I've suffered through a lot as a Lions fan but I've never had more hope than I do going into this year, and after last year's draft haul, Martin Mayhew and the gang are finally starting to regain my trust after He-who-shall-not-be-named's time in the motor city. There is a lot of "win-now" talk coming from the organization and I think we need another draft like last year to make it happen. The title of this is "Best Case Scenario" and that would obviously be to trade away Nick Fairley and whatever picks necessary to trade up into the top 5 twice and draft Sammy Watkins and Khalil Mack and thus filling our two biggest holes with two elite players, but I'm going to try and keep it fairly realistic here. I see three scenarios here; a trade up, a trade back and staying put at 10. I'm going to give my opinion on each and what I think is our best option and you can comment and let me know what you think.
First off, lets establish our needs. I'm sure some, if not most, will be upset when I don't have a corner in our major needs but based on the performance of Mathis last year, the performance of Darius Slay and Chris Greenwood at the end of the year, the possibility of Houston rebounding back from injury, and the signing of Cassius Vaughn leaves us set for this year, at least at the top end of the depth chart. I see only two major needs that we need to fill in WR and in OLB. We still need a receiver to play with Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate because I never want to see Durham on the field again and we need an OLB to play on the strong side with Levy and Tulloch and to blitz since we'll actually be doing that now that old Gunther is gone. Those are the only starting spots open, unless you count kicker. Beyond that, our second tier needs would be a Safety and a Center, both of whom would be groomed to start next year or in case of injury. And lastly, our third set of needs would be a back-up QB, a kicker, and maybe a DE to push Jones and Taylor for the spot opposite Ansah. I'm not saying we should address kicker in the fourth round and pass up a quality CB whose fallen to us, I'm just saying it definitely needs to be addressed at some point while if we don't draft a CB, its not the end of the world.
I'm using Matt Miller's 7 round mock draft and the most recent 7 round mock from Drafttek.com as reference to make sure I don't have us picking a consensus first round player in the third, although some of my picks may be reaching on a player or relying on a small slide for them to be available. Of course, the draft is unpredictable and what they should do in the second round and beyond is subject to change based on what happens before them.
Proposed Trade: Lions send Pick 10 (Round 1), Pick 45 (Round 2), and Pick 111 (Round 4) to Cleveland for Pick 4 (Round 1)
I see two teams who would trade back (Stl and Cle), and two possible trade targets for the Lions (Mack and Watkins), and the Rams at Pick 2 may be where we have to go to have a shot at either of them but I feel the price would be too steep. The addition Watkins would be great and the offense would be as explosive as any in recent memory, but unless we can make a trade where we hang on to our second round pick so that we can grab Van Noy or Jeremiah Attaochu (which unless he falls outside top 5, I can't see a trade up not including round 2), Watkins should not be the pick. However this draft is so deep at receiver that we can find a well above average running mate for Megatron and Tate. Khalil Mack however, has no equal in this draft and is far ahead of any other LB in this draft and would give the Lions Von Miller 2.0 to play on the strong side. Here's how it should play out...
Pick 4 (from Cle): Khalil Mack, LB Buffalo
Pick 76 (Rd 3): Jarvis Landry, WR LSU
Pick 133 (Rd 4): Kenny Ladler, S Vanderbilt/Dion Bailey, S USC
Pick 136 (Rd 4): Bryan Stork, C FSU
Pick 189 (Rd 6): Keith Wenning, QB Ball State/David Fales, QB San Jose State
Pick 227 (Rd 7): Nate Freese, K, Boston College
Stay Put at 10:
This is their worst option. If they don't trade up, I feel they aren't planning on winning this year and are instead going to draft BPA and load up for a push next year, especially if the pick is Aaron Donald. There is always a chance one of the Big 6 falls (Clowney, Mack, Watkins, Robinson, Matthews, and Evans) but other than Evans, it is not likely at all. Staying put at 10, unless they reach on Beckham at 10 (Which I would do), the player that falls into that range will be a bigger contributor next year, whether it is Donald, Justin Gilbert, Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix, or anyone else. If they stay put, which I feel is the least likely of the scenarios, this is what they should do....
Pick 10 (Rd 1): Aaron Donald, DT Pitt (If they plan on losing Fairley after this year) or Justin Gilbert, CB OSU
Pick 45 (Rd 2): Davante Adams, WR Fresno State
Pick 76 (Rd 3): Marcus Smith, DE Louisville or Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas
Pick 111 (Rd 4): Jordan Tripp, LB Montana
Pick 133 (Rd 4): Aaron Murray, QB Georgia
Pick 136 (Rd 4): BPA
Pick 189 (Rd 6): BPA
Pick 227 (Rd 7): BPA
Proposed Trade: Dallas sends Pick 16 (Rd 1) and Pick 47 (Rd 2) for Pick 10
The key here is to get another Second round pick. I know it's not a huge jump from 16 to 10 but if Dallas really loves Aaron Donald they may do it... it is Jerry Jones after all who sent us his first born for Roy Williams. At 16, we should still have a shot at Odell Beckham and we should jump at the chance, his Desean Jackson would be perfect opposite Calvin and Tate. We then use our original 2nd to take best LB available, most likely Kyle Van Noy or Jeremiah Attaochu. The second 2nd round pick we picked up is where we really win. We have the option to reach a little for Marcus Martin or Weston Richburg who won't be there in the third when we pick and would be an improvement over Dom next year or we can take best safety available if Jimmie Ward falls, but I'm partial to Deone Bucannon, who I think will be the best S of the entire class. The second trade scenario would be to trade back with the Eagles who have been linked to moving up, the second pick for each pick is running on that scenario...
Pick 16 (Rd 1): Odell Beckham Jr, WR LSU -or- Pick 22 (Rd 1): Ryan Shazier, LB, OSU
Pick 45 (Rd 2): Kyle Van Noy, LB BYU -or- Pick 45 (Rd 2): Allen Robinson, WR, PSU
Pick 47 (Rd 2): Deone Bucannon, S, Washington State -or- Pick 54 (Rd 2): Marcus Martin, C, USC
Pick 76 (Rd 3): Travis Swanson, C, Arkansas -or- Pick 76 (Rd 3): Lamarcus Joyner, CB, FSU (Projects as S)
Pick 111 (Rd 4): Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia
Pick 133 (Rd 4): Jackson Jeffcoat, DE, Texas
Pick 136 (Rd 4): DeAnthony Thomas, RB, Oregon (too fast to not be dangerous)
Pick 189 (Rd 6): Nate Freese, K, Boston College
Pick 227 (Rd 7): Colt Lyerla, TE, Oregon (HUGE character issue, but at this point, it's worth the gamble)
Personally, I prefer the trade up scenario. Jarvis Landry has phenomenal hands and if available in Rd 3 would be a steal and Mack is the perfect fit for this new hybrid defense under Teryl Austin. I also like the statement the aggressive move up makes to the players and to the loyal fanbase. However, the teams that perennially win trade back, and that is certainly the smartest option in this scenario. The talent we add with an extra second fills our immediate problems and makes next year look brighter at the same time. If we want to win this year, we need to take a WR/LB combo with the first two picks and I don't see that happening staying put at ten. We have to move up or down in this draft. I could be wrong, maybe Donald or Gilbert comes in and is a star as a rookie, but Thursday night when I hear one of their names called to be in Honolulu Blue and Silver, I'm going to feel empty inside. Sorry for the length, let me know what you think in the comments below!