By: Will Burchfield

In Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft, in which he selects players purely based on team needs, the Lions pick a lightning rod in the second round: Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon.

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Before going any further, keep Kiper’s ground rules in mind: “I’m not projecting picks based on what I’m hearing around the league. This is me making 107 picks — three full rounds — based on what’s best for each team at that slot, so that each team gets an ‘A’ grade.”

Mixon is widely viewed as a first-round talent, but his troubled past, which includes an on-film incident in which he punched a woman in the face, has diminished his draft stock. Most experts believe he will fall to the second or third round.

“Mixon would have been a first-(rounder) had it not been for that serious off-the-field issue,” Kiper said, via ESPN. “Now I think he’s solidified a second-round possibility as probably the third or fourth running back to come off the board. Remember, he’s also a great kick returner. He can catch the ball out of the backfield. I think…he (goes) in Round 2.”

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The Lions, for their part, have not ruled out drafting Mixon. In fact, GM Bob Quinn voiced displeasure that Mixon wasn’t invited to last month’s combine as it prevented teams from scouting the running back. The team later met with Mixon privately, but has kept mum on the situation of late.

Quinn will address the media on Thursday afternoon in advance of the draft, which kicks off next Thursday night.

The Lions have two talented running backs in the fold in Ameer Adbullah and Theo Riddick, but both present injury concerns. The duo missed a combined 22 games in 2016, which played a large role in Detroit’s season-long struggles running the ball. The Lions finished 30th in the league with 3.7 yards per carry.

In 12 games for the Sooners last season, the 20-year-old Mixon ran for 10 touchdowns and over 1,200 yards, averaging nearly seven yards per carry. He also caught 37 passes, five of which went for touchdowns.

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For what it’s worth, Kiper used the Lions first-round pick, No. 21 overall, to select Washington cornerback Kevin King.