The Super Bowl is over, awards have been handed out, and with that, it's time for all 32 NFL teams to start looking toward next season.
Soon, teams will start releasing players, making calls on restricted free agents, hiring new free agents, and then finally hitting the NFL draft.
Since the Detroit Lions have no salary cap space, the draft is where the Lions are going to get the majority of their help in 2013, not in free agency.
As such, mock drafts are likely to be the flavor of the next two-and-a-half months or so. They may get trite and boring, but that's why I have rules in place to keep things interesting.
For all my mock drafts posted up to the draft in late April, no picks can be repeated from one week to the next. That means six (or more, after compensatory picks are distributed) new draft picks in each mock draft, even if the last six were really good.
With that said, here are my previous mock drafts, which will be tracked like this throughout the draft season, just for the sake of accountability. Feel free to laugh about how I suggested the Lions take Manti Te'o in the first round a month ago.
Previous mock drafts:
The Lions' defensive coordinator is of German origin. Why not their new top pass rusher?
Gunther Cunningham (born in Munich, Germany) and Bjoern Werner (born in Berlin, Germany) would likely be thrilled to team up on the Lions' sideline, for reasons having nothing to do with their nationalities.
Ultimately, there is a logjam of defensive ends that project at about the same level in the top 10-15 picks. The differences between them are slight enough to be tipped at the combine, or by any little thing that may happen between now and the draft itself.
But of those players, Werner is the only one who projects, in size, speed and strength, to a natural 4-3 end position. The others (like Damontre Moore, my previous pick at this position) were more of 3-4 rush linebackers in college, whose transition to a 4-3 would require a forced body change (i.e. lots of weight training).
So why not instead go for Werner, who already has the right mix of ingredients for a 4-3? In a draft with a notoriously weak top of the class, Werner stands out as perhaps the safest and most sensible pick, especially for a team that could conceivably lose both its starting DEs this season.
Previous picks: Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame (01/07/13)
Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M (01/26/13)
The last time the Lions took a safety high in the second round, they ended up with Louis Delmas.
The jury is still out on whether or not that was a good call, and that's a big reason why safety remains a serious concern.
Though the Lions would likely benefit more from a consistent (but average) veteran at safety than yet another young player to throw in with Amari Spievey and Ricardo Silva, the uncertainty surrounding Delmas' health and contract make drafting a safety in the early rounds a real possibility.
Matt Elam is the top safety likely to be available at the top of the second round. Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro should be gone by the middle of the first, and Elam is the next best.
Elam needs work on his coverage skills at the NFL level (like every safety ever), and he doesn't hit as hard as Delmas, but he's also a more reliable form tackler than Delmas.
Previous picks: Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama (01/07/13)
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (01/26/13)
Kyle Long is precisely the kind of lineman the Lions like: big, athletic and raw.
The son of NFL Hall of Famer Howie Long and brother of Rams DE Chris Long, Kyle Long is a 6'7", 310-pound monster who is both strong and surprisingly athletic for his size.
Long was originally scouted and recruited as a baseball prospect for his 96 mile-per-hour left-handed fastball. The Chicago White Sox drafted him in 2008, but instead of signing, he attended Florida State with a full baseball scholarship.
However, academic issues caused him to lose his scholarship, and after spending a night in jail due to a DUI in 2009, he straightened himself out and eventually wound up playing guard and tackle at Oregon after a year playing defensive line at a junior college.
So yes, Kyle Long is a JUCO prospect, but it's not for a lack of talent. Quite the opposite, he's just an incredible athlete who played two sports in high school but only recently committed to football.
That said, Long has football in his blood, and was such a quick study at Oregon that he became a key part of the offense in only two years there.
Long has seemingly unlimited upside, with all the size and athleticism NFL teams love, combined with a correctable lack of experience and technique. He's a smart kid, so he shouldn't have any issue picking up the NFL game and techniques.
Long grades out around the bottom of the second round right now, which makes him attainable at the top of the third. But his athleticism makes him a prime candidate to blow up the combine, which might move him up out of this spot. Still, he's worth a look at any position.
Previous picks: Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State (01/07/13)
Dallas Thomas, OT/G, Tennessee (01/26/13)
For the second consecutive mock draft, I've slotted a defensive end, offensive lineman, and running back in rounds one, three and five, respectively.
I'll apologize for the lack of variety, but not for the reasons behind it. The Lions need impact players at those positions, and these are approximately the rounds to find those players.
Quality interior offensive lineman can still be found in the third round, and running backs can be found in the fifth, as long as they're OK being one-dimensional.
The Lions aren't looking for a fifth-round running back to be Adrian Peterson. They don't even need him to be Jahvid Best. They just need someone faster and more dangerous in space than Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell.
Of course, those guys will still factor into the Lions' 2013 rushing attack, but they're grinders who create contact rather than avoiding it. That does wonders to wear down a defense, but without a big-play threat to take advantage of the defense's fatigue, it doesn't amount to much.
Johnathan Franklin isn't the fastest back in the draft, but he's also not the most costly. He has most of the skills the Lions are looking for, but could use some polish catching passes. Still, his isn't a bad skill set for a fifth-round pick.
Previous pick: Baccari Rambo, S, Georgia (01/07/13)
Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida (01/26/13)
After a strong Senior Bowl effort, this might be a bit far for Hill to fall, as he projects to the fourth or fifth round.
However, his lack of elite size or strength could knock him back down draft boards after the combine.
Normally, the Lions wouldn't be terribly interested in a smallish one-gap defensive tackle who relies on quickness to get into the backfield. They got rid of a bunch of those when they were busy uninstalling Rod Marinelli's Tampa-Two defense.
But in the sixth round, Hill might be a reasonably good decision. He showed an uncanny ability to get to the quarterback at Penn State, and there's no doubt the Lions appreciate that from everyone on the line.
At 6'2", Hill is unlikely to have much room to pack on weight and muscle, but he's already about 295 pounds and proven effective against Big Ten offensive linemen. He won't likely be the focal point on an NFL defense, but he could be a good rotational player next to a double team-pulling Ndamukong Suh or Nick Fairley.
Previous picks: Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State (01/07/13)
Brian Schwenke, C, California (01/26/13)
Given the kinds of attitudes the Lions have gotten out of their recent draft picks, this is undoubtedly a risky pick.
Marquess Wilson is the guy who quit on his team after claiming abuse by head coach Mike Leach. There is no particular closure on that claim, and so there's no way to prove his claim true or false. Leach has a reputation for being...less than gentle with his team, but it could just be that Wilson was being a prima donna. There's no way to know.
Worse yet, Lions head coach Jim Schwartz isn't exactly a soft-spoken guy. His players seem to like him well enough, but if Wilson's issue is just aggressive coaches in general, then this is probably a bad match.
That said, Wilson has the kind of size and speed teams hope for in a second-round pick. In the seventh round, the attitude risk is mitigated considerably.
Consider: if Titus Young had pulled the kinds of antics he'd pulled as a seventh round pick, the Lions would have already cut him, and nobody would have blinked. Because he's a second-round pick, the Lions are faced with a decision between keeping a locker room cancer or losing a significant draft investment.
The Lions will face no such issue if Marquess Wilson falls this far. If he turns out to be a hard worker, the Lions have another speedy downfield receiver, like they've needed for years. If he turns out to be another head case, the Lions cut a former seventh-round pick and nobody minds.
It may not seem like a good idea to attempt to replace Young with a player who could turn out exactly like him, but it's all about managing risk and reward. Drafting Wilson is risky, but the payoff is potentially huge, and the consequences of missing on a seventh-round pick are practically zero.
Previous picks: Josh Boyd, DT, Mississippi State (01/07/13)
Rashard Hall, FS, Clemson (01/26/13)