Pick #16 — Detroit Lions
Detroit has been seeing their talent leave for greener pastures lately — either through free agency (Suh) or retirement (Calvin Johnson) — and it has left them with major holes at what were once the tentpoles of their success.
Their defensive line still has some good contributors (Haloti Ngata, Ezekiel Ansah), but it is nowhere near the strength it used to be. They picked up Marvin Jones to pair with Golden Tate, but while that 1-2 punch should still have plenty of good moments, they no longer have their dominant gamebreaker that can unhinge a coverage.
Beyond those issues, they have a beatable offensive line, lackluster running game, and a quarterback who is sub-elite at best.
They need talent in a bad way to stop the hemorrhaging.
Lucky them; although it may lack star power, this draft projects as one of the best in recent memory in terms of high-end depth.
Based on who is left at this point, adding talent in one of the trenches stands as the obvious route to immediate improvements.
On the offensive line, we see prospects at every spot who could be worth a look. Jack Conklin or Taylor Decker could be a long-term fix at either tackle slot. Cody Whitehair would be an instant starter at guard. Ryan Kelly would ground the team in the middle of the line.
On the defensive line, we see a lot of talent available in terms of interior players; Nkemdiche, Rankins, Billings, Reed, and Vernon Butler are all still here.
The area that may be more needed is the offensive line, but there are a decent number of prospects spread through the later rounds who might end up being just about as viable as any of the guys available now; the defensive line guys look to be a sizable step above what may be available later on there however, so the focus of this first pick should be put here.
With so many guys who could turn into capable pieces — but all of which have the potential to falter as well — this would be a situation where going with the highest-variance option is the best move.
With that in mind, Nkemdiche is the pick. He may have some issues, but those specific issues are pretty overblown in my opinion, and a team shouldn’t let that impact their decision over selecting him for his abilities. Detroit has been a team willing to deal with somewhat unique personalities and high-variance players with a decent track record of success (Suh for the former, Ansah for the latter), and would be well served to take a shot on another.
Even if he tops out as one of his player comparisons (Sharrif Floyd), the team will have a nice piece for years to come; should he attain a higher level (which he undoubtedly can), they’ve just added someone offenses have to specifically plan around to try mitigating his impact.