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Mel Kiper Drafts Linebacker To Lions In First 2019 Mock

He could form "a stellar tandem" with Jarrad Davis, says Kiper.

January 17, 2019 - 1:20 pm

Two years ago, the Lions spent their first-round draft pick on a middle-linebacker in Jarrad Davis. They could repeat that pick this year, according to ESPN's Mel Kiper. 

In his first 2019 mock draft, published Thursday morning, Kiper sends LSU linebacker Devin White to the Lions at No. 8 overall. White won the 2018 Dick Butkus award as the nation's best linebacker. 

"This is a spot to watch for a pass-rusher, as the Lions could part ways with free agent Ezekiel Ansah," Kiper says. "In fact, coach Matt Patricia could use improvements at every level of his defense.

"White is a fly-to-the-football linebacker with similar athletic traits as Detroit middle linebacker Jarrad Davis, who was taken in the first round in 2017. The two could form a stellar tandem, as both are three-down linebackers. White isn't a true pass-rusher, but he makes plays in the backfield." 

It'd be a somewhat redundant pick two years after Davis, especially because White also plays middle linebacker. Only one of them could man that position. That'd create a dilemma right off the bat. 

It'd also create a competition, which every coach appreciates. Matt Patricia is no different. 

Patricia, of course, has an affinity for versatile linebackers. White, who led the SEC with 123 tackles this season, fits that bill. He'd be in a defensive scheme in which he could thrive right away.

Still, linebacker isn't a pressing need for the Lions. The team could use a pass rusher or a cornerback much more, to say nothing of tight end, wide receiver or safety. (Glover Quin's possible retirement looms large in the latter case.)

Kiper has two pass rushers and a cornerback coming off the board in the four picks after the Lions: Michigan DE/DT Rashan Gary to the Bills at No. 9, Georgia CB Deandre Baker to the Broncos at No. 10 and Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell to the Packers at No. 12.

Of Gary, Kiper writes, "At his peak, the 6-foot-6, 283-pound Gary is a menace who makes offensive linemen look foolish, but you'd like to see him do it with more regularity. Gary could play end or nose guard in a 3-4 defense or tackle in a 4-3."

Speaking of Michigan products, Kiper also has linebacker Devin Bush going No. 20 to the Steelers. 

"The phrase I keep repeating about Bush is "perfect for today's NFL." He would be a great fit as a three-down linebacker who never has to leave the field. At 5-foot-11, Bush is undersized, but he should test well at the combine." 

Elsewhere in the NFC North, Kiper sends Ole Miss left tackle Greg Little to the Vikings at No. 18. The Bears gave up their 2019 first-round pick in the Khalil Mack trade.