A Sleeper Linebacker the Lions Should Consider Drafting

I feel that the Lions prospects of getting Von Miller in the draft are very low.  Only fourteen college teams play a 3-4 defense. Because of that fact the defensive linemen and linebackers that excel in the 3-4 in college get an extra look in the draft by NFL teams that also play the 3-4 defense.  Consequently I feel that Von Miller will get snapped up by one of those 3-4 teams before the Lions get a crack at him. 

I see the Dallas Cowboys as a teams that is very likely to take Miller.  He is a Texas A&M player so he will have a hometown following.  The Cowboys can bill him as a local product that makes good in the NFL for some extra marketing return.  Jerry Jones also loves Texas kids with a lot of hype, and Miller is getting the hype.  After all, we remember what he gave Detroit for Roy Williams don't we?

So if we don't get a shot at Miller, which outside linebacker prospect should we take in the draft?  There is also a strong possibility that the Lions will take a cornerback in the first round.  If that happens then Ayers is also likely to be off the board when the Lions choose in the second round, That is exactly what I hope will happen.

I have decided that Akeem Ayers is over-hyped.  I have watched pretty much every single bit of film I could get my hands on with Ayers in it.  He is almost always late to read and react.  Even then, Ayers often takes bad angles to the ball carrier that result in his tackling them from the side instead of head-on.  He is never aggressively makes a play on the ball carrier.  He almost never fills a gap with authority.  He often gets dragged for two or three extra yards on a tackle.  I am pretty much over Ayers at this point and have decided to drop him to a third or fourth round prospect on my draft board to ensure that somebody else takes him before the Lions do.


I like Bruce Carter a lot.  If the Lions can get him in the third round he is a steal.  The problem with Carter is that he suffered a severe knee injury that required reconstructive surgery. That caused him to miss the Music City Bowl and he is likely to miss the NFL combine and his pro day  as well.  This leaves NFL scouts with almost nothing to evaluate how Carter has rebounded from his injury.

Carter never had an exceptional initial burst, even before his knee injury.  Carter has good speed and an explosive finish, but the knee injury may have stolen the final closing burst that was his greatest strength. The injury might also make Carter less effective in pass coverage by limiting how quickly he can drop into a zone.

I will not be upset of the Lions take Bruce Carter.  But we all have to realize that Carter is going to be a blind pick based on faith.  He is likely to be a boom or bust prospect that will take some time to reach his potential.  The Lions need linebacker help immediately, and Mayhew does not strike me as the type takes that kind of risk at a position of such great need. 

While Mayhew is not likely to take Carter in the first round, some other NFL might take a roll of the dice on Carter before the Lions can pick in the second round.  Remember that Carter was projected as a mid-first round pick prior to hurting his knee.  It is quite possible that a good report from his doctors may ease the fears and some team will pick him up in the late first round or early second round.

So now we are down to it.  My sleeper pick for the outside linebacker that Detroit needs is Jonas Mouton of Michigan.  I am sure that some of you will not like this pick.  I doubt that we can find any pick in the draft that everybody will agree on, so I won't bother trying.  Instead, I will tell you why Mouton is a player the Lions should consider.

Players from Michigan are hard to evaluate.  The defense has never stepped up to their ability and that is the fault of some horrible coaching on the defensive side of the ball.  Rich Rodriguez has never been a very good coach of defense.  He is very offensively minded.  Yet he tried to press the West Virginia 3-3-5 defense onto the Wolverines when they did not have the personnel to suit it.  When you are being forced to play true freshmen in your secondary because of the lack of talent, it makes no sense to put five defensive backs on the field.

Because of the poor coaching of the Michigan defense and the horrible production from many of the Michigan defensive players, many Wolverines are severely underrated on the sites that are run by football geeks and sports media.  The ratings on these sties are often more about popularity than they are about actual skills.  This is why I try to get most of my scouting information from sites that have some actual credentials as NFL scouts. 

One place that uses former NFL scouts to evaluate players is the Sporting News War Room (SNWR).  The SNWR scouting report for Mouton makes him the #57 player in their top 100 ranking for the draft. That places him in the late second or early third round of the 2011 NFL draft.

Keep in mind that most NFL teams will scout all of the major colleges that are near them pretty thoroughly.  They are in easy traveling distance and many teams like to bring in hometown favorites.  Hometown guys usually get a warm reception from the local fans because they have been cheering for them for years.  So I would not be surprised if the Lions already have Jonas Mouton on their radar.

If you look at this scouting report for Mouton, you will see what I mean about him.  Keep in mind that this report is written by former pro scouts, not amateur geeks.  These guys are not just watching some youtube highlights and spewing trash.  They know how to evaluate talent and they watch all of the plays, not just the highlights.

Mouton played in 12 games for the Wolverines in the 2010 season.  He lead the Big Ten in tackles with 117, almost ten per game.  He added 8.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and recovered a fumble.  That is solid production in anybodies book.  If Mouton could do that in the NFL he would be a Pro Bowl/All Pro player.

The positives for Jonas Mouton are impressive.  He is aggressive and can hit with authority, both attributes that Jim Schwartz loves.  He has excellent quickness and instincts.  He takes excellent pursuit angles to the ball.  He reads and reacts quickly. He can cover sideline to sideline.  He is very good in pass coverage and even capable of guarding a slot receiver.  He has outstanding ball reaction in coverage.  There is a lot more good things to say about Mouton, but that is the short version.

The negatives about Mouton are few.  He does not have great pass rushing technique, but he can learn.  He can sometimes struggle to shed blocks from big players in tight spaces, but he can learn.  He sometimes drops his head when he lunges for a tackle and it causes him to miss, but he can correct that.  The great part about his negatives are that they can all be addressed with proper coaching.  They are not physical shortcomings.  They are technique issues brought on by insufficient coaching.

The SNWR report projects Mouton to be an immediate starter in the NFL with added value on coverage special teams.  Mouton seems like a near perfect fit for the Lions.  He will not be asked to rush the passer very often in Detroit, so he will have time to develop better pass rushing moves.  The other technique issues are fairly small compared to all of the positives he brings.

Depending on how other teams rate Mouton he could possibly be available to the Lions in the third round.  If the Leos strike out on linebackers in the first two rounds he could become an excellent value pick in the third round.  He could even turn out better than a lot of the other highly rated OLBs because the lack of hype might help him fly under the radar a bit.  But I think the Lions will notice a gem that is right in their own back yard.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.

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