Lions' Top 2021 NFL Draft Targets

Alex Ballentine@Ballentine_AlexFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2021

Lions' Top 2021 NFL Draft Targets

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    Roger Steinman/Associated Press

    The Detroit Lions kick off a new era in the 2021 NFL draft with general manager Brad Holmes running his first selection process with his new team. 

    Holmes has already proved unafraid of making big decisions. This offseason, he has traded Matthew Stafford, let Kenny Golladay walk and traded for then re-signed Michael Brockers. 

    He'll be making more big decisions with the draft just one day away. The Lions are scheduled to make their first selection at No. 7 but the new GM has said the team is open to anything. 

    "We do have a cluster of players we're comfortable with picking," Holmes said. "But at the same time, we will be very prepared and willing to move in either direction. There have been discussions with other teams."

    So the Lions enter the draft as one of the wild-card teams in the top 10 who could go several directions, including a trade. 

    Here's a look at two players they could be targeting early and another who may be the guy with the 41st selection in the second round. 

DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

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    Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

    Jared Goff takes over a Detroit Lions offense that lacks firepower. Kenny Golladay's departure has been patched up by the signing of Breshad Perriman, but that's not really enough. 

    T.J. Hockenson is an ascending option at tight end, but Tyrell Williams and Geronimo Allison can't be the solutions at receiver. 

    Adding Heisman Trophy winner DeVonta Smith would upgrade the receiving corps instantly. 

    Smith's frame brings about questions. His slight build isn't one that we've seen succeed very often in the NFL, but the production at the highest level of college football is enough to overlook that. 

    "He's a detailed route-runner with the athletic ability to really make them count from a separation standpoint, and his ball skills are unquestioned," Lance Zeirlein of noted in his scouting report for the Alabama product. 

    While Golladay was a burner who could win 50-50 balls, Smith is the complete package capable of winning all over the field. He would give Goff a legitimate No. 1 receiver to throw to. 

Rashawn Slater, OT, Northwestern

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    The Lions could go with DeVonta Smith or Alabama teammate Jaylen Waddle to bolster their pass-catching corps, but the offensive line is another area Holmes could address. 

    Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow offer elite play at the left tackle and center spots, respectively, but the rest of the offensive line is questionable. The Lions gave up 42 sacks last season, which was 10th-worst in the league. 

    Right tackle was a trouble spot last season. Tyrell Crosby gave up five sacks, while Halapoulivaati Vaitai was responsible for six. Jonah Jackson was questionable as well, but he was a rookie and should improve in his second NFL season. 

    Rashawn Slater could step in to any of those three positions and be a high-level starter. Penei Sewell is seen as the No. 1 offensive lineman in this draft by most media, but is in the discussion. 

    Bob McGinn of the Athletic does a yearly survey of NFL scouts. This year, three of the 17 scouts he surveyed had Slater as their top offensive lineman in the draft. 

    "The underwhelming thing about him is his size and the way he looks," one of the scouts told McGinn. "He's built more like an inside player than a tackle, but he is really good. I hardly have any negatives. He's athletic, strong for his size, super smart. He's a technician. I thought he could play all five positions."

    Slater would ultimately have the most value playing right tackle opposite Decker but would take the offensive line as a whole to the next level. 

Tyson Campbell, CB, Georgia

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    There's a good argument to be made that the Lions should be looking to add a corner at No. 7. But that depends on how highly you rank Patrick Surtain II or Jaycee Horn. 

    Instead, the Lions could wait to address the need with the 41st pick in the second round. There's group of corners who would provide value when the Lions are back on the clock on Day 2. Greg Newsome II of Northwestern, Florida State's Asante Samuel Jr. and Georgia's Eric Stokes could all be considerations. 

    The Lions could like Tyson Campbell's size and speed combination, though. At 6'1" and 193 pounds, Campbell has the length and size needed to play outside corner. Campbell turned heads at his pro day running a 4.37 second 40-yard dash. 

    "If there's a run, both could go in the first," one NFL GM told Tom Pelissero of the Georgia cornerback duo Stokes and Campbell. "I think Campbell has a little more upside. Stokes is a little closer to playing (immediately)."

    Pairing Campbell with Jeff Okudah would give the Lions one of the best young duos at corner. If both hit their potential, they could have a lockdown secondary on cheap contracts.