5 Prospects the Detroit Lions Must Avoid on Draft Day
Since the end of the regular season, there has been much buzz as to who the Detroit Lions will select in the 2013 NFL Draft. Prospects like Damontre Moore, Bjoern Werner and Luke Joeckel are frequently mentioned as good fits in Round 1, but which players should the Lions avoid?
That's a question that hasn't been addressed nearly as often and there are plenty of picks with serious concerns that may impact their chance for success at the next level.
The Lions have the fifth overall pick, but who knows if they'll stay put, trade down, or add another pick later? It wouldn't be the first time that general manager Martin Mayhew pulls off an draft day move early.
Here are five players the Lions should avoid in the first round and beyond in this April's draft.
* Links to ESPN sources can be viewed by Insiders only.
5. Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas
Yes, the Lions desperately need safety help. Another season relying on Delmas and Amari Spievey to stay healthy might just cost Mayhew his job.
The Lions have essentially no depth at the position.
Kenny Vaccaro makes sense for Detroit, but not at No. 5. It almost universally agreed that he's the highest-rated safety, but few are ready to call him elite, a term often used for a player at the top of his year's crop. ESPN goes so far to say, "a notch below elite like 2004 fifth-overall pick Sean Taylor."
His low interception total (only five in three years) is a big reason for the hesitancy.
He'll be a good pro but, with the fifth overall pick, the Lions need a game changer. They can target a safety like Matt Elam or Eric Reid in the second round and neither player is a big drop off from Vaccaro.
The only way the Lions should target him is if they trade down. Vaccaro would make sense later in the first round
4. D.J. Fluker, OT, Alabama
The Lions could do much worse than picking up another offensive tackle in the early rounds of the draft, but D.J. Fluker shouldn't be one they target.
He might be a top-five prospect among tackles, but his draft stock has actually fallen. As walterfootball.com reports, Fluker struggled to pass protect all year and was particularly weak against Western Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri and Mississippi State.
He might be the best run blocker in the draft, but his abilities protecting the quarterback are too suspect for the Lions to seriously consider.
Actually, the thing that makes him a great run blocker, his massive size, should also be a concern. ESPN reports that he needed to work hard to "trim down" to 335 lbs and strength and conditioning have always been an issue.
Fluker might fit better at guard in the NFL. Even so, the Lions shouldn't risk it. There are too many other solid, albeit smaller, prospects out there.
3. Jarvis Jones, DE/OLB, Georgia
Based on talent alone Jarvis Jones is one of the top prospects in the entire draft. He's a dynamic pass rusher with elite speed and technique. Unfortunately, he has well-documented health concerns that will drop him down boards.
Walterfootball.com's Charlie Campbell wrote about Jones' diagnosis with spinal stenosis and how some teams will "overthink" the draft process and miss out on his tremendous talent.
I agree with him to some degree, but the Lions are in a different position than most teams. They can't afford to have another high draft pick's career derailed by injuries. They've seen too many of their young stars go down with serious injuries the last few years and the last thing they need to do is tempt fate again, even for a talent like Jones.
Particularly not now. The Lions need their first round pick to contribute immediately. Last year they, had the luxury of selecting players they could stash and wait to develop. Free agency losses this offseason necessitate most incoming players stepping in and producing from day one with the franchise.
I know, it's the NFL and injuries are unavoidable. The Lions couldn't have predicted that Jahvid Best's concussion history would make him so vulnerable. They couldn't predict that Mikel Leshoure would injure his Achilles nor that Louis Delmas would be hobbled every other week nor that Ryan Broyles would blow out the ACL on his other knee.
Each injury is unexpected, but those four injuries in particular were a large part of the Lions' struggles. Each were relatively high draft choices with injury concerns and the Lions can't make the mistake of going down that road again.
If those aforementioned injuries didn't happen to players considered, well, injury-prone, the Lions would have more leeway in terms of drafting for overall value rather than depth and insurance. If that were the case, the Lions would take Jones quicker than Titus Young could fire off a Twitter rant.
There's a good chance that Jones will be fine and some team will get great value. The Lion's shouldn't count on that probability, though. He has a preexisting condition which ultimately could shorten his career significantly and, for them, the risk clearly outweighs the reward.
2. Kenjon Barner, RB, Oregon
Kenjon Barner is an undersized burner who fits what the Lions backfield needs are right now: they need a change-of-pace speedster to complement the power running style of Leshoure and Joique Bell.
Jahvid Best was supposed to be that player, but concussions have likely ended his career.
Unfortunately Barner has history of a "serious concussion" in 2010 according to ESPN. This puts him in Jarvis Jones territory, as far as the Lions go. They've been burned once and they can't take a chance on it happening again
Barner is one inch shorter and 10 pounds lighter than Best. He could be even more vulnerable to additional concussion issues.
For the Lions losing Best was a huge blow. It was arguably the biggest factor in them taking a step back last season and the last thing Martin Mayhew wants to do set the team up for the same thing.
The Lions should target a player in the mold of Barner without significant injury concerns.
1. Da'rick Rogers, WR, Tennessee Tech
Da'rick Rogers is a player the Lions may have targeted in years past. He's got first-round talent but, because of off-field issues, he'll drop considerably in the draft.
According to ESPN "his maturity and mental makeup are of considerable concern to NFL scouts."
Here's the summary of his transgressions: In 2010, he was involved in a bar brawl. Later that year, he was spotted screaming at Tennessee's WR coach on the sideline during a game and prior to the 2012 season, he was kicked off the team for failed drug tests, according to walterfootball.com.
Obviously, these are red flags, the kind of warnings that the Lions ignored about some other players and ultimately got burned by. Titus Young comes to mind.
Now is not the time for the Lions to gamble on another receiver (or player, for that matter) with such obvious character concerns. Rogers could end up being the second coming of Jerry Rice, but the Lions shouldn't take a flyer on him.
They can't afford another Young-like debacle. Rogers has potential, but any likelihood of a similar disaster outweighs the potential for greatness.