Lions Targeting Wide Receiver in Draft

Ryan McCrystalFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2013

KNOXVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 20:  Cordarrelle Patterson #84 of the Tennessee Volunteers pulls in this reception against Robert Lester #37 of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Neyland Stadium on October 20, 2012 in Knoxville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Since 2004, the Detroit Lions have drafted five wide receivers in the first or second round—more than any other team in that span—but they still have a need at the position. 

Once again the Lions appear ready to select a receiver early in the draft, as they have already conducted workouts with three prospects. 

Justin Hunter, Cordarrelle Patterson and Robert Woods—all of whom are expected to come off the board within the first two rounds—have visited Detroit within the past two weeks. 

Pre-draft visits aren't necessarily a strong indicator of who a team is targeting. But when a team uses multiple visits on highly rated players of the same position, it is definitely an indication of the general direction they are planning to take on draft day. 

Each team is only allowed to bring in 30 prospects, excluding local players. So it's unlikely that the Lions would use three of those slots on receivers likely to be selected within the top 50 picks if they weren't genuinely interested. 

Of the three prospects, Hunter and Patterson would appear to be the best fits in Detroit. 

Woods projects as a slot receiver at the next level, but Ryan Broyles already fills that role for the Lions.

According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), 64 percent of Broyles' routes were run from the slot a season ago, and it's unlikely the Lions would deviate from than plan in 2013. 

Hunter and Patterson, however, are true outside receivers. 

Patterson projects as a first-round pick, but is unlikely to be a target of the Lions at No. 5. 

However, should Patterson slide down the board, it's possible the Lions could trade back into the first round. If general manager Martin Mayhew views Patterson as the ideal complement to Calvin Johnson, he may be willing to part with future picks to make that move. 

Hunter is unquestionably a first-round talent, but due to injuries and inconsistent play, he will likely slide to the second day of the draft. 

After missing nearly the entire 2011 season with a torn ACL, Hunter struggled in his return this past season. 

Multiple drops, poor routes and a general lack of focus on the field raise concerns about Hunter's readiness for the NFL

The first two plays in the video below demonstrate the maddening inconsistency that Hunter showed in 2012—shakiness which will likely cost him a spot in the first round.

But in terms of raw talent, Hunter compares favorably to A.J. Green or Randy Moss

It's possible that Detroit would be intrigued by the talent, and be comfortable bringing Hunter into the locker room to be groomed by veterans such as Johnson and Nate Burleson. 

Regardless of who the Lions choose, it now appears likely that they will target a receiver early in the draft. 

For information on draft visits, keep an eye on my pre-draft visit tracker, updated daily.