Detroit Lions 2012 Mock Draft: 7-Round Predictions
The 2012 NFL draft is less than a month away, and with the final draft order in place and almost all the pre-draft testing completed, the landscape that will captivate fans is pretty much set. With this in mind, I will take another stab at predicting what I think the Lions should do in 2012 to upgrade their roster for another playoff run.
Please note that I am including trades, as the Lions are notorious dealmakers under Martin Mayhew. And also, since this is my mock draft and not a prediction of what the Lions will do, I am taking team need into account slightly more than Detroit's front office probably will.
Round 1, Pick 23: Stephon Gilmore (CB), South Carolina
The Lions need to improve their offensive line, but with all the talented first-round offensive tackles likely to go within the Top 20 the Lions would do well to grab a cornerback with Pro Bowl potential late on the first day.
With all the character concerns surrounding the top corners in this draft, one will surely fall to Detroit at 23.
Janoris Jenkins will probably also not fall past the Cincinnati Bengals despite his well-documented red flags. This should leave the Lions free to pick up a player who I think has as much potential as both of his more heralded rivals: Stephon Gilmore.
Gilmore was impressive for South Carolina as the most well-rounded cornerback in college football last season. He was strong against the run, showed real skill jamming receivers at the line and also showed good awareness in zone coverage.
When you take into account his combine performance, which was one of the most impressive of all the players invited, he shows the potential to develop into a marquee cornerback.
His deep speed was shown by his 4.40 40-yard dash, but more impressive were his times in agility drills. He completed the 20-yard short shuttle in 3.94 seconds and the three-cone drill in 6.61 seconds. These were both top five for defensive backs, and they show Gilmore's ability to turn and chase receivers.
Gilmore would also suit the Lions defense perfectly. Detroit looks for corners who can come up and play the run, and their aggressive pass rush would benefit from defensive backs who can jam receivers at the line and take away short passes.
Gilmore may need to tighten up his technique, but he has the physical skills and football IQ to start in the preseason, and the potential to push Chris Houston to the No. 2 cornerback slot.
Round 2, Pick 23: Harrison Smith (S), Notre Dame
In the second round, the Lions are likely to double down on the secondary, despite a great need at offensive line.
In reality, there are no great second-round linemen in the draft unless there is an unexpected free-fall by a late first-rounder. However, this would still be a boon for the Lions, who would be able to get Louis Delmas a consistent running mate to play strong safety.
Harrison Smith is a football player with great instincts and solid athleticism. He played at outside linebacker and strong safety for Notre Dame. His forte is playing the run, where his background as a linebacker really shines. He diagnoses plays very well and is very good at shedding blocks.
When it comes to taking down ball carriers, Smith has had some struggles against very explosive and agile runners like LaMichael James. However, for the most part he is a powerful ad consistent hitter who would provide a true safety net against big runs in Detroit's secondary.
When moving backwards, Smith is much more comfortable in zone coverage, where his length, range and instincts allow him to always be around the ball. While many draftniks have given him the dreaded label of "not a playmaker" after he failed to record a pick in his senior season, he reeled in seven interceptions in 2010 and has the sure hands to be a turnover threat in the NFL.
The area he may struggle the most in at the NFL level is man coverage.
Although he clocked the best three-cone drill time at the combine for safeties, Smith does not have elite flexibility in his hips. This does limit him when required to run with agile slot receivers downfield. However, he should have enough athleticism to run with the new breed of receiving tight ends, and his length would be invaluable when trying to cover players like Jimmy Graham and Rob Gronkowski.
Additionally, the Lions are desperate for an upgrade at strong safety after Amari Spievey's play fell off a cliff following the Lions' bye week. Smith would be able to start from day one, and his consistent nature is in keeping with the type of safety that the Lions' front office covets.
He keeps the play in front of him, he is a sure tackler and he will not blow any big assignments. The perfect safety net.
Round 3, Pick 22: Tyrone Crawford (DE), Boise State
In the third round, Detroit should jump all over the chance to solidify its depth at defensive end if Tyrone Crawford falls into its lap.
Crawford was a JUCO transfer who played for Boise State the past two seasons, finally starting in 2011. He proceeded to earn first-team All-MWC team honors, and has carried that performance into the draft season, where his length and potential have made him a major offseason riser.
Crawford has prototypical size for an NFL defensive end, as his 6'4", 275-pound frame needs little work at the next level. He also has impressive strength, long arms and underrated flexibility, which should allow him to be a good run defender at the next level. He showed this in spades for Boise State, and his aforementioned abilities mean that he should be able to continue to do this as a professional.
As a pass-rusher, much more projection is required.
In college, he was a good pass-rusher who made up for his lack of burst off the line and straight-line speed with pure power, leverage and a non-stop motor. However, in the NFL he will need to develop a much more varied arsenal of rush moves if he wants to be able to collapse the pocket and get in the backfield against top competition.
His track record suggests that he should be able to reach his starter-quality ceiling very fast because of his coachability.
Crawford makes more sense to the Lions than most because of the rapid decline that Kyle Vanden Bosch is currently mired in. Crawford has the makings of a carbon copy of KVB, and his powerful, run-stuffing mentality and relentless pass-rushing would fit right into the Lions' defensive end rotation.
Round 4, Pick 2: Brandon Brooks (OG), Miami (OH)
As you will soon see, Brandon Brooks is my favorite player in this draft, and if the Lions do not draft him they will be missing out on the next big thing at guard (in more ways than one). Also, he should definitely be available for the Lions in the third round if they make a trade.
For the Lions to get an early third-round pick, they will have to sacrifice a pick in next year's draft, as well as their later picks from 2012. According to the draft trade values, the Lions should be able to trade their fifth-rounder this year, as well as their two seventh-rounders and their fourth-rounder next year for the St. Louis Rams' third-round pick. This will be the second pick of the third round.
The Rams would be good trade partners because with three picks in the first two rounds, they have less of a need for their third-rounder. Also, more picks next year would give them even more of a stranglehold over that draft.
Brooks is a monster human being and weighed in at 346 lbs at his pro day. His other key measurements are his 6'5" height and also 33.5" arms. However, despite this massive bulk, he is possibly the best athlete for his size in this draft.
Yes, better than Dontari Poe.
At his pro day, Brooks ran a 4.98 40-yard dash with a 1.71 second 10-yard split. He also had a 32" vertical leap and a 4.52-second short shuttle. Oh, and he put up 225 lbs 36 times.
All these numbers are equal to or better than those Poe managed. Combine this freakish athleticism with his improving technique and movement skills and you have one hell of a day-two guard.
Brooks was also a superstar at the East-West Shrine game, and comfortably dominated every defensive lineman who lined up opposite him. He is at his best in the run game where his bulk and strength allows him to manhandle his opponents and nullify them. However, he is a capable pass-protector as well who started at left tackle in college, and has quick enough feet, length and power. This should allow him to be a great all-around guard once he improves his technique a bit more.
The Lions also need a big upgrade at right guard with the incumbent Stephen Peterman lacking as a run-blocker and on the wrong side of 30. In reality, Brooks would probably be an upgrade on Peterman from day one, and allow the Lions to shed the large contract that Peterman has.
Brooks is also an ideal fit for the Lions' man-blocking system, which relies on big bodies and powerful men to beat defensive linemen one-on-one at the line of scrimmage. This suits Brooks' style of play, and in this sort of system Brooks should develop into a better guard than Carl Nicks, who recently signed a massive contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Book it!
Round 4, Pick 23: Bobby Massie (OT), Mississippi
With this trade, the Lions would now have two fourth-rounders, and the first would be used on an offseason riser who I have always liked as a prospect, Bobby Massie.
Massie is a tackle from Ole Miss who would start his career on the right side of the line. He has flown up draft boards after the scouting combine, where his length, build and athleticism stood out.
Even before this, Massie looked to be a good day-two tackle. He was a starter at tackle in the SEC for three years, and has held his own against NFL-level talent.
The prime example of this was his performance against Alabama last season. He was the best offensive lineman in the game, and was dominant against players like Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower. Although his game needs refining, he has the quick feet, long arms and natural power to be starting right tackle during his rookie season.
The Detroit Lions need to get better on the offensive line, and by drafting a cornerback in the first round, taking a player like Massie will become essential on day two. Massie should be able to fight with Gosder Cherlius in his rookie season, and if Cherlius does not up his game in a contract year, Massie should represent an upgrade in the years to come.