Previous pick: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Alright, stay with me here. There are two immediate objections I expect to this pick.
1. "He won't be available at 23"
2. "The Lions don't need a linebacker"
I've addressed the latter concern in the not-too-distant past, what with concerns about Stephen Tulloch not returning, and pretty much every other starting-quality linebacker on the roster being a free agent in 2013.
But let me add another layer to that. Fans seem to have a short-term memory when it comes to team needs. Because the Lions gave up 900 yards in their last two games, everybody is now focusing on pass defense in the draft
Nobody remembers that earlier in the season, the Lions were taking heat for their inability to stop the run, but they were a top-10 pass defense.
Remember that? We talked about the 49ers running the "wham" play all week because it helped them to gain about 15 yards per carry en route to the Lions' first loss of the season.
This brings me to Kuechly, who is one of the most instinctive and intelligent linebackers to come out of college in years. He just knows where to be when the other team runs the ball, period. He also shows decent ability to cover passing routes over the middle, where the Lions got torched last year.
That's why he's considered a top-15 pick as a linebacker, despite lacking any considerable skill rushing the passer or remarkable foot speed. He just understands the game, and his knowledge makes him a step quicker than the rest of the field, despite average foot speed.
So why do I say he'll be available at 23? Well for starters, if he is available, he's almost certainly the BPA. But because Kuechly is not a phenomenal athlete, the Combine should not be his brightest day.
He's undoubtedly going to be a great player, but I would not be at all surprised to see teams get entranced with some of the more explosive athletic specimens, particularly at more blue-chip positions.
It's hard to justify a top-10 pick on a primary run stopper who doesn't flash amazing athleticism. It won't be hard for the Lions at 23 to take a guy is a top-15 pick regardless.