With the NFL draft just around the corner, this will be my final mock draft for the Detroit Lions.
As with all my previous mock drafts, this is a representation of what I think the team should do, not necessarily what I think they will do. However, there should plenty of crossover between the two.
This mock draft includes no trades, since you can never tell ahead of time who will actually want to move up or down, depending on how the draft actually plays out. However, it would be a huge shock to me if the Lions do not make at least one trade in the draft.
Taking Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher with their first pick of the draft would be the dream scenario for the Lions—one which is likely to come about.
The fact is that only three teams in the top five have any need for a left tackle, and with Joeckel likely to be heading to Kansas City, it will all come down to whether the Philadelphia Eagles have an interest in taking a left tackle high.
While it is possible, I think that with the return of star left tackle Jason Peters from injury and their need to shift to a 3-4 defense, the Eagles will probably take a defensive front-seven player like Dion Jordan or Star Lotulelei, leaving Fisher for Detroit.
Fisher is the dream pick for Detroit because he will be both, the most talented player on the board and will fill a massive need in the Lions' roster.
Ever since Jeff Backus retired and Gosder Cherilus signed with the Indianapolis Colts, the Lions have needed another offensive tackle. While Riley Reiff appears to be a great choice to replace Cherilus at right tackle, there is not a dependable left tackle on the roster.
Fisher would change that. He is a massive talent with the technique, athleticism and length to be a star pass-blocker. He moves very smoothly on his feet, can change direction quickly and has enough power to hold off pass-rushers.
While he is not an overpowering run-blocker, he is more than good enough as an in-line blocker and has the range to be great in sweep and screen plays that call for him to block on the move against smaller opponents.
He is the complete package, and looks to be as good of a starter from day one as Matt Kalil was last season for the Minnesota Vikings.
Fisher is the perfect pick for Detroit, filling a position of need with a very talented and NFL-ready player. The fact that left tackle is a premium position only heightens his value. If he is there (and I think he will be), the Lions will waste no time in taking him.
Mark my words.
I know that for a long time Detroit fans were mocking Cornelius Carradine here, but with the speed of his recovery from an ACL injury and his amazing talent and production last year at Florida State, it seems very unlikely that Carradine will fall out of the first round.
While I believe the Lions may still look to trade up to get him, I will go a different direction in this mock draft.
Alex Okafor may not have the same upside as Carradine, but he is still a very good pass rusher who could develop into a double-digit sack artist. He is a good athlete who has the power and quickness to beat tackles a multitude of ways, a decent array of pass-rushing moves and a non-stop motor that makes him a nuisance all game even if he is overmatched.
He was about the only defensive end to give Eric Fisher a moderately tough time at the Senior Bowl and his hard-nosed style of play projects well as a player who can make an early impact on the NFL.
Okafor is also a good player against the run and while he can struggle when teams run at him, he is relentless in pursuit and has good hand technique to shed blocks to get after the ball-carrier.
He is also a high-character team leader, which is something that the Lions' front office should be looking to add whenever possible.
Okafor, like Fisher, also fills a huge need for the team. The Lions are precipitously short of defensive ends. In the wide-nine defensive scheme, solid end play at defensive end is a must.
Okafor could play on both sides of the defensive line as his game is more about technique, tenacity strength and an elite burst that would benefit him from being lined up wide of the offensive tackle.
Travis Frederick is one of the most underrated players in this draft, and without a doubt, has the chance to be a huge steal for whichever team take him on day two.
He has great positional versatility and a great developmental background having come from Wisconsin. His game should cross over quickly and effectively to the NFL.
The Lions should double-up on the offensive line since they are fairly devoid of talent on it. While Rob Sims and Riley Reiff appear to be keepers, the rest are mainly career backups of low-draft picks that have not really developed.
The Lions have plenty of space for new players up front and with age advancing among many of their linemen like center Dominic Raiola, Detroit will be consigning Matthew Stafford to a year from hell in the next couple of seasons if the front office does not make a move soon.
Frederick is the perfect player to help rebuild the line. He moves surprisingly well for a big man who is carrying plenty of padding around his middle. As with every Wisconsin offensive lineman, he is very well coached.
That shows in his textbook-positioning through plays, his hand placement and his footwork, which is polished from both, the guard and center positions.
While he is not a quick or fast player who can consistently dominate blockers at the second level, Frederick is one of the most powerful interior run-blockers on the line. He has the bulk and leg-drive to push defenders off the line of scrimmage and the technique to maintain his blocks.
He is also very good at stopping powerful defensive tackles from getting any penetration in the run game, although he struggles against quickness.
Frederick is also a solid center despite only playing one season there in college. He has great placement on his shotgun snaps, and was calling shifts last year.
On a 2013 Lions squad that will likely be losing Raiola after this season, Frederick could start at right guard in his rookie season and learn how to call games at center before taking over in his second season when Raiola retires.
It seems like a sensible pick to me and one that I could definitely get behind.
This is another example of a good value pick that also helps fill a position where there is definite need for an upgrade.
The Lions have been struggling to find cornerbacks ever since I can remember, and even after last year's splurge in the late rounds, the roster lacks talent at the position.
While I can understand not investing a high draft pick in a cover-man scheme in the hopes that Jonte Green, Bill Bentley or Chris Greenwood will turn into a starter this season or next, when it comes to day three, the Lions need to pull the trigger if a good cornerback falls to them.
Given the depth at the position this year, that is a very real possibility.
With prospects like DJ Hayden and Tyrann Mathieu quickly shedding their red flags in the past few weeks, the cornerback position has become even deeper and could even be the deepest spot in the draft.
Even in the fourth round, there are a few cornerbacks who have legitimate starter potential in the first few years of their NFL contracts with one of those players being Blidi Wreh-Wilson.
Wreh-Wilson is a long, athletic cornerback who embodies the new prototype for the position. He stands 6'1", has 32" arms, and weighed in at 195 pounds at the scouting combine.
Despite his height, he is a fast player with the burst to close quickly on a wide receiver. His has the sub-4.0 speed in the 40-yard dash to stay in the hip pocket of all but the most dangerous of vertical threats. He can also jump 36", which further accentuates his length as he has all the tools to be a lock-down player on the outside.
Wreh-Wilson's flaws are his lack of feel for man coverage. Despite having decent flexibility and ideal measureables to lock down big wide receivers one-on-one, he too often gets out of position and fails to locate the ball to contest passes.
While he could develop that in time, the potential for him to never be a great at man-coverage could drop him down the draft boards. Wreh-Wilson also really struggles to disengage from blocks and make tackles in the run game. While he has the size to get better at that, it will probably never be a strength of his game.
He is, however, a very solid zone cornerback who can press at the line and that fits the Lions' current scheme. He is long and strong in jamming receivers and as he refines his technique, he should get better at disrupting patterns at the line of scrimmage. He also has the instincts, burst and length to shine in zone coverage.
Wreh-Wilson has the potential to be a very solid number two cornerback in a press-zone heavy defense. This is exactly what the Lions run and why this seems like a very good value pick for the third day of the draft.
Mike Catapano is my favorite player in the draft. No one in the late rounds has a better chance of becoming a surprisingly solid starter at a premium position, and despite going to Princeton, he has the frame and athleticism of an NFL player.
Catapano is 6'4" and weighs a solid 275 pounds. He has very long 34-inch arms and enough athleticism that he would have made a name for himself if he had been invited to the scouting combine.
Especially interesting is his 37.5" vertical leap, :07.09 3-cone drill and 33 reps on the bench press. These are all very good numbers and indicate that he has the explosion, fluidity and strength for the NFL.
Catapano is also a well-developed player for someone who only played defensive end in college. He showed at the East-West Shrine Game that his regular-season dominance was not just due to the low level of competition he faced. He beat every offensive lineman at the East-West Shrine Game in both the run and pass, using a wide array of moves to run over offensive tackles and beat them with speed.
Catapano would also be a great player for the Lions given their lack of depth at defensive end. Even though they have already added Okafor in this mock draft, given how much they rotate their ends, they could do with a lot of bodies at the position.
This would also give Catapano a chance to wet his feet in the NFL without assigning him much responsibility to start. He has not played against any players who were great D-I college players so the NFL will be a major task for him.
Given a season or two, I believe that he will be able to become a good starter in a 4-3 defensive line and one of the biggest steals in this draft.
This is by far the biggest boom-or-bust player that I am mocking in this draft. To be honest, the odds are much greater that he will fail to develop into anything more than a deep target with poor hands.
However, if Tavarres King can iron out the kinks in his game, he could be as good as, if not better than, a number of wide receivers taken in the second round.
King's intrigue is totally built around his athleticism. He is an angular 6'0", 190-pound deep-threat wide receiver and has long arms. He ran an impressive 4.40 40-yard dash at the scouting combine, but is even faster on the field. He also has a good vertical leap and elite burst off the line and body-control to adjust to wayward passes.
King is a great runner after the catch and has a knack for reeling in contested passes.
Why then is he mocked by many to fall into the third day of the draft? The answer, as with many athletes, is his hands.
King has some of the least consistent hands in this draft class and is poor at grabbing passes away from his body. He is also a raw route-runner who relies on his athleticism to get open rather than faking out defenders. In short, he has the body of a first-rounder, but the skills of an undrafted free agent.
However, in the sixth round, teams can afford to gamble on talent. King is a grounded player with no red flags off the field. If the Lions coaches could just get him consistently catch passes, his ability to take the top off a defense would add another element to Detroit's already-potent passing game.
I think the risk is worth it.
Like most good late-round draft picks, Nick Kasa has a boatload of potential, but is as raw as a 10-day old steak.
After only switching to tight end in the middle of his junior season, he has only really had one season of snaps under his belt at the college level. This is sure to mean that he will need a long time to develop in an NFL training camp. However, he has the size, speed, power and burst to keep teams interested as he learns the finer points of his new position.
There is no doubt that he is one of the top-five athletes at his position in this draft, but his receiving skills are non-existent. While he catches the ball surprisingly well for a man who was a defensive lineman, he will need a lot more practice before he has the skills to be a trusted receiver in games.
He also needs to learn how to read zone coverages and sell his breaks when running routes so that he is not always catching contested passes. However, if he can do that, he has the game-breaking size and speed to be a matchup nightmare, especially in a passing game as potent as that of Detroit.
Kasa is much more capable as a blocker as would be expected from a defensive-line convert. He has the power and understanding of leverage to consistently get position and drive his opponent, although his technique is not refined, which often leaves him out of position. This makes it hard for him to maintain blocks, but that is a skill that he should perfect as he gains reps at tight end.
On talent alone, Kasa should not fall this far in the draft. However, teams are apparently concerned about how he will fit in their locker rooms due to his sexuality, according to TheHuffingtonPost.com, and while this is a very sad state of affairs, it could provide an unexpected boon for the one team that grabs him late in the draft.
He will need to be coached up, but the worst-case scenario is that he becomes a goal-line tight end with the ability to collapse the edge and be a red-zone target. Not a bad return for a seventh-rounder.
The Lions' pressing need for a kicker may have subsided a bit after the signing of David Akers, but I still firmly believe that it is a much better investment in the seventh round to take a specialist who has starting potential than a positional player who will probably spend most of their time riding the pine.
Quinn Sharp is a very interesting prospect, primarily because of his powerful leg and ability to be both a punter and a kicker. He played both roles for Oklahoma State in college and I do not see a reason why he could not be trained as both in the NFL.
In most sports around the world like rugby, players are expected to kick and punt. In the NFL, someone with that skill set would open another roster spot on a team for a positional player with long-term talent.
Sharp is also a great kickoff specialist because of his strong leg and this would be a real blessing for a Lions team that had terrible coverage on kickoffs and punts last season. The ability to pound balls past the end zone would really help the team.