I wanted to share some draft thoughts with you guys as that time of the year is fast approaching. First let me start with how I think the draft will go and who will be available for the Lions to take.
1. Panthers: DT Nick Fairley. Ron Rivera is a defensive minded coach and I think that the upside of any quarterbacks this year versus Jimmy Claussen do not warrant the number one overall pick. With Peppers gone I believe that they will look towards rebuilding this team through the trenches.
2. Broncos: CB Patrick Peterson. Champ Bailey is not getting any younger and may opt out of Denver in free agency. To make matters worse Perrish Cox may be facing jail time. I do not think that an elite talent like Patrick will be passed up here. Everyone wants a shutdown corner and this guy is as sure of a bet as you are going to get.
3. Bills: QB Blane Gabbert. In the past the Bills have had to watch other teams draft their guy in front of them, this year I think they will jump at the opportunity to get their guy and have their pick of the litter.
4. Bengals: WR A. J. Green. Carson Palmer has been making some noise and I expect management to make an appeasement pick here. This will also help them ease the losses of Housh, Chris Henry, and soon to be T. O.
5. Cardinals: OLB Von Miller. Ken Wisenhunt comes from the Pittsburgh pedigree and there are rumors that Dick Lebeau may be on his way to a warmer and drier climate. Everyone knows that those two love to build a defense around line backers and this guy is the perfect fit in a 3-4 scheme as an OLB.
6. Browns: DT/DE Marcell Darius. A good fit for their scheme these guys need to get a more dominant pass rush to help their secondary and this guy will do that and play the run well. The versatility to play inside or outside depending on what package they want to run will only help this guy even more.
7. 49ers: CB Prince Amukamara. I believe that Jim Harbaugh is going to see enough in Alex Smith to want to work with him or will look for more of a project guy in later rounds to groom. I also think that the Titans are so desperate for a quarterback that they are going to trade up to get one at this pick. I may be wrong but I think the amount of talent left on the board will make the Niners bite on the trade.
8. Titans: QB Jake Locker. It is no secret that Jeff Fisher wants a QB. I believe that the character issues with Cam Newton will scare them off of him making them pay a premium for Jake Locker. Trading up one spot to the 49ers will be costly but a price they are willing to pay in order to speed the healing process from missing on VY.
9. Cowboys: OT Tyron Smith. While Jerry Jones may go stupid in the head here and draft a skill player on the offense the smart move would be to shore up that offensive line and keep Tony Romo healthy.
10. Redskins: QB Cam Newton. I think that Shanahan will reach a bit here to go and get his guy, a mobile QB that can make things happen out of the pocket and extend plays. We also know that character issues are not much of a concern for Shanahan given his past quarterbacks.
11. Texans: DE Da’Quan Bowers. The Texans will be amazed this guy is still around and be happy to get a guy that can help shore up that defense and provide some real nightmares for opposing quarterbacks. Putting this guy on the same line with Super Mario will do a lot to help out a struggling secondary.
12. Vikings: DE Robert Quinn. I expect the Vikings to address the QB position by acquiring a veteran. I believe that they are still sold that this is a solid team that can win now with improved QB play. They will continue to flux youth in behind their solid veterans.
13. Lions: Now we get to the meat of it. While this may not be the exact order of how things go down it does give us an idea of who might be left on the board for the Lions and what their options may be.
Ryan Kerrigan DE: The top guy left on my board and taking him would fit in a couple of ways. First off he is a high motor guy that has a very similar game to KVB, he would be perfect to groom him under. He would fit well with our defense. Personally, I also love this kid and would be very happy if we drafted him. However he does not fit in a couple of ways. Philosophically speaking the Lions like to take BPA but that is a modified BPA. For instance we know that they favor going for the best player of a positional group rather than 3rd or 4th in a grouping. For example they took the best tight end in the draft (Pettigrew) over a solid tackle (Michael Oher) that was rated very similar or possibly even higher and was also a position of need at the time. There is also the fact that the Lions are pretty stacked at defensive end right now and have more pressing needs elsewhere on the roster. While Kerrigan might be the pick, I believe that he the Lions would pass up on him in this board.
Julio Jones WR: An intriguing prospect and a dark horse selection in this scenario. While the Lions could use another talented receiver, I think that Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson are a good 1 / 2 punch that will devalue this positional group for the Lions too much in the draft for them to select one in the first round. Some of you may have picked up on the fact that I have a man crush on Leonard Hankerson and expect him to be available in the 2nd or 3rd round. While I do think there is a high probability of the Lions drafting a wide receiver I do not see it happening in round 1.
Adrian Clayborn DE: Another dark horse pick. If the Lions fall in love with this guy you never know, they just might take him. Not too long ago he was touted as the most talented player in this draft class and the Lions may feel that way about him. Personally, from watching games this year, I was not impressed with his conditioning and motor. He has a tendency to run out of gas and fade away later in games. He also took several downs off, which I know is common for a defensive lineman, but still not acceptable IMO and not something that this coaching staff would want in a first round selection.
Nate Solder OT: This guy just might be a viable pick if he is there. He has more finesse to his game than power but he very sound technically on his blocks and has no problem getting to the second level with a block. He is also better in the power blocking and run game than some give him credit for and will only get better there as the pro coaches get a hold of him in the gym. More leg drive and upper body strength will make this guy capable of being a dominant left tackle, pro bowl caliber IMO, within a couple of years. A perfect fit to groom behind Jeff Backus or start immediately (putting Gosder Cherilus on the bubble). I think this guy would be a very likely pick if he is there, along with Tyron Smith (who I already have off my board in this scenario but the picks might be flipped and Smith might be the one available).
Cameron Jordan DE: I think everyone knows how I feel about a DE being selected at this point and Cam is the 3rd down on my board. The only way the Lions would take him is if they have fallen in love with him, which is usually the kiss of death in a draft room.
Mike Pouncey G/C: This is another intriguing prospect that should almost for sure be out there when the Lions select. He is a big physical interior lineman that would qualify as a road grader. There is not much finesse to his game but he is the only guy capable of playing, or being groomed into being, a NFL center, that can take on a DT one on one and win. This makes him a bit of a unique talent in this draft class and may move him up some boards significantly. He would be a very good fit for the Lions blocking scheme and lines right up with their team needs. Selecting this guy puts Dominic Raiola and / or Stephen Peterman in a dog fight to keep their job this year. Even if they manage to keep their jobs this year, their days will be numbered and counting down, quickly.
Akeem Ayers OLB: This guy has a rare mix of size and athleticism. He projects very well into a 4-3 strong side line backer which would make him a solid fit to replace Julian Peterson. Watching film on him he does look a bit raw in his tackling, which is not something you want to see with a line backer. But the intangibles with him are so off the charts it makes him a very interesting prospect. The upside on this guy is almost unlimited. First off he is 6’ 4” and 255, and on that frame you can see there is plenty of room to grow. Even with all of that size he is very fast and does not seem to have much issue covering the edge on smaller and faster running backs. He also protects his feet very well and uses his hands well to fight off blocks. He has very good balance. While he may give up ground at times, he does not give up on plays and is rarely taken completely out of the play. He also has the ability to go 1 on 1 with a tight end or lineman and completely wash them out. He has a lot more power in his game than what some might think. He is a smart player and is very gap conscious and disciplined on the field too. He is also able to put his hand in the dirt and rush with both speed and power, making him a versatile addition to any NFL line backing corps. While this guy will require some time to hit his ceiling, it is a very high one. I can definitely see this guy both being available and being picked by the Lions but hope he is not (explained later).
Gabe Carimi OT: While Gabe is not the top rated tackle on the board he is one of the best power blockers and is the most likely to get pushed inside to guard if he don’t work out as a tackle. This makes him line up with the Lions needs fairly well as he could play any position on the line but center. While he is a dark horse I would not be shocked to see him be the pick.
Anthony Castonzo OT: Anthony is probably the best mix of size, strength, finesse, and power of the tackle prospects. While he is not the top guy on the board he just might end up being the best of the crop when it is all said and done. Again, with all of the tackles mentioned so far it is more of a question of scheme and philosophy matching up with them than any large differential in talent.
Mark Ingram RB: The most well rounded and polished running back in the draft. This guy can do it all, and do it all well. He has the right blend of size and speed, elusiveness and power to be an every down back in the NFL. Or in the Lions case, the perfect compliment to Jahvid Best. This guy might not be on a lot of Lions fans radar but he should be. He just might be the best selection the Lions could make that would be an immediate impact on the team. Contrary to popular belief, the best way to protect Matt Stafford is not by selecting a stuff offensive lineman, there are plenty of capable linemen that will be found after the first round in the draft. Actually the best friend to Matt Stafford would be a solid running game, and in fact, the efforts of Mo Morris late in the season are exactly what put this team on a 4 game winning streak. Do not be surprised if this guy is the Lions pick. Also do not be surprised if he is not, as much like lineman, actually even more than lineman, you can find a good running back in later rounds of the draft. It all comes down to if the Lions think he is the best running back in the draft and want to select him based on that.
I am going to skip some other names at this point as there are plenty of defensive ends already mentioned and I do not see the Lions drafting a quarterback. The only name I am skipping here that might have any relevance at all is OLB Justin Houston. But don’t let that OLB tag fool you, in a 4-3 scheme he is more likely a defensive end than a line backer.
Brandon Harris CB: This guy is good with is feet and certainly does not lack for speed. He should be able to stay with any receiver in the NFL making him an elite cover corner prospect. On top of having that he is tough and has had a tough road to get where he is, Early on in his collegiate career he had some hard knocks and has become very mentally tough too, making him more likely to succeed at the next level. While this guy might be a bit of a reach in some books, I am not sure that he should not be placed over Prince Amukamara or at least closer to him than what he is. One thing that may not help Brandons case is Jimmy Smith, who would be the next corner off the boards in most scenarios. Jimmy Smith is much like a Antonio Cromartie with length, speed, and size. Of the top 4 corners in the draft Harris is the smallest. He and Smith may just slide into the second round but I doubt that either of them would make it to the Lions pick in the second round. The Lions are in grave need of an elite cornerback to compliment Chris Houston. Alphonzo Smith has talent but lacks the size to play outside and is more suited to nickel. Nathan Vasher filled in admirably but there is no telling on how that will pan out a year later and he is no shutdown corner. All of the circumstances line up very well for Brandon Harris to be the pick for the Lions.
So there you have my take on how things might shake out. I do not see any of the sure bet favorites being available to us at 13, and the choices left to us will not be ideal. I would not be surprised to see the Lions trade down as there may be a rush on quarterbacks and Ryan Mallet might be the best one left and the only one left worthy of a first round selection for a team in need. Miami at 15, Jacksonville at 16, and Seattle at 25 would be the most likely trading partners for Mallett. Granted Miami does not have much incentive since the only other team selecting before them is the Rams, who have Sam Bradford. However if they think that the Jaguars or Seahawks might be moving up for Mallett then you just might see them jump up to get him.
Of the names mentioned above I would be happy with any offensive lineman or corner back. I would be very happy to see Prince Amukamara or Von Miller slide down to us, but that is highly unlikely. Of the names mentioned the one I am most scared of the Lions picking is Akeem Ayers. While I love the guys upside potential and head, I am not sure he plays with enough desire and intensity to make it at the next level. Ingram scares me a bit also, as running backs tend to have short careers in general and the Lions seem to have horrible luck with injuries to that position.
If I had to pick a favorite lineman I would actually go with Mike Pouncy. I believe he has a unique talent in this draft and one that you do not see come along very often with the ability to play a road grader from the center position. I feel that Cory Hilliard and Jason Fox give the Lions enough depth and growth on the book ends to not have to select a tackle this year at all and I am still not sold on letting Gosder go. I also think that Stephen Peterman played decent down the stretch when healthy and that he will retain his job in camp. I think you all see where this is leading, so if Pouncy is the pick, thanks for the hard work and memories Dom, try not to flip anyone off on your way out.
Of the corner backs I actually like all four of them, Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, Brandon Harris, and Jimmy Smith. They all offer something different and lets be real here, Peterson is not making it to 13, if he does and the Lions do not select him I think I just might have to break something. Of the remaining three they all bring something different to the table, but the Prince fits us best if he where there for some reason. Much like Peterson, if he is there and the Lions do not take him, I will be spewing vulgarities and looking for small furry creatures to kick.
I know its a long read, I hope you all found it worthwhile.