The NFL Scouting Combine has concluded, and appears to have left us with as many questions as answers.
So all in all, it was a typical combine. We learned some things, were impressed by some players, and mostly were reminded how little the combine teaches us every year.
This year, the Lions were probably hoping that a top-tier talent would emerge through sheer physical dominance. That didn't really happen, though there were bright spots here and there.
So now that the last major pre-draft event has ended, we have only pro days and the free agency left to precede the NFL draft. What might the Lions' draft look like now, with the combine in the books and two months of speculation left to run in circles on draft picks?
It might look like this now. It will definitely change later. So try to enjoy (or vehemently argue with) this one while it lasts.
Previous mock drafts:
It is downright unlikely that the Lions spring for Kenny Vaccaro with the fifth overall pick in the draft.
Safeties rarely go that high in the draft unless they're particularly special talents, like Eric Berry was in 2010. Vaccaro is very good, but he doesn't appear to be on the game-changing level Berry is.
So why mock him here, even knowing he's a reach and that the Lions hate reaching for positional needs?
Well, one reason is that my standing rule of not repeating picks in my mock drafts creates the need for some creativity in first round picks.
Another reason is that nobody really set themselves apart in the top end of the draft. There were good combine performances and bad ones, but it all comes down to what we're been hearing all along: this draft is thin with top-end talent, and there's not a ton of difference between the fifth overall pick and the 25th.
But more importantly, we don't really know where anybody is on a particular team's big board. Last year, the Seattle Seahawks shocked everybody by taking Bruce Irvin in the first round, despite many analysts giving him about a third-round grade.
It was a draft day shocker, and everyone outside of the Seahawks organization had a good chuckle about it. All Irvin did is lead all rookies with eight sacks in limited playing time during his rookie season, making his doubters look silly in the process.
The Seahawks "reached" for Irvin because he was high on their big board. Similarly, if Vaccaro impresses the Lions, they could spring for him. The top of the 2013 is thin on "can't miss" prospects, so if the Lions zero in on a guy they're really confident about, they'll draft him regardless of what the draft pundits say.
It also helps that the Lions have nothing but question marks at safety. Vaccaro could bring some much-needed stability and some ball skills to the defensive backfield.
This draft is deep with safeties, so it's more likely the Lions grab a safety with a value pick in the second or third round, but it would be irresponsible to suggest that this isn't at least a possibility.
Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame (01/07/13)
Damontre Moore, DE, Texas A&M (01/26/13)
Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State (02/04/13)
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan (02/11/13)
There is lots of talk about the Lions taking a defensive end in the first round of the draft this year, but much disagreement on who that should be.
One potential solution to this problem would be to play "wait and see." The crop of defensive ends in the draft this year is talented, but they all have questions. All of the ends projected to the first round appear equally likely to becomes stars or busts.
The perceived weakness of the position in addition to the logjam at the top of the rankings means that some talented players will fall to availability in the second round. This is where the Lions can spring with a value pick.
Sam Montgomery, like so many of this year's DE crop, has some growing to do for a 4-3 position, but he has the right body type, and flaunts impressive speed for his position. He's not the most fluid player on the edge, which may hamper his pass-rush ability, but he has the overall athleticism to be successful, especially if he improves his technique.
Ultimately, Montgomery is like almost everyone else in this draft class. He has the tools to succeed, and enough question marks to bust. At least in this case, the Lions have a shot at a first-round talent with a second-round pick.
Barrett Jones, OL, Alabama (01/07/13)
Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia (01/26/13)
Matt Elam, S, Florida (02/04/13)
Giovani Bernard, RB, North Carolina (02/11/13)
For an offense that desperately needs a dose of backfield speed, Andre Ellington could be just what the doctor ordered.
At Clemson, Ellington flashed speed and elusiveness on his way to back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. His biggest weakness is that his lithe frame makes him incapable of carrying a rushing load by himself.
That's perfect, since the Lions won't ask him to touch the ball 20 times a game with Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell sharing backfield duties. Realistically, Ellington looks like a perfect complement to the Lions' existing running backs.
Ellington's biggest attribute is his speed, and ability to break away from defenders when he appears contained. That attribute is what the Lions need most in a running back right now. It seems like a perfect match.
If there's a flaw in this, it's that Ellington hasn't proven particularly durable. He doesn't have the huge red flags Jahvid Best had coming out of college, but nagging injuries to his toe and hamstring hang over much of his college career. Perhaps a decreased workload in Detroit will help keep him fresh.
Tank Carradine, DE, Florida State (01/07/13)
Dallas Thomas, OT/G, Tennessee (01/26/13)
Kyle Long, OT/G, Oregon (02/04/13)
David Amerson, CB, N.C. State (02/11/13)
In 2010, Hugh Thornton moved from the right tackle position to the right guard position for the Illinois Fighting Illini.
Also in 2010, running back Mikel Leshoure set Illinois single-season records for rushing yards (1,697), points (122), total touchdowns (20), 100-yard rushing games (nine) and consecutive 100-yard rushing games (five). He also tied the season record for rushing touchdowns with 17.
Coincidence? You decide.
The Lions wouldn't be able to draft Thornton and plug him in immediately. He's a project player who got pushed around at the Senior Bowl. But his upper body can take on more weight and muscle, and he can improve his technique to generate more leverage. His body frame isn't massive, but it's big enough for him to bulk up and become a powerful run blocker.
This may be a bit high for Thornton. He may be available in the sixth round, but he has been mocked as high as the fourth. If the Lions are sold on him, it's won't really matter when in the late rounds they get him.
Baccari Rambo, S, Georgia (01/07/13)
Mike Gillislee, RB, Florida (01/26/13)
Johnathan Franklin, RB, UCLA (02/04/13)
Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina (02/11/13)
It's difficult to justify putting another young cornerback on the roster, especially a late-rounder who may or may not pan out.
But the truth is, Dwayne Gratz fits the profile of what the Lions look for in cornerbacks. He has good size and build (6'1", 190 pounds), and can handle physical receivers at the line. He's a smart, savvy player who does a good job of keeping himself in position and doesn't mind playing the run.
In many ways, he has much in common with Amari Spievey (who was drafted as a cornerback and converted to safety), though it's unlikely the Lions would be interested in trying their hand at another safety convert.
If Gratz has a major flaw, it's that he doesn't show the physical ability to be a top-flight corner. His ceiling is likely somewhere around consistent, unflashy starter. His speed is average, which makes it difficult for him to recover when he makes a mistake.
Gratz makes up for that by simply not making many mistakes. He's a smart, disciplined player, but he'll run into a new level of crafty players at the NFL level. Still, he shows the potential to grow into a major defensive role.
Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State (01/07/13)
Brian Schwenke, C, California (01/26/13)
Jordan Hill, DT, Penn State (02/04/13)
Conner Vernon, WR, Duke (02/11/13)
DeVonte Holloman is the type of player who is unlikely to project into a starting role at linebacker. He has good instincts in both the run and pass game, reasonable speed and good hitting ability.
What he likely doesn't have is good enough flexibility or agility to be consistently effective as a starting linebacker. He lacks the ability to change direction quickly and accelerate, which means that even small mistakes look really big on film.
In addition, the Lions aren't exactly lacking developable prospects at linebacker, with Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis hanging around on the roster.
That said, Holloman is worth a look because he's a decent athlete and his instincts for the game are hard to teach. He would fit in the short term as a good special teams option, and could work himself into an Ashlee Palmer-type (primary reserve) role in the long-term, especially if the Lions prove unable to retain DeAndre Levy or Justin Durant.
All considered, this might not be one of the biggest-impact picks the Lions could make here, but Holloman could turn out to be a solid role player. In the seventh round, finding a solid role player is a blessing.
Josh Boyd, DT, Mississippi State (01/07/13)
Rashard Hall, FS, Clemson (01/26/13)
Marquess Wilson, WR, Washington State (02/04/13)
Joe Madsen, C, West Virginia (02/11/13)