BRISTOL, Conn. -- The need was there. So, too, was the player who made the most sense for the Detroit Lions to select.
In explaining why I went with Florida linebacker Jarrad Davis for Detroit’s No. 21 overall selection in the NFL Nation mock draft, it comes down to those two things. Linebacker, more than any other position on the roster, is a spot the franchise needs a talent infusion. And Davis hits on everything Detroit would want in a potential star linebacker.
He has high character, which is something that matters to the Lions from the top of their front office to the coaching staff. So there are no known red flags there. He has shown he is a good closer, which means he’ll be able to get to running backs fast if they break past the first level of the defense. That speed and acceleration also should be enough to help in pass coverage of running backs and tight ends -- something the guy he’d be replacing, DeAndre Levy, did so well.
The cutting of Levy is also what makes Davis an almost obvious pick for Detroit, particularly if Haason Reddick and Reuben Foster already have been selected. Davis is almost a perfect fit for the Lions, so he’d be a logical choice for general manager Bob Quinn.
There were other players on the NFL Nation draft board that were enticing, though, and if they end up there for real Thursday night, they might be too tempting to pass up.
The first of those players is Western Michigan receiver Corey Davis. He might be the best receiver in the draft and would give the Lions three players who could try to claim the No. 1 receiver role, along with Marvin Jones and Golden Tate. Davis has the hands to be a top red-zone threat for Matthew Stafford, the speed to create separation from cornerbacks and the height to be a mismatch for outside corners. Plus, he’d give the Lions flexibility to move Tate into the slot in three-receiver sets.
In our draft scenario, he’s the player I’d be clamoring for if I were offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, and I was really close to selecting him. But need won out over a position that's somewhat of a luxury, although I expect Detroit to address its lack of depth at receiver in the draft. However, if Corey Davis is available at No. 21 on draft night, it would not surprise me if the Lions chose him over Jarrad Davis. That's certainly not a lock, though.
Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton was another possibility at No. 21, and if the Lions decide they want a pure pass-rusher with versatility, he could end up as the selection. He has the body frame and athleticism Detroit likes in its defensive ends, and the Lions have a premier defensive line developer in Kris Kocurek. So he’d be tempting. But linebacker trumps defensive end here, and Davis might be a more versatile player, too.
Similar reasoning helped me make the decision of Jarrad Davis over a pair of cornerbacks -- Washington’s Kevin King and USC’s Adoree’ Jackson -- as well. Both are talented players who would fit for Detroit, but linebacker is the bigger need.
Vanderbilt’s Zach Cunningham was a possibility, but I think Davis should be rated higher than him, so that sent me toward him. I had similar thinking about Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt.
This leaves the Lions with Jarrad Davis, a pick that makes sense for them and would fit well for Bob Quinn a year after he made another first-round pick that was completely logical: Ohio State offensive tackle Taylor Decker. If his 2017 first-round selection works out as well as Decker did, Quinn would have the Lions on a strong path to future success.