Detroit Lions 2012 Mock Draft: Best from the West

James Van Etten@jbvanettenContributor IApril 25, 2012

Detroit Lions 2012 Mock Draft: Best from the West

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    Some say everything is better out West. The Detroit Lions could validate this theory by exclusively using the 2012 NFL draft to select players from west of the Mississippi River.

    Snoop Dogg likes to remind anybody that will listen that the Left Coast is the best Coast, and I’ll agree, but it's not the correct body of water.

    I’ve been all over this great country of ours, and to me, it’s not the California beaches, but rather the left coast of Michigan that is the best place to kick back and enjoy yourself.

    The spectacular sunsets over fresh, not saltwater, some of the best golf in the country and not a freeway around for miles makes the Lake Michigan coastline second to none. Plus, there's no smog or worry as to when the next earthquake will shake the family photos off the wall.

    But it’s not just my opinion. Sleeping Bear Dunes, located in the Leelanau Peninsula, was recognized as the Most Beautiful Place in America last year.

    The seasonal changes Michigan offers are unique, and nobody that totes a surfboard on their ride can truly appreciate a crisp autumn afternoon without experiencing a football weekend in Michigan.

    With that brief “Pure Michigan” soliloquy, following is a mock draft for the Detroit Lions developed solely with players from the west side of our country and below are my past mocks this offseason.

    Enjoy the draft!


    Bill Belichick Mock, April 25

    Martin Mayhew Mock, April 20

    Post-Combine Mock, March 8

    7 to Watch at the Combine, Feb. 20

    7 Additional Draft Targets, Jan. 24

    Preliminary 7-Round Mock, Jan. 17

1st Round: Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford

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    If Jonathan Martin's name has not been called after the Cleveland Browns make their pick at 22, it should take approximately three seconds for the Lions to turn in the card with the Stanford Cardinal's name on it.

    As I've said ad nauseam, the franchise is built around No. 9, and protecting Matthew Stafford’s right arm with a blue-chip left tackle would be the ideal scenario for Detroit.

    At 6’6” and 305 pounds, Jonathan Martin successfully guarded the blindside of future Colt Andrew Luck and has been sliding down the mock draft boards in a fashion reminiscent to Nick Fairley.

    The Lions are built to move the ball through the air, and Martin’s pass-blocking is superior to his road-grading abilities, but don’t mistake that for passiveness; this guy has a genuine mean streak that will help him adapt to the pro game quickly.

    Kevin Murphy, another offensive tackle from Harvard, was brought in for an official visit, and many like the idea of an intellect up front for Detroit.

    What many fail to realize is that Martin turned down the opportunity to be a fourth-generation Harvard graduate and opted for Stanford because of his athletic ability.

    Smarts are great, but give me the guy who's smart and an elite athlete everyday.

    The second-team AP All-American is a solid character guy with a strong work ethic and above-average football IQ and overall intelligence. He will seamlessly step in for Jeff Backus when the time comes and can compete right away at the right tackle spot with Gosder Cherilus.

2nd Round: George Iloka, Free Safety, Boise State

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    The Lions could head back to Idaho for back-to-back gems in the second round. Titus Young was a surprise pick last year, and George Iloka has the size necessary for the evolution of the safety position.

    Accounting for the tight end in the passing game has become a priority in the NFL, and Iloka has played both safety and corner in college. He has shown the ability to cover in both zone and man schemes.

    He is unusually large for the position at 6’4” and 225 pounds, and with 34½” arms combined with 20 reps on the bench, Iloka is the next generation of safety.

    Iloka has the length to knock the ball away and the strength to play man coverage against the elite tight ends in the NFC. The second receiver is not the problem for Detroit, it’s Jermichael Finley, Vernon Davis and Jimmy Graham that give Gunther Cunningham nightmares.

    The torching of the secondary last season was not a cornerback exclusive problem. The big plays up the middle of the field exposed the weakness of the safety position, and bringing in the best free safety in the draft would be an immediate upgrade.

3rd Round: Ronnie Hillman, Running Back, San Diego State

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    LaMichael James is the running back Jim Schwartz wants as insurance for Jahvid Best, but if the Lions try to get him in the third, they may be too late to the prom.

    But alas, just like the high school right of passage, there are other fish in the sea, and Ronnie Hillman is a terrific runner-up.

    In his freshman year, Hillman broke Marhsall Faulk’s freshman rushing record with 1,532 yards on the ground and followed that up with 1,711 yards as a sophomore, setting the new WAC conference single-season rushing record.

    At 5’9" and 190 pounds, his slight frame was a concern, but Ronnie yoked up for the combine, putting on 11 additional pounds and still flew like the wind.

    Posting a 4.45 in the 20 plus a 37” vertical, both fourth-best amongst running backs, Hillman showed everybody he can bulk up and still be one of the most athletic running backs in this year’s class.

    His running style is perfect for what the Lions offense presents.

    He’s quick to the outside with tremendous burst and has terrific lateral agility to bounce the play when the hole is not there—a necessity for all Lions running backs.

    Surprisingly, he is also a patient runner. He can pick his way through the interior of the line and will stick his nose into a blitzing linebacker and cut him when necessary.

    Hillman rarely caught the ball out of the backfield in college, collecting only 33 receptions over two years, but don’t let that be a red flag. Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders didn’t catch too many balls when they were at Oklahoma State, and both caught the ball well in the flats at the professional level.

    With only two years' collegiate experience, Hillman is inexperienced, but so was LeSean McCoy, and I think that’s turned out rather nicely for Philadelphia.

    The Lions are hopeful Mikel Leshoure will still be their thunder, but lighting is what makes this offense scary. When Best was out of the lineup, the offense wasn't the same; having another home run hitter in waiting will keep the offense explosive even with another injury to Best.

4th Round: Senio Kelemete, Offensive Guard, Washington

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    Getting an athletic lineman with versatility in the middle rounds would ease the concern for the offensive line going forward.

    Senio Kelemete started at left tackle the last two seasons for the Huskies and started 26 straight games for Washington, but is projecting to the guard spot at the next level.

    Previously a defensive tackle, Kelmete shows the nastiness necessary to be effective in the trenches and has powerful hands for the initial pop on defenders. At 6’4” and 309 pounds, Kelemete is not cut from the same Cordy Glenn and Brandon Brooks cloth, but adding weight coming into the NFL is not uncommon.

    He moves well laterally and is an effective trap blocker and gets to the next level and finds the linebacker, but can lose the block, as he has a tendency to drop his eyes and stop his feet.

    A two-time team captain with natural athletic ability, no health issues and experience at multiple positions is the kind of mid-round, team-oriented value pick the Lions desperately need to add depth to the offensive line.

5th Round: Asa Jackson, Cornerback, California Polytechnic

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    Because of the depth of cornerback in the draft and grabbing the top free safety in the second round, the Lions can find value at a position of need deeper in the draft.

    Enter Cal Poly corner Asa Jackson.

    At 5’11” and 190 pounds, Jackson has the size to play at the next level even though he comes from a small program.

    Small program may be an understatement. His pro day performance was conducted at the Hawaii pro day, but the kid can play and has performed well against NFL-caliber talent in conference play.

    He’s strong in man coverage, understanding the nuances of covering on an island, but is also willing to come up and play the run.

    Plus, he has plenty of speed and hops. At his pro day he improved his combine 40 time of 4.49 to a 4.45 and his vertical jump from 34.5” to 37.5”, both putting him easily into the top dozen amongst his peers.

    The draft is full of small-school corners this year who are capable of playing with the big boys; with good footwork and unquestioned athletic ability, Asa Jackson is one of them.

7th-Round Pick (From Seattle): Dale Moss, Wide Receiver, South Dakota State

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    Dale Moss is the true defnition of a sleeper pick.

    Very few have heard of the 6'3", 213-pound receiver, but his pro day has put Moss on everybody's list as a potential late-round pick.

    According to the Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan and's Aaron Wilson, Moss put up some numbers that are comparable with the elite from the combine.

    He was timed anywhere betwen 4.45 and 4.38 in the 40, an impressive 41.5 inch vertical jump, 130" in the broad jump and a blazing 6.32 in the three-cone drill. 

    To put that in perspective, both jumps are top five amongst all participants in Indy, and the fastest three-cone time at the combine was Florida sparkplug Chris Rainey at 6.50, but he's 5'8" and 180 pounds; these numbers are just ridiculous!.

    Part of the reason there has been little written about Moss is because he was a basketball player at SDSU and only played football his senior year.

    Football is in his genes, though, as his uncle, Johnny Rodgers, was a Heisman winner for Nebraska in the early 70s.

    He had 61 grabs for 949 yards and six scores in his first collegiate season, which should make scouts salivate at the potential this kid has with some further development; Marques Colston and Antonio Gates quickly come to mind.

    Stephen Hill used a tremendous combine performance to catapult him into the top 50 of the draft, and the potential that Moss has shown will get him a selection over the weekend.

7th-Round Pick: Josh Kaddu, Outside Linebacker, Oregon

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    Even if the Lions don’t draft LaMichael James, Jim Schwartz’s roadie to Eugene might still yield a valuable addition to the squad.

    Josh Kaddu has the ideal frame for the outside linebacker position. At 6’3” and 236 pounds, Kaddu has tremendous sideline-to-sideline range and finishes tackles with an explosive burst.

    He’s been exceptional on special teams at Oregon as well. Yes, he’s Zack Follett, but with way more upside.

    He’s a little raw, and because of his aggressive nature, he has a tendency to be a bit reckless and overpursue, which will surely put him in Cunningham’s doghouse early. But his high motor and explosive quickness combined with natural speed could create a fantastic steal late in the draft.

    He was originally projected to go in the third or fourth round, but a nagging hamstring injury that caused him to end his pro day early is pushing him down the draft boards and potentially into free agency.

    A guy with natural talent like Kaddu warrants a role of the bones in the last round, especially at a position of need for Detroit.