I'm starting a series of articles that focuses solely on the Lions' 2014 draft. Right now, the team is 6-4 and headed for a likely playoff berth (knock on wood) and possibly their first division title in decades (knock on anything). This series is based off of my theory that with one more good draft class and free agent class, the Lions will finally have all of the pieces they need to make a Super Bowl run. Thus, I am dubbing this series "The Super Draft". Before I get into the mock draft, I'll take a brief look at the team's positional needs.
1. Wide Receiver: Preferably one with speed and elusiveness. Durham has stepped up huge so far but the group needs an overall talent upgrade. Definitely a position I could see them double-dipping on.
2. Outside Linebacker: Levy is having a career year and Tulloch has done well too. Both are under contract but they need a running mate to round out the corps and make the front 7 truly unstoppable. Another position that they could take two of.
3. Cornerback: Easily the most difficult position to guage. Mathis and Houston have both been solid but also hampered by injury. Darius Slay has shown flashes but needs more time to develop.
4. Defensive End: I really like Israel Idonije but he hasn't had the impact we thought he would. Jason Jones is hurt and adding another difference maker to the rotation would do wonders for the line.
5. Center: This would normally be ahead of DE, but Raiola is having a career year with the new talent around him. Grabbing a mid-round starter to train behind Dom is very likely.
If you're still reading this after I intentionally didn't include offensive tackle or tight end on that list, thank you. You and I are on the same page.
The offensive tackle situation is looking strikingly more positive than it did before the season, with Reiff playing like a first-rounder and LaAdrian Waddle making Mayhew look like a genius.
Speaking of which, can we take a second to acknowledge the impact of the Brian Xanders hiring? It's been huge.
Anyway, unless Pettigrew leaves in free agency, I just don't see Mayhew picking a tight end early. Fauria has been another undrafted miracle and once he has an offseason to develop his game (his blocking) and get stronger, he could be a premier TE. Don't forget about Michael Williams, either.
Now, on to the mock...
**NOTE: This mock (and all future mocks) are based on 2 assumptions. One is that the NFL will give the Lions 2 compensatory draft picks (one 4th-rounder and one 5th-rounder) to make up for the losses of Cliff Avril and Gosder Cherilus in free agency last spring. The other is that the Lions will be picking somewhere between 20 and 25.
ROUND 1: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State - As tempted as they will be to take guys like Jordan Matthews or Allen Robinson, the dropoff of talent between rounds 1 and 2 in this class of linebackers is just too big. Shazier can do everything will make the front 7 truly fearsome. His coverage skills will bolster an underachieving pass defense while his explosive first step, sure tackling and nasty demeanor will clean up against the run.
ROUND 2: Odell Beckham Jr., WR, LSU - The Lions finally get an explosive partner for Calvin. Beckham can play outside or inside, and is one of the biggest gamebreakers in the country as a returner. His agility, vision and 4.4 speed will be exactly what the offense needs to reach its insane potential.
ROUND 3: Aaron Colvin, CB, Oklahoma - Besides his size/speed combo, his natural man-cover skills and aggresive style will intrigue Mayhew and Co. enough to make him the pick. Good value here and instant talent upgrade for the entire unit.
ROUND 4: Bryan Stork, C, Florida State - The Lions get their replacement for Dom. It's pretty ideal because they can either start him if Dom retires or develop him if Dom keeps playing like he is this year.
ROUND 4 (comp): Jonathan Brown, OLB, Illinois - This has to be my favorite pick. Brown is fast, athletic, smart as they come and completely under the radar of draft scouts. He was a Butkus award semi-finalist in 2012 and 19.5 TFLs in 2011. His instincts and angles in run support are phenomenal and he would be a great depth piece for this defense.
***In each mock draft, I will be doing a sub-segment called "WHY I THINK THIS PICK WILL ACTUALLY HAPPEN". Pretty self-explanatory. So, without further ado...***
WHY I THINK THIS PICK WILL ACTUALLY HAPPEN: Schwartz is going to be drooling over this guy if they can get him this late. Not only is he explosive, he's versatile. He played both inside and outside linebacker at Illinois, and the staff won't miss a chance to get someone who can be a quality backup at all 3 LB positions.
ROUND 5 (comp): Kareem Martin, DE, UNC - He has the size profile the Lions like in a DE at 6'5" 265. He can be explosive off of the edge and entered the year as one of top DE prospects but his slow start to the season caused his stock to drop. He has caught fire as of late and is up to 9 sacks and 16 tackles for loss on the year. Playing next to Suh, Fairley and Ansah, he could finally reach his lofty potential.
ROUND 6: L'Damian Washington, WR, Missouri - At 6'4", 205 and with 4.3 speed, Washington could be a steal this late. He's already racked up almost 700 yards and 9 TDs this season, and next to Megatron and Beckham he could make a significant impact even in his rookie year.
ROUND 7: Shamar Stephen, DT, UCONN - A big (huge) bodied DT that can learn from the best and hopefully give us quality depth.
Let me know what you think (and if I messed up, who YOU would draft) in the comments section!