Detroit Lions Mock Draft: Building the Perfect 7-Round Draft
We've come to the end of March, which means the draft is less than a month away, and the Lions have improved their situation considerably in the last few weeks.
Not only did the Lions come away with a very successful free-agent haul, but they picked up an extra fourth- and seventh-round pick in April's draft.
Now that we know the exact draft picks (and order) the Lions will have in April, the only thing left is figuring out what to do with them. There are some picks the Lions no longer need to make because of their free-agent signings, and they can afford some additional luxuries as a result of their shiny new fourth-round pick.
From here on, mock drafts, while still an inaccurate science, are going to start looking an awful lot more like the real thing.
So in the interest of a maximally accurate draft, this is the one where prior mocks don't matter. It's all new picks this time, regardless of what I've mocked in the past.
That doesn't mean this is how it will happen, but there's a decent chance it'll grade out pretty well if it does.
Previous mock drafts:
All combine numbers and stats courtesy NFL.com.
Round 1, Pick No. 5 (Fifth Overall): Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
Eric Fisher NFL Player Comparison
Last year, when the Lions took Riley Reiff in the first round, it seemed like a safe pick. Certainly not one of immediate need, but a good look at the long view of things.
Turns out, Reiff is now the posterboy for drafting talent instead of immediate needs. Reiff wasn't a "need" pick last year, and he only saw the field in specialty packages. Now he's a potential starter at any one of three positions, and the Lions need even more help.
This is one of those situations where the Lions can draft the best player on the board and fill a gigantic, immediate need. There are a number of people who assume Fisher won't be available at No. 5 overall, and some who believe he could push Luke Joeckel for the top overall pick.
It's certainly true that the Philadelphia Eagles need a solid offensive tackle, but isn't this like the time people thought Ndamukong Suh wouldn't be available at No. 2 overall? And Nick Fairley wouldn't be there at No. 13? And Riley Reiff would be long gone by No. 23?
The point is, the Lions have a history of picking the player they never thought would fall to them. If that happens, they have a steal at No. 5, one of the best overall players in the draft, and a left tackle for the next 10 years.
Meanwhile, Reiff can move in at either right tackle or right guard, where he might be even more efficient than he would have been on the blind side.
Note: players that I have put in more than one mock draft will show up in bold lettering.
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)
Kenny Vaccaro, S,Texas (02/27/13)
Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, DE, BYU (03/14/13)
DeMarcus "Dee" Milliner, CB, Alabama (03/18/13)
Round 2, Pick No. 4 (36th Overall): Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, DE, FSU
Pay special attention to Carradine's patience and intelligence on running plays.
Last year, the Lions took one of the most productive players in the history of college football in the second round because he tore his ACL the previous November.
This year, they can do the same with Tank Carradine if enough people are willing to pass on him.
Carradine tore his ACL in late November, hampering his pre-draft activities and sending him a couple rounds down draft boards. That said, he has been rebounding lately. Carradine wasn't able to run at the combine, but he is beating the clock on his recovery time.
That combined with impressive physical measurables at the combine (including arms of 34 3/4" and 28 bench press reps) have teams not just high on Carrdine's long-term potential, but even his ability to contribute this year.
With Jim Schwartz committed to putting Jason Jones at Cliff Avril's old position (according to Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com), it makes sense to plug Carradine in Kyle Vanden Bosch's old role. He's a smart, large-bodied defensive end whose unusual athleticism and natural bend make him an ideal pass-rush specialist for Detroit's scheme, and one who doesn't sacrifice discipline on run plays.
Like Fisher, the only thing that hampers this pick is the possibility that he isn't available. He's undeniably a first-round talent, but has been projected as low as the third because of his injury. If the Lions can grab him after teams pass looking for "instant impact" players, he's a massive value.
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)
Sam Montgomery, DE, LSU (02/27/13)
Eric Reid, S, LSU (03/14/13)
Arthur Brown, LB, Kansas State (03/18/13)
Round 3, Pick No. 3 (65th Overall): Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers
Check out Greene's ability to blitz and strip the ball. At 4:21 he goes one-on-one with All-Big East LT Justin Pugh and embarrasses him.
Khaseem Greene is guy who plays with good speed, vision and power. It's just his size holding him out of the first round.
Greene doesn't "play bigger than he is," in the same way that Arthur Brown of Kansas State does, but Brown is a projected first-round pick, while Greene could be available in the third.
This could cause a logjam on the roster, since the Lions also have a couple young linebackers that they drafted just last year, both spoiling for a starting spot. But Greene has a lot to offer that the Lions would really love (including the ability to be a gunner on punt coverage units).
He can make plays from sideline-to-sideline, he can blitz, he can hit, he can bring down the ball-carrier in the open field and he can cause turnovers.
Fumbles tend to be a random thing in football, but people who can force them with regularity are increasingly rare. That's partially what made Cliff Avril appear so valuable in 2011. Greene has the strength and technique to strip at the football, and he forces a bunch of fumbles as a result.
Cornellius "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, NC State (02/11/13)
Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson (02/27/13)
Travis Frederick, G/C, Wisconsin (03/14/13)
Cornelius Washington, DE, Georgia (03/18/13)
Round 4, Pick No. 35 (132nd Overall): Brian Schwenke, C, California
Brian Schwenke showed surprising push at the Senior Bowl for a guy expected to play a bit small.
The first of the Lions' shiny new compensatory picks could be the one that helps them set their offensive line for years to come.
Make no mistake, the Lions are in a position where spending two (or more) picks on the offensive line would not be out of the question. That's what happens when the team loses three starters and signs none.
I'm not sure that Brian Schwenke would be an instant starter for the Lions, but this isn't a team that really needs to throw its fourth-round picks into the fire, either.
The thing about Schwenke is that he does most everything pretty well at center. He's athletic, anchors well, and despite his size is a decent run blocker (watch Schwenke, No. 57 in the black helmet, seal off a DT at 1:52 in this video, opening a massive hole for Mike Gillislee).
He's not a huge road-grader, and because of that, he'll probably need to play center instead of guard at the NFL level. That means he'll probably need to wait until Dominic Raiola's ride is over (most likely next year) before he gets consistent starting time.
In other words, Schwenke is likely not the answer to the Lions' question mark at right guard. But the Lions wouldn't draft him for immediate need, anyway. It's more likely that the Lions draft him, bulk him up and put him under Raiola's tutelage for a season, and then not worry about who takes over after Raiola's retirement.
The Lions' current administration has never drafted an interior offensive lineman. This is most likely the season to end that trend.
Round 5, Pick No. 4 (137th Overall): Dion Sims, TE, Michigan State
Dion Sims isn't a fast weapon, but he's big, sure-handed, and blocks with attitude.
Quietly, subtly, tight end has become a position of ever-so-slight need for the Lions.
Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler are both still good players, of course, and both should have a major impact on the Lions' offense in 2013.
That said, they're also both free agents, and there is no obvious choice behind them on the depth chart, in the role previously filled by utility man Will Heller.
Sims is unlikely to ever be a serious downfield threat as a receiver, but he has great hands and size, making him a valuable red-zone target. He would give the Lions a talented blocker to use on running downs, and a potential replacement should they lose Pettigrew or Scheffler to free agency next season.
Bacarri 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)
Hugh Thornton, G, Illinois (02/27/13)
Knile Davis, RB, Arkansas (03/14/13)
Chris Faulk, OT, LSU (03/18/13)
Round 6, Pick No. 3 (171st Overall): Kenny Stills, WR, Oklahoma
Stills isn't a great route-runner, and he's not much of a threat underneath, but he's athletic and tracks the deep ball well.
The Lions have needed a true downfield threat to take pressure off Calvin Johnson since 2008, when Johnson came into his own.
They've come up with slot receivers and guys with both talent and attitude, but nobody really threatens defenses downfield enough to really worry about anyone but Johnson.
Kenny Stills could be the one to change that. The former teammate of Ryan Broyles, Stills really excels at one thing: going deep and catching the long ball. Matthew Stafford likes to air it out, and he would love to go deep more often, but he hasn't had the tools to do it.
Titus Young was intended to be the answer, but he burned the Lions' patience away from both ends, and now they need exactly what they did two years ago when they drafted Young in the second round.
Spending a pick in the first two days of the draft on a wide receiver for the fourth time in five years would be ill-advised, but that's all the more reason to take a chance on a player like the athletically talented Stills, who could translate his 4.38 combine speed into big plays on the field.
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)
Dwayne Gratz, CB, Connecticut (02/27/13)
Terron Armstead, OT, Arkansas-Pine Bluff (03/14/13)
Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois (03/18/13)
Round 7, Pick No. 5 (211th Overall): Kwame Geathers, DT, Georgia
As you watch Geathers force his way into the backfield, recall that this a game against Alabama, whose entire interior line consists of prospective first-round picks.
Admittedly, it might be a tough sell bringing a guy named "Kwame" to Detroit for any reason.
But this is a different situation, one that should entail an awful lot less corruption than that other guy (though he did play for an SEC school, so it's hard to say for sure).
Regardless, Kwame Geathers (brother of Cincinnati Bengal Robert) is exactly the kind of player the Lions love in the late rounds. He carries Vince Wilfork-like size (6'5", 342 lbs.), and he carries it like a football player, not just a guy who likes to eat.
So why would a guy with Geathers' size and accompanying power be available in the late rounds?
Laziness and a lack of polish.
With some effort and another year in school, Geathers would almost undeniably be a day two pick or better. But he declared as a junior, and now his biggest appeal is his upside. In the seventh round, Geathers can't afford to be lazy. If he works hard, he'll be a major force. If he doesn't, he's a seventh-round pick that didn't pan out. No harm done.
The Lions have had success taking raw linemen in the late rounds and getting something out of them, thanks to defensive line coach Kris Kocurek. Sammie Lee Hill worked his way into a big free-agent contract, and with him gone, Geathers may be the next in line to fill that depth role.
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)
DeVonte Holloman, OLB, South Carolina (02/27/13)
Brad Wing, P, LSU (03/14/13)
Quinn Sharp, P, Oklahoma State (03/18/13)
Round 7, Pick No. 39 (245th Overall): Wes Horton, DE, USC
Horton isn't a consistent playmaker, but he has some potential as a pass rusher.
It would not be unusual to see the Lions load up on defensive ends in this draft, given both the team's love of defensive line depth and its glaring lack of it.
Wes Horton had a decent career at USC, and he currently projects as a part-time pass rush specialist who should probably never be used on running downs. Horton doesn't project as a superstar, but few players do late in the seventh round.
Ultimately, Horton is another project for Kris Kocurek, whose body frame and long arms are almost ideal for a 4-3 defense. On the surface, everything is good with Horton. He has good size and is reasonably athletic. He always finds himself around the ball, but rarely makes it all the way there, resulting in unimpressive production for a four-year starter at USC.
Perhaps Kocurek can help Horton iron out whatever wrinkles are in his game and turn him into a productive rotational lineman. He seems to have the tools to succeed, and he did have his best year as a senior, so maybe his best football is ahead of him.
Alternatively, he could be a mediocre college player trying to transition to the NFL, which means he'll be looking at life after football in a couple years. If that's the case, at least the Lions only have to lament the loss of the 245th overall pick.