Edson: Who Will The Lions Take With Their No. 1 Pick?

The NFL draft is big business.

There are college all-star games, the draft combine and the endless number of mock drafts that are floating on the internet and in newspapers around the country.

When the second-string tight end of the Iowa Hawkeyes is more well-known than a senator from Wyoming, you know we’re living in a brave new world.

It’s a far cry from the early days of the NFL draft, when the Detroit Lions drafted two future Hall-of-Fame quarterbacks with their No. 1 selections – Otto Graham of Northwestern in 1944 and Y.A. Tittle of LSU in 1948 – only to give up on them when they didn’t see their potential.

Now we have Thursday’s NFL draft on the horizon and as Lions fans we are wondering who that No. 1 pick will be.

First off, let’s give general manager Bob Quinn some credit. His first three No. 1 picks have been starters since Day 1 – Taylor Decker of Ohio State, Jarrad Davis of Florida and Frank Ragnow of Arkansas.

his track record is pretty good on the opening day of the draft.

Who do I think Quinn is leading toward this year? I want him to take talented Iowa tight end T.J. Hockenson. He is a great blocker and receiver. He would help open up the running game and also be a factor in the passing game. But if the Lions passed on Hockenson, they could grab his backup – that No. 2 tight end from Iowa – in Noah Fant.

Still, I think Quinn might trade back a few spots in the first round if the draft unfolds Thursday night like he hopes it will.

If the Lions move back 3-5 spots, they would still have a good shot at the player Quinn thinks will be a solid starter for 10 years – Alabama tackle Jonah Williams.

Williams has been a starter since Day 1 at Alabama and has dominated his SEC competition for three years. Plus, he has enough versatility to start his NFL career at guard or center.

Detroit fans, of course, want a sexy pick like a versatile tight end or an edge pass rusher. They still might get that, of course.

But if you follow the history of the New England Patriots – where both Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia came from – you know they build their teams from the inside out. That is, they start with building a line.

There are so many variables that will figure into Quinn’s choice – like who is drafted earlier on Thursday night and what teams offer him to move into the Lions’ No. 8 spot.

It all makes for some “Must See TV” and I intend to be in front of it to see what unfolds.

Nick Edson is a retired Hall of Fame columnist and sportswriter. He worked 25 years at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, 18 as sports editor. He is a two-time president of the Associated Press Sports Editors Association and a member of the Michigan Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.