By this point, you know the drill: Lions' season ends, draft talk begins. Senior Bowl, Combine, second-guessing, third and fourth-guessing and mock drafts all the while.
Mock drafts can be a tedious thing to go through for both reader and writer. I genuinely enjoy the player analysis, so I don't mind. And I'm changing all the picks every time, so I'm hoping it never gets too mundane for you, either.
Mind you, that doesn't mean any of them are right. Indeed, as I go through and make all the sensible first-round picks, I'm eventually going to have to start getting crazy and start mocking guys like Trent Richardson or Michael Brockers to the Lions in the first round. Not yet, though.
The only thing I do know from my years of doing this is that every mock draft is wrong. Mine, yours, Mel Kiper's, Mike Mayock's, everybody's. They're fun, engaging and occasionally insightful. Sometimes even slightly accurate for a round or two (Mayock does pretty well, especially in the top 10). But ultimately wrong.
With that in mind, I'm taking the "scattershot" approach this year. You will not see a name show up twice on one of my 2012 mock drafts. That's partly because I increase my chances of hitting on a pick, and partly just to keep it interesting.
Does that mean I'm any less sold on Peter Konz at 23 than I was in November? No, but what difference does that make? I'm every bit as sold on Konz as I was sold on Prince Amukamara at 13 last year.
See what I mean? I'm diversifying my picks, and maybe one of these lines of reasoning will not be completely shrugged off by mad draft scientist Martin Mayhew.
So here's my third completely different approach to the Lions' possible (but ultimately wrong) draft strategy.
Dean's previous mocks:
Previous pick: Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
Finally! The Jeff Backus era comes to an end!
So say the masses.
Me? I think people won't realize how good Backus was until he's gone. Not saying he's a Hall of Famer, just saying he took more heat than he deserved for his overall body of work.
Regardless, Backus is a free agent in his mid-30s, and Mike Adams' star is on the rise after an eye-opening (if somewhat inconsistent) Senior Bowl.
As I've outlined recently, I fully expect the Lions to go with the best player available at a usable position. I don't think the Lions care very much at all what position they fill with their first-round pick, as long as they have a player who will bring value to the team (a first-round QB, RB or DT probably won't get much of a chance if the roster is healthy).
In this case, luckily, they can fill a relatively big need with a player now thought of as top-15 material.
Will Adams fall this far? Probably not at the rate he's going. But if he is, he factors very strongly into the BPA discussion, and what's the difference between getting a top-15 player at 23 and getting a top-five player at 13 (Nick Fairley)?
Previous pick: Kelechi Osemele, G/T, Iowa State
Yes, another defensive lineman.
Defensive end is not the Lions' greatest or most critical need right now, but Cliff Avril's contract situation is a tenuous one, and by April, it might be a much bigger concern.
Andre Branch isn't exactly a replacement for Avril; side-wise, he's more like a replacement (or depth addition) for Kyle Vanden Bosch. But Vanden Bosch has been limited by injury, and Branch has ideal size for a 4-3 defensive end at either side, with the speed and explosion to back it up.
Now, Branch needs a lot of polish, but he fits the Lions perfectly. He can get after the quarterback from anywhere, never stops running down a play and has the size and skill to be versatile, which the Lions love in their defensive linemen.
Even better, Branch does a great job of holding his position and keeping contain in run defense, and he can run down the play to the outside if the running back breaks it.
I've been back and forth about Ben Jones from the moment I started digging into the draft. But I'm going to mock him to the Lions eventually, so I might as well get it over with.
I like Ben Jones because he's a top center in this draft, he's a former teammate of Matthew Stafford, he has a crazy streak and by all accounts, he's a rock-solid center. He anchors well, he shows good technique and he does a good job of getting his guy to the ground.
What he doesn't do so well is the one thing the Lions need at the center position right now: run block.
Jones is Dominic Raiola minus 10 years and plus 20 pounds. He has a little more natural size and strength than Raiola, but still shows all the same problems: poor drive in the run game, overpowered and driven back by big nose tackles, uses brains and technique to compensate.
The difference is that Raiola's problems are beyond repair. Not only has his frame taken on as much size as it can, but he's also entering his mid-30s and starting to decline.
Jones is younger and bigger than Raiola. There's no telling what a year or two of NFL coaching and weight training could do for the kid, which makes him intriguing.
But right now, he's solid in the same way that Raiola is solid. Not bad, but lacking in ways that are likely to show up the moment the Lions need to starting running down the clock.
Previous pick: Levy Adcock, OT, Oklahoma State
Nigel Bradham is a bit like another Doug Hogue.
No, Bradham didn't convert from offense while at Florida State. But he's a physically gifted athlete with great size (6’3, 240 pounds), incredible speed and poor instincts for the position.
For that reason, Bradham is unlikely to actually be available in the fourth round. His stock is around the third or fourth round right now, but his physical skills (particularly his 40-yard dash) will probably rocket him up draft boards at least a round if he performs to his potential.
Of course, if the Lions get a hold of him, he fits as a rangy linebacker at any position (possibly middle, given his size) once he polishes his game skills.
And until he does, he could be a killer special teamer.
At a certain point in the draft, teams stop drafting for need and start looking or sleepers just to find someone that might stick.
Enter Jordan White, the big question mark who blew up stat sheets at Western Michigan.
White seems to have the skills of a good possession receiver. He doesn't have great straight-line speed, but he does have good quickness, strength and hands. If he improves his route-running (which is something all receivers have to do at the NFL level anyway), he could eventually be the slot receiving threat the Lions have been looking for.
Many thought Titus Young was supposed to fill that role, but in reality, his speed makes him more dangerous as a deep receiver, despite his stature.
Nate Burleson is a fine second/third option for now, and White could take some time to develop while Burleson plays out his contract. But with White's build and skill set, he could, over time, grow into that shifty slot receiver the Lions have been looking for.
The biggest problem with White (and a big reason he's likely to slip into the fifth round) is that he's not afraid to take contact over the middle, and he probably should be. He has missed significant amounts of time at Western due to injury.
Previous pick: Philip Blake, C, Baylor
If we're going by straight football skills, this is right about where Russell Wilson ought to go in the draft at this point. But I don't think he's still on the board in the seventh round, which is exactly why the Lions need to draft him if he is.
Ultimately, I expect to get a healthy dose of the "Tim Tebow effect" with Russell Wilson. Even if he bombs at the combine and in interviews and workouts, some team is going to overvalue Wilson because of immeasurable intangibles like, "He's a winner," or "Has charisma and leadership qualities."
But even if everybody plays it smart and nobody bites on Wilson being somehow a better player than meets the eye, the Lions can still use him. Remember, Shaun Hill and Drew Stanton have both proven their mettle as solid back-up quarterbacks, and both are slated for free agency.
After a season in which the Colts brought the value of the backup quarterback into full view, I expect teams to spend more than usual on a competent second-stringer, which means either Hill or Stanton will be gone next season. And with Hill being over 30 and Stanton entering his sixth season, neither really qualifies as a "developmental" quarterback at this point.
With the Lions' starting quarterback situation seemingly solved for a long time, it's time they move to that next level where they start developing young quarterbacks from the bench and shipping them off as starters, Patriots-style.
Wilson can, perhaps, be the first.
Previous pick: Marquis Maze, WR/PR, Alabama
I've noticed something about the Lions' draft strategy during the Mayhew/Schwartz era. They like drafting developmental linemen (offensive and defensive) from small schools.
In 2009, the Lions took Sammie Lee Hill in the fourth round out of Stillman.
In 2010, Willie Young (NC State) in the seventh.
In 2011, Johnny Culbreath out of SC State in the seventh.
Chigbo Anunoby fits the trend perfectly, and would be a fine developmental project, presumably to replace Andre Fluellen, and perhaps in preparation for Corey Williams' eventual departure.
Anunoby is a 6'4", 324-pound rock in the middle of the defensive line with a lot to learn, much as Hill was in 2009. He's not a sack machine, but he's powerful and a very effective run-stopper, even through double-teams.
Of course, he won't see a lot of double teams next to Ndamukong Suh or Nick Fairley, but he won't see a lot of FCS-caliber guards and centers, either. Call it a wash.
Still, Anunoby has value because of his size alone and makes sense in a scheme where he'll be rotated in and out as needed, especially on a team that has proven able to get the most out of its linemen.