s not as fast as he thinks he is, and that shows on game tape in most every game. Moehrig is a great fit for a three-safety alignment, capable of playing a half of the field or coming up and locking down the bigger slot receivers. He’d be an instant starter at a position of dire need in Detroit.
Carlos Basham, EDGE, Wake Forest
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“Boogie” Basham is one of the most intriguing pass rushers in this class. At 6-3 and 274 and with a stocky build to his long frame, he’s reminiscent of Trey Flowers as an athlete. Basham has a great swim move and strong shoulders to get off blocks well, and he moves very adeptly for a bigger EDGE. The ability to play anywhere from the “over” tackle to stand-up rusher is where Basham offers real value. It’s the position where the Lions need help the least on the entire roster with Flowers, Romeo Okwara, Michael Brockers and Julian Okwara already on the roster in that general position, but Basham’s youth and untapped power potential would be a smart eye towards a future in Detroit where one (or more) of those key players are gone.
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