To say mock drafts are an imprecise science is to give entirely too much credit to mock drafters (Science? Really?).
It's incredibly difficult to predict what NFL teams will do in the draft when even the teams themselves enter with little more than a big board and a philosophy. Still, it's easy to tell that certain picks are more likely than others.
So rather than try to select the exact player the Lions will target with their first-round pick, I will (this time) instead look at the most likely choices, then assign odds to the possibility that the Lions select them.
See, when in mock drafts, people select a single player at a certain pick, and the selection of that pick suggests, to some, that there is no way another pick fits there. That's never the case, of course. It's all about determining which player seems like the most likely fit.
This, then, is an opportunity for me to point out that no, I do not hate your favored mock draft pick (probably). I may even recognize the possibility that your favored first-round pick makes a bit of sense. They just aren't likely enough to actually choose as a legitimate mock draft pick.
Incidentally, getting to some of those lower-percentage players is one reason I've generally chosen to rotate my mock draft picks.
But we are less than three weeks from the actual draft, and draft boards are starting to show less and less variance. So now that we can reasonably narrow the Lions' possible first-rounders down to a couple of picks, let's talk odds.
I've been vocal, to say the least, about my affinity for Eric Fisher as the Lions' first-round draft pick of choice.
He seems the perfect blend of high-end talent at a position of need, and some draft analysts, most recently NFL.com's Mike Mayock, have him marked as the best offensive tackle in the draft (despite the near-certainty that he will be the second one selected).
Needless to say, if the Lions get their shot at drafting Fisher, there is very little chance that they pass on the opportunity.
Still, Fisher is far from a sure thing because there is no guarantee the Lions will get their shot. Drafting just before the Lions are the Philadelphia Eagles, who have sported some of the worst offensive line play in recent memory. Fisher seems like a huge upgrade for the Eagles, so all they need to do is pull the trigger.
But the draft can go many different ways, and offensive line is far from the only thing the Eagles need this offseason. Of course, the same can be said of the Lions, but it's hard to argue against Fisher as being the highest-rated player on the board at No. 5 overall. The only reason his percentage isn't higher is because of the looming threat of the Eagles.
Odds the Lions draft Fisher: 4-1
One of the more disagreed-on players in this draft, Ziggy Ansah is still considered the best 4-3 DE available.
The conversation on Ansah inevitably centers on his "upside" or "potential," and how much of a "project" he is. This is all perfectly understandable and valid. But I feel like a lot of people are forgetting that Ansah, the raw, unproven project, had 4.5 sacks and 13 tackles for loss for BYU last year.
It isn't like Ansah is going to enter the league completely unprepared. All rookies enter the league "raw," because they have a massive NFL playbook (and rulebook) to absorb the instant they get drafted. It's not about how "raw" a player is when they get to the NFL, because no player has the same college scheme as they had in the pros.
What is actually valuable is how fast players can learn.
What the Lions saw from Ansah at the Senior Bowl is a player with both immense upside and a propensity to learn a lot in a short period of time. Ansah started the week of Senior Bowl practices looking overwhelmed and lost, but finished the week as arguably the best player at the event, drawing the praise of Lions head coach Jim Schwartz (h/t MLive.com).
It is highly likely that Ansah is one of the Lions' top three players on the Lions' draft board, which makes him a prime target at No. 5 overall.
Odds the Lions draft Ansah: 6-1
I have been hesitant to mock Dion Jordan to the Lions, not because I doubt his skill as a pass-rusher, but because I doubt his scheme appropriateness for the Lions.
Still, Jordan is scheduled for a pre-draft visit to Detroit, according to MLive.com, which means, if nothing else, that the Lions are interested in finding out if Jordan is a viable pick.
But there's not too much to read into that. Jordan has pre-draft visits scheduled with 10 teams, and the other ones are teams he's not likely to fall to.
When the No. 5 overall pick is in play, it's not unusual to take visits with just about every consensus top 10 player, whether they fit the scheme or not. So while I attribute the Lions' interest in Jordan to be either procedural or a smokescreen, it's hard to discount the possibility that the Lions see something they like and jump at perhaps the most talented all-around pass-rusher on the board.
Of course, it's also possible that the Jacksonville Jaguars like him too, and take him at No. 2 overall, where he is frequently mocked.
Odds the Lions draft Jordan: 15-1
Dee Milliner remains a distinct possibility for the Lions, though the fervor for him has died down since the Lions helped their secondary in free agency.
Still, in a notoriously weak draft class, the top cornerback on the board just might be worth the top draft spot. Though there are plenty of candidates for it, the Lions do not currently have a dependable starter to play across from Chris Houston.
Sure, they drafted three last year, any of which may be at or beyond Milliner's level as a rookie, but only the Lions know how much trust they have in those guys moving forward. If they think they need another guy to compete for a starting spot, Milliner could be the guy.
The problem with drafting Milliner is that the Lions then have to either start the season with a rookie and three second-year players at cornerback, or they have to start cutting guys. Neither are likely scenarios, which is why Milliner gets such long odds.
Odds the Lions draft Milliner: 18-1
This is probably a good opportunity to mention that I'm setting the odds of a trade down in this draft at about 30-1.
I mention that primarily because the only way the Lions draft Chance Warmack is if a trade down is also involved. Normally, Warmack would be such a long shot at No. 5, he wouldn't even be worth discussing. However, he's the best player available at what many fans consider the Lions' biggest team need.
That puts him in the discussion, whether warranted or not. Warmack is undoubtedly a good player at his position, but the Lions spending the No. 5 pick on them would be tantamount to the Jaguars taking Bryan Anger in the third round.
In case you forgot, that move was received poorly by just about everyone but Rich Eisen.
Now admittedly, guards have a greater impact on the game than punters. Guards play on every offensive snap, whereas if a team is playing well enough, they never need a punter. But unless Warmack somehow has the ability to block two people per play, there is no, well, make that extremely minimal chance that the Lions take Warmack at No. 5.
Don't be shocked if the annual "once-in-a-lifetime" interior lineman does what last year's did, and drop into the 20s after being mocked as high as 10th.
Odds the Lions Draft Warmack: 80-1