The Detroit Lions currently hold what may end up being the most valuable pick in the entire first round of the 2020 NFL draft.
With LSU quarterback Joe Burrow a virtual lock to go No. 1 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Washington Redskins set on Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young, the Lions will have multiple options at their disposal when they’re on the clock.
First, they can leverage Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and trade the pick to a QB-needy team like the Miami Dolphins or Los Angeles Chargers. While neither team would be making a massive jump up the first round to move into the third pick, Detroit would still come away with multiple picks this year and an additional first-round pick in 2021, at the very least.
Of course, Detroit also has the option of selecting Tagovailoa themselves, especially if coach Matt Patricia has enough confidence to assume he’ll be with the Lions long enough to actually see Tagovailoa eventually take over as the starter.
The best option, however, may be to keep the third pick and select Auburn defensive lineman, Derrick Brown.
Derrick Brown will be an instant star
Brown has everything that today’s NFL defenses are looking for from interior defensive lineman. He’s cat-quick off the snap and follows that ridiculous first step with a stunningly powerful punch. If opposing offensive lines dare block him one-on-one, it’s game over. He consistently puts his opponent on skates and has the kind of schooled hand technique to stack and shed blocks like an elite player already.
And Brown isn’t just a 320-pound run-stuffer. His quick-twitch off the snap gives him a Warren Sapp-like ability to penetrate the pocket, and even when his first step is neutralized, he has enough pass-rush moves in his toolbox to effectively get after the quarterback.
Brown’s film displayed an effective swim move as well as a powerful rip. His bull rush is a thing of beauty, too. He sacked Burrow this season by using LSU’s guard to knock him off balance.
The Lions could use a force like Brown along their defensive line. Damon Harrison, A’Shawn Robinson and Mike Daniels are all heading for unrestricted free agency. Daniels and Harrison were the Lions’ highest-graded defensive linemen in 2019, per Pro Football Focus; they’re going to have a massive void in their starting lineup.
Detroit might utilize the free-agent market to land a veteran or two to fill in as starters, but a player with Brown’s combination of traits doesn’t come along very often. In fact, if the 2020 draft didn’t have two quarterbacks worthy of the No. 1 overall pick, there’d be a legitimate debate about whether Brown should be the first player drafted. It’s probably worth at least considering Brown as the best defensive player in this class, even with Young in its midst.
Most mock drafts have the Lions selecting Ohio State cornerback Jeff Okudah in the first round, and that would be an equally valuable pick for Detroit’s defense. They’re lacking a true shutdown cornerback and Okudah is by far the best in this year’s class.
But Brown has the kind of game that will make second-tier cornerbacks suddenly play like bonafide starters because of the stress he’ll put on the opponent’s passing game. He’s going to force quarterbacks into hurried and panicked throws, which will create more turnover opportunities for average cover guys.
Interior disruption has become one of the most critical factors in an effective defense, and no player in the 2020 NFL draft offers more upside in that department than Brown.
If the Lions were smart, they’d take him and not think twice.