New 2020 NFL Mock Draft Sends Lions Impact Defender

A.J. Epenesa

Getty A.J. Epenesa makes a play for Iowa.

The Detroit Lions are fading fast in the 2019 season, and for fans, the only answer is to continue to look toward the NFL Draft for some solace.

With Detroit now chasing a top selection, thoughts turn to the draft and who the team might be able to pick up when they select. To that end, a new name was thrown into the hopper by Pro Football Focus.

Recently, PFF put forth a new mock draft, and the Lions were given Iowa pass rusher A.J. Epenesa by Michael Renner. Here’s a look at what Renner wrote about why PFF had Epenesa pegged to Detroit:

“After a lackluster start to the year, Epenesa has shown down the stretch that he’s a talent worthy of a top-10 selection. Over his last six games, Epenesa has racked up 28 pressures and a pass-rushing grade over 90.0. His versatility is perfect for Matt Patricia’s scheme and would give them a lot of options opposite Trey Flowers.”

In his career with the Hawkeyes, Epenesa has put up 24 sacks, 8 forced fumbles and 97 tackles in three seasons. He’s been one of the more explosive pass rushers in the Big Ten and has stated his case to perhaps be a top selection in next year’s draft.

Arguably, the Lions need pass rush help the most in 2020, and if they couldn’t get their hands on Chase Young, Epenesa would be the second best choice. Detroit remains on the move for a high draft pick after this season.

Recent Lions Draft Results

After a tough 6-10 finish to the 2018 season, Detroit finished with a top 10 pick at No. 8. They were able to snag tight end T.J. Hockenson, who’s been one of the offensive bright spots thus far this season. That proves overall how a painful finish can lead to some better players.

As a whole, Detroit has done a decent job in recent drafts getting talent that can compete on the roster immediately. Last season’s top three picks are playing a major role for the team this season. Names such as Taylor Decker, Kenny Golladay, Jarrad Davis, Graham Glasgow and Tracy Walker are also playing a big role for the team when they are healthy and engaged.

While there have been a few mistakes, Quinn has done a decent job to identify talent with some of the picks he has made thus far during his tenure in the Motor City. Another high pick next year could give him a chance at adding another impact player to the squad.

Should Lions Tank to Finish 2019?

The Lions are in an interesting predicament. Matthew Stafford has a painful back injury he’s fighting that might not be as debilitating long term as it initially sounded. As a result, Stafford could return in a few weeks to give the team some much needed juice, even though he probably shouldn’t. Do the Lions still have a shot at the playoffs? With three teams ahead of them in the NFC North and other contenders with better records, the hopes would seemingly on the surface be slim at this point, meaning many will contend the team should decide to tank for the chances of a better draft selection.

Detroit isn’t likely to outwardly give up on their 2019 season with the sole purpose of the 2020 draft even if it makes sense, but should the team keep losing, a higher pick is merely another advantage of some short term pain. This coming season, the Lions could use more defensive help most of all in addition to some depth at wide receiver, quarterback, running back and along the offensive line.

As it stands today, Detroit has seven picks in the 2020 draft. They added an extra fifth round selection after dealing Quandre Diggs this past trade deadline. Detroit traded a 2020 seventh round pick for Eli Harold entering the 2018 season.

While many things can and will change, for now, Detroit’s own selections are trending to be on the higher side for next year, and now are within the top 10 for the moment.

READ NEXT: Examining Lions Biggest Needs for 2020 NFL Draft

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