For months the debate has raged about who the Detroit Lions will target with their first-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. A litany of prospects and positions have already been discussed, but today there is only one logical choice: Defensive end Dion Jordan.
The Lions' current dearth of defensive-end talent makes Jordan a must.
While Lions' general manager Martin Mayhew did step up his free-agency game by signing each player he targeted—Reggie Bush, Glover Quin, Jason Jones, Chris Houston and Louis Delmas—he couldn't prevent Cliff Avril from signing elsewhere.
When Avril left for Seattle, the Lions' pass rush left with him and the decline and eventual release of fellow starter Kyle Vanden Bosch earlier this offseason didn't help matters either.
Mayhew deserves kudos for improving the Lions' defense—particularly the secondary—and adding speed (Bush) on offense, but now he has to address the hole at defensive end.
Simply put: The Lions have no proven pass-rushers on their roster. If they enter the season with Jason Jones and Willie Young as their starters their chances of improving upon last year is slim.
The situation at DE has disaster written all over it and that's the last thing Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz need. Their jobs are on the line. Either they win now or it will be reboot time in Detroit once again.
Their best chance at strengthening the pass rush was in free agency, but impact players like Michael Bennett and William Hayes never made it to Detroit. They signed elsewhere before Mayhew had a chance to offer them a deal.
Now the Lions are forced to consider players like Israel Idonije and Kyle Moore (Mlive.com) who offer depth but no impact. Combined they only had one more sack than Avril last season.
Unfortunately the free-agency ship has sailed for the Lions at defensive end. Now their only hope is to get an impact player in the draft and that’s where Dion Jordan comes in. The Lions won’t pass him up because he can play at a high level now, not two years from now.
Selecting a project pick—like Ezekiel Ansah—would be pure folly for the Lions’ current regime. Why would they care how good a player is in two or three years? They will be long gone by then if the pass rush doesn't improve this year.
With arguably the best combine performance out of all the pass-rushers, Jordan proved he has all the tools. Many of the experts agree.
Jordan is definitely one of the top players available.....he's drawn comparisons to Aldon Smith. Jordan certainly fits the bill there, as he was one of the most explosive athletes at the Combine. He would also be able to drop into coverage and defend tight ends - and that is key.
Here is what DraftTek has to say about him:
Dion Jordan , who is arguably the best pure pass rusher in this draft. He is versatile, tough, holds the edge, and has improved every year.
Jordan is a phenomenal athlete.....He has the length, speed and athleticism to immediately make a significant contribution as a pass-rusher and pursuit run-defender. Jordan also has good awareness in coverage and unusually fluid hips for his 6-foot-6 frame.
The experts are clearly sold on Jordan’s ability and his speed is what makes him truly unique—and not just for his pass rush skills. The Lions gave up far too many big runs to opponents last year. Jordan’s ability to hold the edge and pursue rushers will be key in improving that stat.
How many more wins would the Lions have if they eliminated one big run per game?
Drafting for need isn't Mayhew's preferred method, but selecting the best player available doesn't make sense this year with the No. 5 pick. It's a wise strategy if you need to build a football team from the ground up but that isn't what the Lions need to do anymore.
They have a talented core, they just need to fill holes in key spots.
They also need to win now and Jordan gives them the best chance at that. Other top prospects such as Bjoern Werner and Ezekiel Ansah have too many drawbacks. Werner has the physicality and work ethic but lacks the athleticism and speed. Ansah has the amazing athleticism and measurables but lacks the technique.
It could take him years to develop into an effective pro. Werner could contribute immediately but his ceiling is relatively low.
On the other hand, Jordan’s potential is sky high due to his unique combination of speed, athleticism and technique. He gives the Lions the biggest bang for their buck and could contribute on Sundays from day one.
The Lions are clearly in a tough spot with regards to the defensive end position and there are no foolproof plans to solve the problem. There is risk involved selecting any player in the draft and Jordan is no different, but he matches up with what the Lions need better than any other prospect.
The only question is whether he gets past his former coach Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles who have the fourth pick, one ahead of Detroit.