Detroit Lions Mock Draft: The Latest Full 7-Round Predictions
In just over three weeks, the 2012 NFL Draft will get started at Radio City Music Hall in New York, and we can finally stop arguing about whether the Detroit Lions should draft a cornerback in the first round.
Really though, this happens every year. Lions fans are passionate about their team 365 days a year, and as a result, we naturally have our own ideas about which direction the franchise should go.
Remember all the negativity surrounding Matthew Stafford in 2009? I'm as guilty as anyone, and I'll freely admit to that. Lions fans had been arguing about Stafford's viability for months, and they lustily booed the pick when Stafford was announced first overall.
The doubters among us were arguing for future busts Jason Smith and "can't miss" Aaron Curry, or trying to decide if Stafford was really better than Mark Sanchez.
Martin Mayhew, please forgive us, for we know not what we're talking about.
But despite being at each other's throats for months beforehand, we always find a way to reconcile after the fact, like political parties re-uniting after a primary.
So even if you think I'm a moron in this mock draft, and in my five previous, I urge you to come back around in a month so we can all be friends again.
After all, we're all going to be rooting for the same team, regardless of who ends up playing on it.
Dean's previous mocks:
First Round (23rd Overall): Zach Brown, OLB, North Carolina
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Previous pick: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
With all the understandable hoopla about the Lions' perceived weakness at offensive line and secondary, one thing nobody is talking about is the complete dearth at linebacker.
Oh, the Lions have starters, sure. They have Stephen Tulloch locked up for the next five years, and that's good. They have DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant manning the outsides, and that's good too.
What they don't have is... well, basically anything after that. Or Levy and Durant on the roster after this season.
Realistically, the linebackers are in about the same shape as the offensive line: the starting lineup is functional, but the depth is non-existent, the contracts are expiring, and it isn't as though the starters are amazing enough to not deserve an upgrade.
Which brings us to Zach Brown, who is a more talented player than his draft status suggests.
Talent-wise, Brown could be a top-15 pick. But he's a 4-3 outside linebacker with no real pass-rush skills, and the fact that he plays a non-premium position drives his stock down.
Brown is easily the best OLB prospect on the board this year and in an incredibly thin crop of players, no less. If they pass him up, there are only a couple of players that make sense within the first three rounds.
If the Lions take Brown here, they can shore up another one of their starting roles for the next five years, and they won't have to panic when their two other linebackers enter free agency in 2013.
Second Round (54th Overall): Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
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Previous pick: Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida State
I have mocked an offensive lineman to the Lions in the second round for the last two mocks, and I see no good reason for that trend to stop here, especially if Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler falls to them.
Now, Zeitler is an interesting prospect, because he's effectively the polar opposite of every other player on the Lions' offensive line. He's an explosive, road-grading run blocker who can drive his man five yards off the line of scrimmage, but he struggles in pass protection, especially against explosive speed rushers.
In that sense, this is a perfect fit for both Zeitler and the Lions.
Zeitler brings the Lions a powerful interior run-blocker, whose build and skills are ideal for a power-man blocking scheme. And Zeitler gets to practice every week against some of the most explosive DT speed rushers in the game, with a wise old center to mentor him.
See, it's win-win. Zeitler gets a team in need of his skills, and a team that can coach up his weaknesses. And the Lions get a good player and can make him better.
Third Round (85th Overall): Isaiah Pead, RB, Cincinnati
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Previous pick: Cam Johnson, DE, Virginia
I'm slowly starting to come around to the idea of the Lions drafting another running back.
Mind you, I still don't really like it. But I made sure to address the offensive line first, so I've negotiated it enough with myself to justify this pick.
Isaiah Pead was a hero at the Senior Bowl, but it wasn't just his skills as a running back that made him impressive; it was his versatility. Pead can run between the tackles or outside, and he's a solid pass-catcher. But the biggest reason he makes sense here is because he also made a name for himself returning kicks at the Senior Bowl.
Yeah, so the Lions have a lot of resources invested at running back right now. But what if the Lions draft Pead and he ends up taking Stefan Logan's roster spot? Pead is a speedy back who is effective both as a kick returner and with the offense. Doesn't that mean an upgrade over Logan?
Ultimately, Pead could just step in and be primarily a kick/punt returner. But he also serves the purpose of insurance for Detroit's oft-injured stable of running backs. So either way, the pick isn't wasted.
Fourth Round (117th Overall): Joe Adams, WR, Arkansas
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Previous pick: LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
That's right. Not only have I spent the last three picks on offense, but two of them have been on skill positions.
The very idea probably triggers a gag reflex, but at this point in the draft, the Lions could absolutely do just that.
As solid as the Lions' offense was last year, it was also full of holes. Just because Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson were able to cover up (or in Johnson's case, leap over) those holes doesn't mean they're any less prevalent.
With Calvin Johnson and Titus Young, the Lions now have two solid downfield receivers to stretch the field. With Nate Burleson, they have a decent possession guy. And the tight ends and running backs bring lots of value to the passing game, too.
But where's the catch-and-run over the middle guy? When the Lions stretch the field, who sits down underneath, matched against a linebacker or nickel corner? Where's the guy who turns a five-yard drag route into a 20-yard gain?
We know who wants to be that guy, but he isn't. Joe Adams could be.
Now, there's a reason Joe Adams is still on the board in the fourth round. He lacks elite speed, and he needs lots of work on his route-running (a must for a slot receiver). He won't be a guy who can step in immediately, but then, what fourth-round pick is?
Adams also has kick-return ability, so he can challenge/back up/split with Pead in that role until the two become more acclimated to the offense.
Fifth Round (158th Overall): Coty Sensabaugh, CB, Clemson
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Previous pick: Keenan Robinson, LB, Texas
I was thinking quarterback, but then I figured three straight offensive skill players might lose me some credibility.
I also figured there might be mutiny if I ignored the cornerback position any longer. But as someone who has been watching the Lions draft over the last three years, I am fully prepared for them to draft a grand total of zero quarterbacks this year.
They know what they have better than we do, and they've been right about drafting decisions more often than we have. By all accounts, the Lions' front office does not perceive as pressing a need at cornerback as the average fan does.
Which is why Coty Sensabaugh (cousin of Cowboys safety Gerald) makes sense here.
Sensabaugh is a value pick in the fifth round, and although he is athletic, he is a project. But just because he's a fifth-round pick doesn't mean he can't be a good player. Chris Houston was a fourth-round pick, Cortland Finnegan a seventh and Aaron Berry went undrafted entirely.
The common thread is, of course, that all of them greatly improved their play under Jim Schwartz. And Sensabaugh could be the next. He has the physical tools, which means he has upside.
Ultimately, it doesn't really matter where the Lions draft a cornerback; he's probably not going to play much this season. So why not grab a project like Sensabaugh in the late rounds and coach him up to be ready later?
Sensabaugh is fast enough to stay with almost anyone, and he's a man specialist, which makes him a near-perfect fit for Detroit. All they have to do is give him time and coaching.
Seventh Round (219th Overall from SEA): Brandon Lindsey, DE, Pittsburgh
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Previous pick: Josh LeRibeus, G, SMU
Normally I'm not a big fan of drafting 3-4 OLB/DE hybrids into 4-3 DE positions, but Brandon Lindsey's value at this point outweighs the scheme mismatch.
At 6'2" and a shade over 250 pounds, Lindsey shares a lot in common with Willie Young, with whom the Lions appear to have had success in the seventh round.
So this, basically, could be another version of that. If there are two positions the Lions know how to maximize with minimal investment, they are defensive end and cornerback. So give them both positions with late-round picks here, and watch them blossom.
Seventh Round (230th Overall): Jordan Jefferson, QB, LSU
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Previous pick: DeAngelo Peterson, TE, LSU
Jordan Jefferson may be no more than a warm body to keep the third roster spot covered on the QB depth chart, but somebody has to do it.
I've been high on the idea of grabbing and developing a quarterback behind Matthew Stafford, perhaps for trade bait purposes down the road. I'm not sure Jefferson is that guy, but I don't think the Lions are far enough removed from their rash of QB injuries to really justify going into the season with two QBs.
If Jefferson develops into a decent player, then great. If not, he served as an insurance policy, which is approximately what you expect from a quarterback drafted in the seventh round. No harm, no foul.