Living in the bay area, I get a lot of SF 49ers news and analysis. One of the most striking things (and what I think is a major catalyst for their recent success) is their 2010 draft. With two 1st round picks, the 49ers chose Anthony Davis (OT) and Mike Iuipati (OG), followed by Talor Mays (SS) in the second and NaVorro Bowman (LB) in the third. The 49ers were 8-8 in 2009 and actually got worse in 2010, but the team laid the ground work for future success by focusing on the trenches early in the draft, followed by choice skill player selections in the later rounds. I believe the Lions need to adopt the 49ers 2010 formula for this draft, especially when it coincides with our BPA schematic and the players are actually available. Considering the Lion's salary cap situation, this draft could really make or break the team down the road. The Lions have shown some promise in the past few years, but we are on the verge of a downward spiral if we can’t draft well and keep up with the rest of the rising teams in the NFL. The most important thing in accomplishing that is to get back to basics with the players we draft – those who can block and tackle.
Day One, Round 1
Round 1 (5th overall)Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M, Jr (6-4, 250)
I can live with the Lions not scoring a ton of points, but I can’t live with giving up a ton of points. That is why I’m going defense first. Luckily we are in a position to fill a huge need (at DE) with a player worthy of choosing this high. Most mock drafts are picking Moore to the Lions. It makes sense on a lot of fronts and most people will see this as the most rational pick. With KVB’s declining productivity and Avril’s contract issues, we need a solid pass-rushing DE to compliment Suh and Fairly. If the Lions are forced to part ways with both, it will mean that Willie Young or Law Jack will have to step up on the other DE position. I believe that this is a good thing, in fact, it’s long overdue. The Lions need to see what these players can do. Lions selecting DE in the 1st round is all but guaranteed, the question will be if the Lions will take another by the time the draft is over? If you are thinking Bjorn Werner is better than Moore, there is an argument to be made there, but Moore’s stats also tell a story:
Freshman year: All-Big 12 Honoree: 40 tackles, 5.5 sacks backing up Von Miller (a Denver draftee, hmmm….) at the joker position (hybrid DE/OLB). Sophomore year: 72 tackles while starting 10 of 12 games at Joker position. Junior year: AP All-American, First-team All-SEC as the Aggies' leader in tackles (80), sacks (12.5), tackles for loss (20.0), quarterback hurries (8), and blocked kicks (2). He did all this in a season when he played DE full-time (not Joker position).
I personally like Moore over Werner because of his quickness and how that fits better in the Wide-9 scheme (that we unfathomably seem to be keeping). But if we ever transition to a traditional 4-3 or even experiment with a 3-4, Moore is capable for playing the OLB position.
Other 1st Round targets:Bjorn Werner, DE, Florida State, Jr (6-4, 256)
This is a DE heavy draft class; I’d be very happy to welcome Werner in a Lions jersey. A lot of analysis I’m reading compares him to a Chris Long-type player. However, I think he’ll be a younger version of KVB, and who would be opposed to that? Werner is slightly bigger (dropped 20lbs to start his junior year) than Moore (who is quite lean), but possesses the same quickness. Unlike Moore, Werner is a more traditional DE but his explosiveness and non-stop motor should still fit well with the Lions. Hopefully one or both of these players will be available when we pick 5th.
Day Two, Round 2-3
2nd Round (#36 overall)Barrett Jones, C/OG, Alabama, r-Senior (6-4, 305 lbs)
Sticking to the trenches, the Lions need help across the O-line. Riley Reiff has the potential to develop into a solid tackle in the NFL, but the guard and center positions need major help. Barrett Jones fits perfectly in the Lions. He is tough, vocal, versatile, talented, has tremendous size (especially versus Riola at 6-1, 295 lbs), and is has leadership qualities. I can go on and on about Jones, but all you have to do is put on a tape of the National Championship game. Jones handled ND’s huge defensive Tackle, Louis Nix, with a season-ending foot injury.
Other 2nd Round targets:Lane Johnson, OT, Oklahoma, Senior (6-6, 303)
If Barrett Jones is selected before we are on the clock in round 2, then we lost out on our G/C for the next 10 years and take a significant hit to this particular draft strategy. However, we can still cover some ground by selecting Johnson, a versatile player who can handle both tackle positions. For his size, he is incredibly quick and explosive; he played QB in high school and TE before moving into the line permanently at Oklahoma. I think the Jason Fox experiment is not working out very well and we are due for an upgrade at both tackle positions (and at least a solid, reliable backup). It would be interesting to see an offensive line comprised of Reiff, Backus, Raiola, Cherilus, and Johnson.Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina, Sr (6-3, 310 lbs)
Unlike Jones, Cooper is a pure guard. But that’s more of a positive than a negative, he is really talented and has few weaknesses. Per Dane Brugler of CBS Sports:
Margus Hunt, DE, Southern Methodist (SMU), r-Senior (6-7, 280 lbs)
Cooper is a smooth, coordinated athlete with fluid footwork and outstanding balance, blocking well on the move and constantly getting to the second level. Cooper lacks overpowering strength and needs to cut down on the penalties, but is an extremely effortless mover with explosive quickness in tight quarters. With an impressive senior season, Cooper, who is almost fully recovered from January shoulder surgery, could be the first offensive lineman out of North Carolina to be drafted in the first round since 1987 (Harris Barton).
If both Jones and Johnson are gone (which could easily happened), Lions draft strategy will have to go back to BPA. Luckily, there are some really great DE’s in this draft. But Hunt stood out to me; watch the Hawaii Bowl game, he is a beast! His draft stock is going to depend largely on the combine because of his lack of experience (but he is incredibly athletic – see Gold Medal in Track and Field) It would be highly unusual for a team to pick two DE’s in the first two picks of any draft. But if it were to ever happened, this draft would be it. If this is the direction we go (after picking either Moore or Werner) then the Lions can safely let go of KVB and Avril and not worry about our defensive line for a long, long time. The needs in the secondary and offensive line will just have to wait… BPA or die!
3rd Round (#68 overall)Baccari Rambo, FS, Georgia, r-Senior (6-1, 215 lbs)
Recognizing that our secondary is quite porous, I’d personally go with a safety at this round and give Dwight Bentley, Chris Greenwood, and Jonte Green some time to develop. Rambo is a safety who can play coverage with his size and can tackle really well. Most importantly, he has remained healthy and is a play-maker just like Delmas:
An accomplished ball-hawk (16 career INTs) and an intimidating hitter, Rambo only has to reassure teams he's trustworthy to warrant early-round consideration.
There is an argument out there that, Daimion Stafford (FS, Nebraska) is better; but Stafford should be available in later rounds (we could potentially pick up both players!)
Other 3rd Round targets:Tony Jefferson, FS, Oklahoma, Jr (5-11, 212 lbs)
Lacks ideal size, but has great instincts. I’m sticking to the safety position at this point in the draft because the secondary (especially the FS/SS positions) have to be addressed.Khaled Holmes, C, Southern California, Senior (6-3, 305 lbs)
If we can’t get either Jones or Johnson in the second round of the draft, then we can pick up Holmes here. He played guard early at USC, transitioned to center and made 2nd Team All-Pac 12. Simply put, a poor-man’s Barrett Jones which is not a bad thing.Logan Ryan, CB, Rutgers, Junior (6-0, 190 lbs)
The 6-foot, 190-pound Ryan is a two-time All-Big East honoree. He registered 94 tackles, four interceptions and 18 passes defensed in 2012. A year ago, he established himself as one of the country's more intriguing young corners by registering 67 tackles, three interceptions and 14 passes broken up. That drew comparisons to former Rutgers standout Devin McCourty, the only cornerback in school history to have been drafted in the first round. Though Rutgers lost to Virginia Tech 13-10 in overtime in the Russell Athletic Bowl last Friday, Ryan went out in style, logging seven tackles and three passes broken up.
Clearly Ryan can play (especially physically); just reading into that CBS Sports assessment strikes me as a Darrell Revis-type shut-down player. His stock is slowly rising because teams are noticing his abilities. But like I mentioned earlier, I wouldn’t draft a CB in this draft until round 3 or 4, or if a high-ceiling CB lands on our lap. The Lions drafted three CBs last year, we have to give them a chance to play and prove themselves.
Day Three, Round 4-7
4th Round (Compensation Pick – late 4th round)Tavarres King, WR, Georgia, Sr (6-0, 192)
There is no question that we need a weapon of any regard opposite Calvin Johnson. I'm pretty convinced that we are going to take a skill position at this point in the draft (just look at our previous drafts, we reach). However, King really impressed Lions’ coaches at the Senior Bowl and it showed on the field too. I’ll defer the assessment of King to Rob Rang from CBS Sports:
STRENGTHS: Demonstrates great lateral agility, acceleration and generally reliable hands. Shows the stop-start-go elusiveness to consistently make defenders miss and enough straight-line speed to beat them over the top. His fluidity during drills at the Senior Bowl was also impressive, as he showed the foot quickness and balance to chop his feet and turn quickly. He was also the best on his squad at getting off press coverage. (Note: King was on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll each season at Georgia)
WEAKNESSES: Weaknesses: Possesses a lean, almost skinny build, especially in his lower body. Inconsistent pass catcher. Occasionally allows easy passes to slip through his fingers as he attempts to make defenders miss before securing the ball. May be limited to lining up outside due to his lean frame.
COMPARES TO: Emmanuel Sanders, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers -- King has the agility and straight-line speed to achieve success in the NFL, but his lean frame and inconsistent hands may make him a better complementary option rather than a front-line starter.
As a back-up to Burleson and some intermittent playing time, he could develop into a great complimentary player between Johnson at WR1 and Broles in the slot. King will definitely need to bulk-up to remain healthy at the next level.
Other 4th Round targets:Denard Robinson, RB/WR, University of Michigan, Senior
If he is available, and since this is my draft, I’m going put Denard in here as an alternative. And with a late 4th round pick, why not? Note: CBS Sports has Robinson projected in the 5-6th rounds, but after the combine, I see his stock rising due to his pure speed and agility. Want to tell me that there are other needs for the Lions to address with this pick? Ok, but how about the need to replace Best, isn’t that a need? Granted, watching the Outback bowl was painful (hell, as a Michigan fan, this whole season was painful); Denard slipped and fell a bunch of times on that wet turf, but he still got his yards. Senior bowl was not his best showing either; clearly, WR may not be his most effective position right away. It’s pretty well known that he has no chance to play QB at the NFL level. So what can he do? Wildcat QB, scat back, 3rd down RB, kick/punt returner, (developing) slot WR, CB? Could you just imagine what he could do as a situational RB, indoors, on the new artificial turf at Ford Field? These are all positions that the Lions are struggling with. By no means is he the answer to all of these questions, but he does give NFL defenses a serious threat to plan around. Currently, the Lions’ offense is so frigging vanilla that it’s painful to watch, I can even predict their play calls! I’m tired of other teams drafting LaMichael James, CJ Spiller, and Darren Sproles and using them sparingly with tons of success. Furthermore, I’m going to blow a gasket if we have another three-and-out to start a game. Given time to develop, Robinson could be a game changer; he will be a viable weapon on third downs, even if he only plays 10-15 snaps a game. Oh, and you can also say hello to the most dynamic punt/kick returner in the NFL since John Cribbs! (I’m going off a bit here, but hey, it’s just a mock)Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon, Senior (5-11, 192)
If you want to more traditional RB, Barner is a great alternative to Robinson, still providing the back-up plan for Best that Mayhew was missing.
5th Round (Assigned)Kevin Reddick, ILB, ILB, North Carolina, Senior (6-2, 246 lbs)
The linebacker position needs some help as well (what doesn't?). The 5th round could be a great spot to land one Kevin Reddick. He's got the size (and hopefully the athleticism - we'll see at the combine), but most importantly comes from a great program that has produced quality linebackers recently: Zach Brown, Bruce Carter, and Quan Sturdivant. If Reddick is available at this point, it will give the Lions some flexibility with the LB positions, possibly moving Tulloch outside and letting Durant go (if we can't work out a new contract).
Other 5th Round targets:Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M, rSr (6-0, 206)
There are other WRs that are better than Swope, but at this stage of the draft, he may be the best one available. He has great hands and quickness but lacks pure speed. But to me, he possesses a few things that really help him stand out: toughness, consistency, and health. Per cbssports.com :
"Swope isn't a flashy athlete but he's a terrific football player. He possesses the ideal build for a slot receiver in today's NFL and is an accomplished route-runner with sticky hands."
The analysis at the Senior Bowl is that he is also an excellent run-blocker.
6th Round (Assigned)Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina, Senior (6-7, 267 lbs)
Played on the dominant SC Gamecocks’ D-line across from Jadeveon Clowney. Raw pass-rusher, good tackler, great size and athleticism: I think a poor-man’s Aldon Smith. Taylor would a great pick-up in this round if our draft goes: Moore, Jones, Rambo, and a (RB/WR skill player). If he is available, then he gets strong consideration because it will allow the Lions to dump KVB and Avril.Other 6th Round targets: Daimion Stafford, FS Nebraska, Senior (6-1, 205)
More raw than Rambo, needs development, but a potentially great playmaker.Zach Boren, FB/ILB, Ohio State, Senior (6-0, 245)
One the most frustrating things that took place this season was that we rarely used a fullback. The loss of Jerome Felton (who is now in the Pro Bowl for the Vikings – irony…) hurt our run game. It is time to bring back the fullback position with the Lions. As much as it pains me to put a Ohio player on this list, Boren was an integral part of the OSU defense and played FB as well. He has great awareness and lateral agility; I see another Zach Follett-type special team’s ace in a developing FB shell.
7th Round and Undrafted prospects (should be brought in for tryouts):Jordan Kovacs, SS, Michigan, rSenior (5-11, 202 lbs)
A bit undersized, but possible developmental player for special teams and SS backup. Read his story, he is a work horse, high-character, productive player. He was tremendous at Michigan for 4 years. Kovacs worked his way up the depth chart and became one of the most productive player’s in Michigan’s history. He brings a ton of experience and intelligence to the next level.Joseph Fauria, TE, UCLA, Senior (6-7, 255 lbs)
Ideal size (think Pat’s Gronk), raw as a blocker, but great pass-catcher; put some pressure on Pettigrew to catch balls and will help with redzone TDs when Calvin is double-teamed.Craig Roh, DE, Michigan, Sr (6-4, 280 lbs)
May possibly be available, heard good things about his workout ethic. Try-out body if we can't swing a DE later in this draft.
If you haven't figured it out by now, I went to Michigan. Thanks for reading!