The 2012 NFL draft is in the books, undrafted players are signed, agents engage in rookie contract negotiations and players prepare for upcoming training camps. We all know what that means right? You got it...an extremely premature 2013 mock draft. (C'mon, you know you were waiting for one).
For draft junkies like me, the completion of a draft only means preparing for the next one. I will admit that I was 0-8 in this year's draft. I did mock the Lions selecting an o-lineman in the first round, but that's about the closest I got to getting anything right. As bad as I was at predicting the 2012 Lions draft, I bet most of you reading this didn't fare much better.
I understand that much can happen over the next 12 months. Some players get injured, while others get suspended. Some prospects decide to leave prematurely while others decide to finish out their senior year. Some players overachieve while others underwhelm. It's all speculation at this point but, that's have the fun. Even though the draft is complete, there is still speculation on which rookies will make the cut and if they'll be much of an impact during the season. So with that, I'm going to speculate away and don't you dare rain on my parade.
Without further ado, I present...your extremely premature 2013 Detroit Lions draft.
Using a first round pick on an O-lineman two years in a row? How preposterous! Almost as preposterous as taking Nick Fairley a year after drafting 2010 rookie of the year Ndamukong Suh. I know some will cringe at this pick but, the fact is that Dominic Raiola is coming to the end of the road, and soon. Dom finds himself in a similar place that Jeff Backus found himself at the end of last season. I expect the Lions to only offer Dom a short contract and to start finding his replacement. After finally getting a glimpse at a healthy Matthew Stafford in 2011, it would behoove the front office to protect him for the foreseeable future.
The following is the opening line on Jones' player bio on the Alabama website: "Barrett Jones is one of the most talented and versatile offensive linemen in the nation". Versatile is correct alright...and we all know how much Jim Schwartz loves versatility. During the 2011 season, Barrett saw time at LT, RT, LG, and C.
Barrett's list of accomplishments are endless. If you don't believe me, just scroll down his player profile on the team page. He's helped win multiple national championships, paved the way for two first round RB's, and won the 2011 Outland Trophy. What's amazing about the last accomplishment is the fact that he beat out 2012 first round pick David DeCastro. DeCastro was labeled by many as a once in a decade Steve Hutchinson-type Guard.
I was initially disappointed at the Reiff over DeCastro pick but, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Unless a player is special (i.e. David DeCastro) the only O-line positions worth drafting in the first round are LT and C. LT protects the QB's blind side, while C makes all the pre-snap line calls. Jones qualifies as both a Tackle and Center so he justifies the first round pick either way. In fact, The Lions may even have to move up to nab him.
Where He Fits in:
Theoretically, Jones could play any spot on the o-line. That's what makes this pick so beautiful. Jones could either be the heir apparent to Raiola or he could straight up challenge Backus/Reiff for one of the the Tackle positions. In this mock draft, Barrett would most likely have to be a Center or Guard to drop to the second half of the draft. With that, I will predict that the Lions will move Jones to RG and let Jones study on the fly until Raiola retires.
Is anyone sensing a trend with this front office? In the second round of 2011, the Lions select Titus Young, WR, Boise State. In the second round of 2012, the Lions select Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma. In the second round of 2013, the Lions select Ryan Swope, WR, Texas A&M?
Would they really do such a thing? Why not? They took a still recovering WR this year. Why not take another WR (Hopefully a healthy one) next year?
All joking aside, Swope is a talented receiver. In 2011, Swope racked up 89 receptions for 1,207 yards, and 11 TD's. Swope broke the school's record for most receptions in a season his sophomore year, then went on to break his own record in 2011. In 2011, Swope had a monster game against Baylor, recording 11 catches for 206 yards and 4 TD's. He is currently listed on the Belitnikoff Award watch list...and for good reason.
Swope is a shifty slot receiver, possesses good hands, has decent speed, and has excellent field vision. He is fearless going over the middle and great at gaining yards after the catch. However, with big bodied receivers like Marquess Wilson, Keenan Allen, Da'rick Rodgers, Cobi Hamilton, and preseason favorite Robert Woods, Swope may be pushed down the draft Board a little bit.
Also contributing to Swope's potential draft board tumble is the departure of Ryan Tannehill, transitioning to the SEC, and a coaching staff change. Note however, that Coach Ken Sumlin is responsible for the offensive system used by offensive juggernaut, The University of Houston. If Sumlin is successful at implementing his offense the way he did at Houston, Swope's numbers may actually balloon from 2011 to 2012.
Where he will fit in:
As the passing game becomes more dominant, four receiver sets are becoming more common. with Calvin Johnson drawing double teams, the Lions should be able to murder teams with the remainder of their receiving corps. Despite his stature, Titus Young is slated to be a secondary deep threat across Calvin due to his speed. Broyles is slated to take over for Burleson on the underneath/medium routes, while Swope could be used to be another underneath/medium route-type receiver as well. Think Jordy Nelson. Imagine adding Jordy Nelson to the Detroit offense...I know, it's pretty scary.
After season ending injuries to Jahvid Best, Mikel LeShoure, and Kevin Smith in 2011, many analysts pegged the Lions to take a RB in the 2012 draft. Surprisingly, the Lions ended up not picking up a single back in the draft even though talents like Lamar Miller and Chris Polk tumbled down draft boards.That tells me that the front office is confident in the current group. However, the jury is still out and it will be a critical year for Jahvid Best in particular.
Depending on the health of the backfield by season's end, the Lions may be on the lookout for another RB. Enter Ed Wesley. Wesley enjoyed a productive sophomore year in 2010 on his way to 1,107 YDS, and 11 TD's, at 6.5 YPC. Wesley was a semi-finalist for the Doak Walker Award and made the All-Mountain West squad.
Wesley took a dip in production in 2011 after suffering a shoulder injury. However, he came back strong and still managed to log 726 yards while splitting carries with two other backs. He has been listed on the Maxwell Award and Doak Walker Award watch lists for 2012.
Wesley stands at a compact 5'-9", and weighs 200 lbs. He runs low to the ground, displays good balance, keeps his shoulders parallel to the line and has an extra gear when he hits the open field. He can also catch the ball out of the backfield or run short underneath routes if necessary. He reminds me a lot of Jahvid Best but just a half a step slower. If he can put on some extra bulk without compromising his speed, he has the potential to be the next Ray Rice.
Where he will fit in:
If Best, Smith, and/or LeShoure prove they cannot stay healthy and contribute, look for the Lions to add a RB in the draft. I really like Wesley's all around game. If he can put together a season similar to 2010, he could see his stock shoot up like fellow Mountain West RB Doug Martin. If that is the case, the Lions may need to trade up to get him.
Rounds four through seven are the rounds that get me the most excited about the current front office. The front office has a knack for finding and developing mid-round talent. In 2012 the Lions made out like bandits with Ronnell Lewis.
With a little luck in 2013, the Lions may be able to nab Mizzou OLB Zaviar Gooden. Gooden is a three year starter and a terrific athlete. He measures in at 6'-2" and 230 lbs and early reports have him running a 4.5 yard 40 yard dash. He has good range and excels at dropping back into coverage. In 2011 he played in all 13 games and logged 80 total tackles, 6 TFL, 1 sack, and 2 INT.
Gooden has a good physical skill set and could potentially have a Whitney Mercilus-type season and break out insane numbers his senior year. If that happens, his stock could go shooting way up draft Boards.
Where He Will Fit In:
Like Lewis, Gooden is a great physical specimen that will mostly work on special teams while being groomed for a spot on the regular rotation. If all pans out, I could see Gooden eventually taking over for Justin Durant.
Mayhew and company have not been afraid of taking a flyer on small school prospects. Sammie Lee Hill was taken in 2010, Johnny Culbreth in 2011, and most recently Chris Greenwood.
Brandon Williams measures in at 6'-3", 325 lbs. He is coming off of his second "Little" AP-All American selection which consists of NCAA Div.II, NCAA Div. III, and NAIA players. In 2011 Williams notched 35 Tackles, 16 TFL, and 8 Sacks.
I realize that he may not be playing against top tier competition, but it doesn't hurt to draft a hulking 300 pound DT who has shown some skill. Schwartz seems to go after raw physical talent later in the draft and Williams would fit that description in the fifth.
Where He Will Fit:
While Corey Williams seems to be on the decline, the Lions could consider drafting Brandon Williams to take over the reigns. Williams would ensure that the rotation at DT remains in tact. Sammie Lee Hill is also coming up on a contract year and could very well start for some other teams. If Hill leaves, this pick becomes all the more valuable. Plus, he's technically already a Lion (Missouri Southern State University Lions); why not keep it that way?
In 2011, Janoris Jenkins put Northern Alabama on the map by going under the radar and signing with the D-II school after off-field concerns surfaced during the 2010 off-season. Woodson is another big school defector.
He was a Rivals 4 star prospect, and the 8th ranked Safety coming out of High School in 2009. He originally signed with Alabama and contributed on special teams as a true freshman. Woodson was slated to compete for the starting FS spot in 2010. However, in a surprising move, he transferred to Northern Alabama prior to the 2010 season. There are several rumors swirling as to the reason for the sudden transfer, but there is no one concrete reason.
Last season, Woodson recorded 50 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FF, and 6 pass break ups.
Where He Fits In:
The Lion secondary was banged up last year and was torched by both the Packers and Saints. Detroit addressed their corner concerns by going ahead and drafting three corners in the draft. I will assume that at least one of those draftees will be used at Safety. However, as talented as Delmas is, he hasn't been able to stay on the field. Woodson could step in as an understudy to Delmas and provide much needed depth. Plus, who wouldn't want to draft a safety who shares the name of one of the all time great defensive backs in NFL history? Additionally, like Brandon Williams, Woodson is also already a Lion (Northern Alabama Lions).
Caleb Sturgis is a strong legged kicker out of Florida. He went 22 of 26, with a long of 55 yards. He averaged 66.4 yards per kickoff and notched 10 touchbacks. Possessing a kicker than can consistently pin returnmen in the end zone is valuable when you face Devin Hester and Percy Harvin twice a year. Not to mention having to play at both Soldier Field and Lambeau Filed each year.
Normally I wouldn't bother drafting a K but, with teams like the Jaguars drafting Punters in the 3rd round, it's better to be safe than sorry.
Where He Fits In:
When Jason Hanson is healthy, he's a top 10 Kicker. However, at age 41, you never know if his leg will give out, if he will sustain an injury or if he will simply decide to retire. In any case, Sturgis would be a great replacement for the next 20 years or so.