With our attention beginning to shift to the 2015 NFL Draft, now is a good time to check in with Dan Kadar, who runs Mocking the Draft for SB Nation. I sent Dan five Detroit Lions-related questions about this year's draft, and you can check out his answers below.
1. Even after adding Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker, defensive tackle remains a top need for the Lions. If the Lions opt to fill this need in the first or second round, who should they target at DT?
Even though the Lions are picking at No. 23 in the first round, this is the perfect year to have a need at defensive tackle. There are a number of tackles who should be there. Players like Leonard Williams of USC and Danny Shelton of Washington should be gone, so forget about those two. There's an outside chance Malcom Brown of Texas will be there. He's an athletic run stuffer who really moves around well. Players like Eddie Goldman of Florida State and Jordan Phillips of Oklahoma seem even more likely to be there. In the second round, smaller tackles like Grady Jarrett of Clemson and Michael Bennett of Ohio State could be there. A big body to keep in mind in the second round is Ellis McCarthy of UCLA. There should be starter-quality players at the position through the third round.
2. The Lions recently brought in Todd Gurley for a visit, but most people assume they won't target a running back until Day 2 of the draft at the earliest. Once you get past that top tier of Gurley and Melvin Gordon, who jumps out as the most talented running back in the draft?
I'm partial to Jay Ajayi of Boise State and Tevin Coleman of Indiana. They're both a rung below Gurley and Gordon, but very good players. Ajayi is a complete back who runs with good vision and speed and can be an asset in the passing game. Coleman is a good pure running back who is very good between the tackles.
3. Since they don't currently have a starting left guard, there's some thought that the Lions could use their third-round pick on an interior lineman for the third year in a row (Larry Warford in 2013 and Travis Swanson last year). What guards in that range do you think would be a good fit for the Lions?
The third round is a good spot to take a guard, actually. There's really only one first-round talent at the position in A.J. Cann of South Carolina. We could see some guards go in the second round, but the third is where some players should be there. Ali Marpet of Hobart comes to mind first. He's an aggressive college left tackle who tore up the Senior Bowl and really came out of nowhere. He'd be a great fit for what Detroit does up front. Arie Kouandjio of Alabama and John Miller of Louisville would be other solid system fits. They could be there at No. 88.
4. How deep is this year's cornerback class?
After pass rusher and wide receiver, cornerback is arguably the deepest position in the draft this year. Obviously the further you get in the draft, the flaws get intensified at any position. But it's conceivable that corners like Senquez Golson of Ole Miss, Ladarius Gunter of Miami, Josh Shaw of USC, Steven Nelson of Oregon State, Kevin White of TCU, Doran Grant of Ohio State and several others can be NFL starters despite being fringe top 100 picks.
5. The Lions don't currently have any picks in the fourth or fifth round thanks to the Ngata trade, but they do have three selections in the final two rounds. Who are some of your favorite under-the-radar type of players who might be worth a pick toward the end of the draft?
At this point, a lot of my sleeper guys have actually risen during the offseason process. But deep, deep in the draft, here are a handful of my favorite sleepers:
- Tyler Kroft, TE, Rutgers: Underutilized in their offense, but a good athlete.
- Rannell Hall, WR, Central Florida: Gets overlooked because teammate Breshad Perriman will get picked high. Looked solid at the Senior Bowl and really attacks the ball in the air.
- Cameron Artis-Payne, RB, Auburn: Just a really solid player. The type of running back who can be a very good No. 2 and generate 40-50 yards a game.
- Christian Covington, DT/DE, Rice: Injuries kind of halted his progress, but he looked really good a couple years ago as a 3-4 end.
- Ben Heeney, LB, Kansas: Gets overlooked because he played on a bad team. Heeney is an active and smart linebacker who surprised a lot of people with his athleticism at the NFL Scouting Combine.