The hallowed annual "Christmas in April" for Lions' fans is almost here. And honestly, it can't come fast enough. I'm tired of arguing the same stale talking points of why Fisher is better than Joeckel or why Ansah might be better than Fisher or why we don't need Milliner. As fans, we have our minds narrowed to a few select players that we feel like Detroit is going to select. I think for most of us, if available, it's going to be Joeckel, Fisher, Ansah or Milliner. Right? I mean, this is what the conversation and mocks come down to.... every single time.
If that's the case, then it's likely you are not prepared. Prepared for what? For a very likely scenario.... the Lions taking someone totally off our radar with their first pick. Be it through bad luck via availability, best player strategy or the Lions simply falling in love with a certain player, the inevitability of a shocker come draft day could happen at the top spot or in the event of trading back for someone we never thought they would. This year above all years, I think could be a situation where the draft just goes completely different from what we think will happen based on the traditional mocks. There are no guarantees in this draft and aside from Joeckel and Fisher, who have seemed to cement themselves as likely top five picks, I can see so many things happen within the top ten. Let's get ourselves prepared for players that we haven't spoken much about lately, shall we?
Bjorn Werner, DE
- Ansah, Ansah, Ansah... that's all we've heard since the combine. Before that, it was Werner, Werner, Werner. So what happened? Maybe nothing. Maybe the Lions love his similarity to a young Vanden Bosch and think that his production could be best of the defensive ends right "out of the box". He does seem quite pro-ready and while he doesn't dazzle us with the physical specs like Ansah, he seems like a workhorse that might have a good pro career ahead of him.
Cordarrelle Patterson, WR
- While many cringe at the thought of this and yes, it does appear to be quite high for a wide receiver, I am preparing myself. At the end of the day, it comes down to where he is on the Lions' board and how much value they feel a potentially better #2 WR gives them. Is Burleson ready to come back and will he be enough opposite Calvin? Is Broyles going to be ready for the season? Can they find good receiver in the later rounds? I think the answer to all three of those questions are yes, but I am still prepared for something off-the-wall like this to happen, whether at #5 or more likely, trading back a few spots.
Tavon Austin, WR
- Austin is an interesting prospect whose stock seems to be rocketing forward even as we speak. He has comparisons to Percy Harvin and seems to be a better version of what Titus Young should have been. He's also got KR/PR ability and has that little thing the Lions love... versatility. Therefore, it's logical to assume that the Lions would be interested in Austin. But at #5? Not likely. However, the latest mocks I have seen have him creeping towards the top ten and if the Lions find a partner to trade with, this could be the target.
Jarvis Jones, OLB
- While this wouldn't be a total shocker, I think there's a lot of people who would be scratching their heads at taking a LB this high. The thing is, if the stenosis isn't a concern, the dude is a good LB. In a draft bereft of sure things, Jones is an animal and a high-impact player, in my opinion. Didn't we just hear Martin Mayhew talk about needing high-impact defensive players? Jones fits that bill... yes, even at #5. Maybe this is why they aren't scrambling to find Durant's replacement and not because they love Palmer, Whitehead or Lewis...
Chance Warmack / Jonathan Cooper, G
- It's no surprise that Warmack is one of my favorite players in the draft, but I think the consensus at POD is that no team would ever take a guard this high. In most years, yes, I would agree. This is a strange year though, where the top of this draft is as murky as I've ever seen it. If the Lions agree with some of the "mock experts" out there and have Chance as the highest player rated come #5 or fall in love with the versatility of Cooper, they could take one of them. Not saying it's likely, just very plausible. If there was ever a year to buck trends, it would be this one.
Star Lotulelei, DT
- We've already talked about the surprise of taking a defensive tackle at #5, but right now, Lotulelei is still hanging out in the 20's in most mocks. Sharrif Floyd seems to be the consensus pick out of the two, but just a few months ago, prior to a heart test at the combine, Lotulelei was considered by some to be the best player in the entire draft. I saw several early February mocks with him to Kansas City at #1 overall. Like Jones above, if the Lions clear Lotulelei of the heart issue, could they fall in love with him at #5 or in a trade back situation? Hmmmm.... prepare for it.
Xavier Rhodes, CB
- I think the consensus is that Milliner is the best cornerback in the draft, but what if he's gone and the Lions like Rhodes just as much? I doubt this is an option in the top five, but around #10 or so in a trade scenario? I think the Lions could covet a tall cover corner that's got those long arms and is physical at the line. Most feel like Rhodes could get snatched up by Tampa Bay at #13, so maybe the Lions want to ensure they get their corner if that's who they are targeting.
To a lesser extent, guys like Sharrif Floyd and Lane Johnson might raise an eyebrow at #5, but I wouldn't call them shocking picks.
If I've learned anything about the draft, it is that it is never as cut and dried as it appears. Just when everyone starts talking about no trades, trading explodes. Just when a bunch of teams sign quarterbacks, other teams come scrambling out of the woodwork and up the draft board. In a year this cloudy, I feel like anybody could end up in a Lions' uniform and it's best to prepare for that.
I've always found that all this mock drafting creates an adverse affect. It gives a false representation of value. If a team trades up to get a player or drafts him ahead of "when he is supposed to go" or where he is "graded", the fanbase of that team immediately chastises the pick without ever seeing the player play in that team's uniform. Likewise, we sometimes praise picks as having "good value" because a player is drafted lower than his pre-draft grade. The player gets heralded and then busts. We as Lions' fans know that last scenario all too well. This is why guys like Donovan McNabb get booed. We have preconceived draft values that are created by either fans or media heads... not the real experts, the NFL teams drafting them. I know... the teams don't get it right all the time either, but I am talking more about the immediate reaction to picks. I have always found that it's best to prepare for the inevitability of drafting a player not on our immediate radar. Mike Williams, Nick Fairley, Reilly Reiff or Brandon Pettigrew anyone?