For the first time since the Backstreet Boys, Ricky Martin and Cher were all in the Billboard Top 10, the Detroit Lions will be making their selections for the 2012 NFL draft from the bottom third of the order.
The Lions will not be handed the likes of Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson on silver platters, rather Martin Mayhew and his scouting department will now get a taste of what it's like to have their Big Board pilfered by the 22 teams ahead of them in every round.
Although the reward for a successful season is waiting your turn like an anxious child anticipating his or her Farrell’s birthday party, the silver lining—beyond winning football—is costs.
Yes, with all the Lions draft picks coming at the backend of each round, the salary demands for these players will accordingly diminish allowing some much-needed breathing room with the superstar salaries the Lions are already committed to.
So whom will Mayhew and Jim Schwartz have their eyes on? With several juniors still yet to determine if they will forgo their senior seasons for the promise of NFL fortunes, it is difficult to say.
But with the glaring deficiencies this team still operates under, along with the tendencies and preferences of the coaching staff, we can make some educated guesstimates as to who will get to call Detroit home.
Following is a full, seven-round mock draft for the Detroit Lions.
With the Lions struggling to dance around the salary cap, putting first-round money into a cornerback does not make fiscal sense. The franchise is built around No. 9, and protecting Matthew Stafford’s right arm with a blue-chip left tackle would be the ideal scenario for Detroit.
At 6’6” and 305 pounds, Jonathan Martin successfully guarded the blindside of future Colt Andrew Luck and conceivably he could be the fourth or even fifth tackle off the board and get his shot at protecting another first overall selection in Stafford.
The Lions are built to move the ball through the air, and Martin’s pass blocking is superior to his road-grading abilities, but don’t mistake that for passiveness; this guy has a genuine mean streak that will help him adapt to the pro game quickly.
The second-team AP All-American is a solid character guy with a strong work ethic and above-average football IQ and overall intelligence. He will seamlessly step in for Jeff Backus when the time comes or, if necessary, fill in at the guard position, where he has played frequently in short-yardage situations for the Cardinal.
At 6’3” and 271 pounds with a wingspan of nearly 80”, Cam Johnson is your prototypical 4-3 defensive end.
One of the hardest working edge-rushers in college football and a proven ability to relentlessly pursue quarterbacks from the blindside, as well as track down ball-carriers on the other side of the field, Johnson has the proverbial “motor that never quits.”
With an explosive burst and a thick trunk that allows lower body power, Johnson has excelled in both wide and power rushes and would be an ideal fit for the aggressive front-four scheme of Gunther Cunningham where he can slant and stunt with Ndamukong Suh.
Kyle Vanden Bosch is not getting any younger and Cliff Avril’s asking price may get too high, so another DE that can get after the quarterback is exactly what the Lions will need.
At 6’3” and 315 pounds, Jones is the second-ranked center behind Peter Konz, and a Rimington Trophy Award finalist (best center), but won’t cost first-round money to get.
Like Dominic Raiola, Jones is a captain for his Georgia Bulldogs, but unlike Raiola, Jones did not give up one sack the entire 2011 season.
Jones has prototypical proportions for the center position with short legs and a longer torso that help to create a leverage advantage. He can also play the guard position, which would help the Lions' thin reserve of interior linemen.
Jones is also a four-year starter, which means he did play with Stafford. But more importantly, he has had four years of competing against SEC competition.
Think of all the talented defensive linemen from the SEC in the last four years that have made their way to the NFL. Jones has played against them all, which will bode well for his acclimation to the NFL game.
The Lions need to address the secondary at some point, right? In the fourth round, the Lions could get a gem in Casey Hayward.
A three-year starter at perennial loser Vanderbilt, Casey might be under-appreciated until the mid-draft selections. But Hayward, at 5'11" and 190 pounds, is as complete a corner as you will find.
He is a shutdown CB who utilizes elite agility, powerful press coverage and technique. But he’s also effective against the run. He has locked down some of the SEC’s best wide receivers and has good route recognition and ball skills and plays well when he’s watching the quarterback’s eyes.
Plus, he is an above-average return man. I’m not saying Stefan Logan should go, but with the salary structure of the Lions, it would help to have some versatility from your return man, instead of downing the kickoff and heading back to the bench.
With the 2012 draft having so much depth at defensive line, the Lions can wait till the fifth round to continue building on their favorite position: defensive tackle.
At 6’3” and 310 pounds, Kawann Short has been a productive and disruptive Boilermaker who has the potential to make it into Kris Kocurek’s rotation.
Short is at his best playing for penetration into the backfield, when he can explode through the line and split blockers. He's a very aggressive presence in the trenches, which is a perfect fit for the Lions' scheme. He has good size and strength and uses his hands well to initiate contact.
Both Suh and Nick Fairley will not be on this team for an extended period of time together. Their contracts, along with big money that will go to Stafford and Johnson, cannot be supported when their current deals expire.
Short could be the long-term answer.
The Lions forfeited their sixth-round pick with the tampering incident with the Kansas City Chiefs, but they also have a conditional “late-round” selection from Seattle for OT Tyler Polumbus, whom the Lions signed on Aug. 25, 2010, and then traded to the Seabags seven days later.
For argument's sake, let’s just assume it will be Seattle’s seventh-round selection.
Davin Meggett would be a perfect gamble in the last round.
Meggett was the backup for his first three seasons at Maryland before finally becoming the top back on the depth chart in 2011. As a senior, he finished with a career-best and team-high 896 yards on 171 carries and four scores.
He has strong football character and work ethic with very good bloodlines as the son of former NFL Pro Bowl running back David Meggett.
Best part of Meggett’s game with regards to the Lions? He’s never missed a game in his career; that type of ruggedness is desperately needed in the Detroit backfield.
As a team captain and a gym rat that lives in the weight room, Meggett is willing to get dirty for his team to succeed. Just like his pop, he's a player who does everything well, but nothing great.
Derrick Dennis was a four-year starter at Temple and did enough to garner recognition for his efforts with an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game.
At 6’5” and 328 pounds, Dennis has the physical credentials to become a successful NFL guard and has shown versatility by playing both the left and right guard position.
He works better in a phone booth with straight ahead and trap blocking but has done well when asked to seal the edge on his pull as opposed to leading the rush around the corner.
Still not the best at picking up the blitz, but Dennis is a project with good measurables that could end up being a successful developmental player.