With all the rumors, mock drafts, and big boards flying off the presses it's time to put all the things we've been hearing into some bold predictions. The Lions' front office has been quiet this offseason, so much of the speculation has come from a national perspective. That could prove to be fruitless next week after we find out what the Lions' true plans are. As a fan, the silence in Allen Park isn't too exciting going into draft week. But it's that same unpredictability that can pay big dividends on draft day. In the meantime, here are some bold predictions for the Lions as they head towards Thursday's first round of the NFL Draft.
1. The Lions will make an unpopular pick in the first round
Much of the pre-draft chatter has focused on the Lions taking and offensive or defensive lineman, and I don't think the Lions will shock in that regard. Yet, I think it's the player, not the position, they choose that will make many fans upset. And while most assume the pick will be one of the Alabama defensive tackles (Jarran Reed or A'Shawn Robinson) or one of the top four offensive tackles (most likely Jack Conklin or Taylor Decker), I think the Lions go in a slightly different direction.
I think if the Lions can't find a trade partner to get out of the 16th pick, they feel comfortable taking a guy that fits their scheme, even if it's initially seen as a reach. The two guys I see most likely are Louisiana Tech DT Vernon Butler or Alabama center Ryan Kelly.
Butler doesn't seem to be getting much hype as a first rounder despite being rated as high as the number three defensive end (only behind Joey Bosa and Deforest Buckner) in Bob McGinn's defensive line rankings for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. What I like about Butler most is his ability to move all over the defensive line as a rookie. It's that type of versatility that the Lions desperately need.
With Kelly, the Lions would be pulling the trigger on arguably the most talented center in the draft. NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah recently gave the Lions Kelly with the 16th pick in his latest mock draft, and the idea isn't that crazy. The Lions have a colossal hole at center right now. Even when healthy, Travis Swanson is far from proven at this point, and Lions' General Manager Bob Quinn has already gone on record saying he wants to bring in competition at center. Our own readers even gave the Lions the OK to take Kelly with their first round pick.
Much like in free agency, the Lions won't be looking for just a big name. They're going to look for the best guy to fit their scheme.
2. The Lions draft a safety in round two
Even if the Lions don't take a defensive tackle in the first round I still think they target a safety in round two, specifically Boston College's Justin Simmons (and it's not just because I love his name). I think both Karl Joseph and Vonn Bell will be gone before the Lions pick at number 46 in the second round.
Simmons is definitely on the Lions' radar. They have met with him at least three times, at the East-West Shrine game, the combine, and at his pro day.
The Lions have a big hole on the back end of their defense despite signing a few safeties in free agency. And if Glover Quin were to go down for a prolonged period of time, the Lions would be in big trouble. This pick is more about securing the feature versus having an instant upgrade on day one. Simmons would enter training camp as a reserve, but would hopefully win the job in training camp.
For more information on Justin Simmons check out Pride of Detroit's Scouting Report
3. The Lions will trade back with Jets in round one
It's no secret the Jets need a quarterback and the Lions are the perfect trade partner. The Jets need to ensure they don't miss out on a top signal caller. For the Lions, it allows them to move back a few spots, pick up some picks, and still pick up one of the top players on their board. In this scenario, they remain ahead of Washington, who has been linked to both Butler and Kelly in the first round.