In the past couple of days, while procrastinating writing papers for college, I have visited this website many times, and seen many a mock draft. I've seen a bunch of different positions being taken with our first pick: We've seen arguments for Tight Ends and Wide recievers. Less ridiculously, we've seen advocates of offensive linemen, tackles, guards, centers. Some advocate a defensive end to replace Cliff Avril/make him expendable. Some have advocated a linebacker to strengthen an already pretty good linebacking corps. Others have stressed the cornerback position. I think anything other than the last sentence is a mistake.
Why a cornerback? Because not only is it our most pressing need, it is the only thing holding us back from being a championship caliber football team. Right now, our starting cornerbacks are Chris Houston (a fine #2) and Aaron Berry/Jacob Lacey, both undrafted free agents who should not be expected to be shutdown corners, though both have shown potential. And unless you think Alphonso Smith is as good as he thinks he is, I don't see anyone who has a shot at matching up with our new rival Brandon Marshall, not to mention Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, or even Percy Harvin. If we have no one to match up with those guys, we have no shot in this division. Marshall especially worries me, because when he gets going he can be almost impossible to stop.
Every other area of our team is pretty much good enough. Yes, another wide reciever would make our offense unbelievable, but an improvement from #5 rated offense to #1 rated offense doesn't matter much. Ditto tight end. I would even go so far as to say that of the offensive line. Yes, Backus is old, and Cherilus isn't very good. But apparently that combination was good enough, as not every defense has a Jared Allen. Our offense is good enough that we don't need to pay attention to it in the early rounds. A Day 2 pick to add to the wide reciever depth would be a good call (personally, Im partial to Junior Hemingway), as would a developmental tackle to add to Hilliard and Fox, but it is not a pressing need.
As for defense, yes, we have learned from the Giants that you can never have enough guys who can rush the passer. But with Lawrence Jackson, Willie Young, and now Everette Brown, we have good depth, and again, a day 2 pick on a raw pass rusher who could compete with those guys to succeed Vanden Bosch isn't out of the question, but we do not need a starting claiber defensive end. Even if we do trade Avril for draft picks (I'll get to that), I think one of those 3 could step up.
Linebacker is tempting. Tulloch is one of the best LB's in the game if you ask me, and our scheme depends mostly on LB play, especially in coverage and run support. I see Zach Brown as perfectly fitting our scheme and supplanting the departing Justin Durant (who, while good in run support, suffers in coverage, where Brown excels), and improving Levy's play as well. However, how much did our defense suffer because of LB play? Did we lose games because of Justin Durant, or did we lose games because of our CB's? Anyone who was forced to watch Matt Flynn carve up our secondary should know the answer. The hope is that we can snag Brown in the second round, or someone like Donta Hightower, but even if we can't, it'd be nice, it isn't a pressing need.
That brings us to CB. Our secondary lost us games last year, for sure. Unlike last year, when the draft came before free agency, we know for sure that no Nnamandi Asoumagha is coming to us. There are no solutions in the free agent pool. The current secondary will not be able to stand up to good wide reciever corps, and there is a limit to how much we can outscore other teams. The cornerback class in this draft, fortunately, is deep. Looking at this article, while there is no way we're going to land Morris Clairbone, it is a realistic possibility we can trade up to get Kirkpatrick or Jenkins, and a small possibility they land to us anyway. I think the Lions have to look into doing anything they can to get either of those two guys, perhaps trading Avril to do so. (Not going to get into my thoughts on Avril, but basically, he's very good, and it appears clear he is that good not necessarily because he's part of a system, see this link, but the risk entailed by betting on similar production from Lawrence Jackson is outweighed by the gains of improving the secondary). This is not to say that either of those guys won't bust, hell, Jenkins is practically draped in red flags, but we need to take such a risk in order to compete.
If that's not an option, then yeah, we go with whoever the best player available is, and don't reach for a position of need. But that means you have to take a second tier corner in round 2, be it Gilmore, Boykin, Norman, or Dennard. And unless the Lions think they've found a highly underrated player in one of those four (entirely possible, Schwartz has done it in the past, and Mayhew is a former CB who hopefully has an eye for talent at that position), the drop off in talent from Kirkpatrick to those guys, and the effect it has on the secondary, is big enough to cause concern. I think if we get Kirkpatrick, and he is the real deal, we have a shot at winning at least a wild card, maybe even the division. Without an additional good corner, its a fight with the Bears for a wildcard spot.
So, if you put together a mock draft, and it does not feature a CB in the top 2 rounds, I don't think you've really done a good job. Not that mock drafts really matter, of course, and for all I know Mayhew is going to completely ignore this as well. But just be aware....