2012 NFL Mock Draft: Detroit Lions 7-Round Mock Draft
The Detroit Lions improved greatly in 2011 making the playoffs before finding out there is still a ways to go before they can be grouped in the elite tier of teams.
Some work on the back end of the defense and on the offensive line is what could really help the team take the next step and be a Super Bowl threat as soon as this year.
Fortunately it looks like the needs of the team will match up with the best talent on the board at times which could make the decisions easy for Martin Mayhew.
Here is a look at all seven rounds and where the Lions could go with each of those picks.
1. Dont'a Hightower, ILB, Alabama
This may be a bit of a stretch to expect Hightower to be available when the Lions pick, but not much of one.
With Stephen Tulloch set to be a free agent who should get a few good offers, the Lions may be looking for a new inside 'backer for 2012 and beyond.
Hightower is good enough to be a three-down middle linebacker, as he can stuff the run and drop back to cover running backs out of the backfield.
Even though there is work to be done on the O-line, adding another piece to what could soon be an elite defense would be ideal here. Hightower has more value than any offensive lineman who will be available at this point.
2. Ben Jones, C, Georgia
After an 11-year run as the team's starting center, it is time to look for Dominic Raiola's replacement.
Ben Jones has held up well against top-level D-lineman in the SEC with an amazing blend of size (6'3", 316 lbs) and great quickness off the snap in both the run game and as a pass-blocker.
If the Lions want Jones, they will probably have to use their second-round pick on him, but it would be well worth it.
On a somewhat related note: How many other left tackle/center combos can you think of that were together longer than the pair of Raiola and Jeff Backus, who have anchored the line for 11 years now?
3. Trumaine Johnson, CB, Montana
Looking to upgrade the corner spot, I have the Lions going with Trumaine Johnson in the third round.
Johnson has great size to prevent receivers from boxing him out for the ball, but he lacks the speed to keep up with the quickest NFL receivers.
I don't really think Johnson will be an All-Pro candidate, but getting a solid starter for a few years would be a good value in the third round.
4. Keenan Robinson, OLB, Texas
Continuing to improve the defense, the Lions could look to add Keenan Robinson, an all-around talent who is decent in the run game and excels as a coverage linebacker.
Robinson will be able to step in as a passing-down linebacker and as a core special teamer next year, so he is worth a fourth-round pick.
5. Matt Reynolds, OT, BYU
Another selection to upgrade the O-line, Reynolds can backup at both tackle spots and may be able to take over for Jeff Backus after a year or two.
Reynolds looks like he may be more of a right tackle in the pros but may still be able to play the left side in a pinch. It wouldn't be surprising to see him end up at guard, either.
Adding depth to the guys who protect Matthew Stafford would be wise at this point.
6. Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan
Not really a huge need right now, adding a receiver that can replace Nate Burleson at some point would not be all bad.
White has been amazingly productive at Western Michigan, bringing in a crazy 140 catches for 1,911 yards and 17 TDs in 2011 following up a junior year in which he had 94 catches for 1,378 yards.
The biggest strengths White has are his hands and the route-running skills he has. The Lions will want to be sure his knees are solid, as he has had an ACL tear in each knee.
7. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon
Taking another corner here may seem like overkill, but if Harris is still on the board, he could be a huge value here.
After running into a lot of trouble at Oregon, Harris might be passed over in the earlier rounds even though he has game-breaking abilities in the passing game and as a return man.
No reason not to take a chance this late in the draft on a guy who could score a couple of TDs bringing back punts.