Kiper ended up sticking with Jarran Reed for the pick, the same defensive tackle he named for the Lions in his first mock draft. But he was really close to giving the Lions Reed’s former teammate, A’Shawn Robinson, who Kiper instead slotted at No. 21 to Washington.
He explained his decision recently, and it should give an indication of how close the two Crimson Tide defensive tackles really are.
“Almost went with Robinson; actually had Robinson penciled in but I didn’t want to change it up. I don’t want to change to the other guy this time, last time, if it’s pretty close I’ll go with the guy I had,” Kiper said. “But Robinson is, to me, I had him higher than Reed on my ratings board. So people I talk to like Reed. But I think A’Shawn Robinson would be the guy if you’re going to project somebody else in there.
“For me, personally, I almost went with Robinson. In fact, I had him in and I took him out. So Robinson may be in the next projection to Detroit if Reed drops a little bit.”
Both are likely first-round picks in April’s NFL draft and would fill a massive need for the Lions. Detroit has its top two defensive tackles, Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker, headed toward potential free agency in March, and has little depth at the position besides Caraun Reid.
It is the second straight offseason where defensive tackle has been an issue. The Lions had to replace their top four defensive tackles following the 2014 season after Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley and Andre Fluellen left in free agency for various reasons.
Beyond defensive tackle, which will be an attention-grabbing position for Detroit at this week’s scouting combine, the Lions are expected to look heavily at offensive tackles, linebackers, cornerbacks, safeties, wide receivers and quarterbacks who could fall to the later rounds.