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Detroit Lions Mock Draft: Fresh 7 Round Predictions Post Week 1 of Free Agency

Jeff RisdonContributor IMarch 17, 2014

Detroit Lions Mock Draft: Fresh 7 Round Predictions Post Week 1 of Free Agency

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    Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    With one week of NFL free agency in the books, it's time to examine how the draft outlook has changed for the Detroit Lions

    The Lions added an impact starting wideout in Golden Tate and a presumptive starting safety in James Ihedigbo, filling the two biggest holes on the team. 

    As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported, Detroit also signed veteran Darryl Tapp to fill the hole created with the departure of former starter Willie Young. 

    In addition, Detroit signed running back Joique Bell to a three-year extension to keep him in the den. 

    The last move of the week was perhaps the most surprising, as tight end Brandon Pettigrew (h/t Paula Pasche of the Oakland Press) opted to come back to Detroit after being courted by the New York Jets

    A few other depth moves, the most prominent of which is defensive tackle Vaughn Martin, as noted by Chris McCosky of The Detroit News, mitigated some of the more pressing needs on the defense too.

    So where does this leave the Lions' draft plans? Who will join last year's first-rounder, Ziggy Ansah (pictured) and the rest of the very successful 2013 draft class?

    Here's one way how it could play out in May...

     

    *This mock is based on what I believe the team might do in the draft, not necessarily what I would do in the same situation.

    All weights, measurements and combine results are courtesy of NFL.com

Round 1

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    By filling the primary vacancies on the depth chart already, general manager Martin Mayhew can truly evaluate his draft options based strictly on "best player available."

    In order to provide some realistic context, I did an aggregation of a handful of some more prominent and respected mock drafts produced recently. Those include:

    To keep it simple, any player mocked above Detroit's No. 10 overall pick in all five is ruled out. Doing that took all these prospects off of the board:

    • South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney
    • Central Florida QB Blake Bortles
    • Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater
    • Auburn T Greg Robinson
    • Clemson WR Sammy Watkins
    • Buffalo LB Khalil Mack

    In addition, three other players were taken before No. 10 in four out of five. They all happen to come from the same school, Texas A&M:

    • QB Johnny Manziel
    • T Jake Matthews
    • WR Mike Evans

    Using the mocks as a guide, those three players are also taken out of the mix. 

    With those guys ruled out based on availability, the primary options left for Detroit are interesting and diverse.

    North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, Oklahoma State corner Justin Gilbert and Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan are the other non-quarterbacks that appeared in one or more mocks either mocked to the Lions or above their pick at No. 10. 

    Of that grouping, Ebron holds the broadest appeal. Unfortunately, the Lions just spent $16 million bringing back Pettigrew to play with last year's rookie phenom, Joseph Fauria, at tight end. It's hard to envision the Lions investing so much money and resources into that position.

    Mayhew's intrigue in Barr is interesting. The pass-rushing specialist seems to be a better fit for a 3-4 defense. He's also still learning the intricacies of playing defense, having been a running back until two seasons ago.

    Barr's upside is immense, and that clearly pique's Mayhew's curiosity; he spent the first day of free agency not in his office negotiating but rather in Southern California watching Barr work out, per the Detroit Free Press

    Mayhew also attended Gilbert's pro day last week (h/t MLive), and his size and speed certainly fit with the desire to get bigger, stronger and faster all over the defense. Yet he's eerily similar to last year's second-round pick, Darius Slay, who is expected to take over a starting slot this fall. 

    Barr's versatility and higher ceiling earn the nod. He brings flexibility and speed to new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin's defense.

    The pick: Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA

Round 2

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    Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

    At No. 45 overall, the Lions have an opportunity to tap into the defensive back talent pool, which is fairly deep but lacks elite talents.

    That's fine for Detroit, which doesn't need an immediate starter but could clearly use prospects with high upside down the road.

    Some of those who project in this range include:

    • Florida State S Lamarcus Joyner
    • TCU CB Jason Verrett
    • Florida CB Marcus Roberson
    • Lindenwood CB Pierre Desir
    • Washington State S Deone Bucannon

    Joyner is intriguing, as he is a playmaker in the mold of Tyrann Mathieu of the Arizona Cardinals. Yet he's small at 5'8", and his NFL position is unclear; some believe he's a corner, others a safety. 

    Bucannon offers a violent option at safety, a thumping presence with starting potential.

    Verrett is undersized, but offers innate natural stickiness in coverage. He's the most likely of the names here to already be off of the board. 

    In this case, however, the Lions stick to the board and take the player with the highest ceiling: Pierre Desir.

    He's long at 6'1" and has impressive burst and athleticism. At both the Shrine Game and Senior Bowl, Desir proved he could hang with the big boys after coming from a D-II program. I watched him improve every day, gaining confidence and getting a better feel for using his eyes and hands.

    Desir is not ready to start right out of the box. That's okay for Detroit, which still has Chris Houston and Darius Slay starting outside and a capable slot corner in Bill Bentley. 

    This pick is designed for a more long-term investment, for when Houston is gone. Desir has demonstrated a quick learning curve and a willingness to be coached; when I interviewed him in St. Petersburg during Shrine Game week, his desire to learn and prove himself jumps out from his voice and mannerisms.

    The Lions do have a similar draft success story in left tackle Riley Reiff, who played very little as a rookie before emerging as a quality starter in his second season. That would be the course of action with Desir, too.

    The pick: Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood

Round 3

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    Last year the Lions scored big in the third round, landing guard Larry Warford. He was a prospect who was frequently projected to go higher, but fell on draft weekend.

    This is the draft range where players like that often come off of the board. Be it a poor workout, or a late injury or simply unexpected runs at other positions, the middle of the third round is often a landing spot for players generally perceived to be higher-rated talents.

    There are a few candidates for that sort of value in this draft, and the Lions figure to pounce on one. Because of the lack of any overriding positional needs, Detroit can take the highest-rated player on its board.

    Some of the players they might choose from include:

    • Stanford DE Trent Murphy
    • Alabama T Cyrus Kouandjio
    • Vanderbilt WR Jordan Matthews
    • Arkansas C Travis Swanson 

    Yet the best fit, the one wide receiver who best complements Tate and Calvin Johnson, is LSU's Jarvis Landry.

    As noted in the video above, Landry excels at catching the ball in traffic and quickly transitioning from receiver to runner. Those are skills that are vital for receivers over the middle and in the intermediate range, where the Lions' third wideout figures to operate the most. 

    While his lousy 4.77 combine 40-yard dash time could scare teams away, Landry still sits at 32nd overall in Daniel Jeremiah's rankings on NFL.com.

    Also, keep in mind what Josh Norris of Rotoworld had to say about Landry:

    Where He Wins: Very strong hands in contested situations. Outstanding body control to come down with adjusted catches. Made a large portion of his catches between 6-10 yards, 30 percent. Will get physical with DBs and does not have to actually be open to be open. Finds soft areas in coverage very well.

    That sounds like a player Mayhew and his staff will highly value. 

    The pick: Jarvis Landry, WR, LSU

     

Round 4

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    Trevor Ruszkowksi-USA TODAY Spor

    In the 2013 NFL draft, Detroit opted to take a physically gifted but fairly unrefined prospect in defensive end Devin Taylor. After a slow start to his rookie campaign, Taylor showed enough in increased action down the stretch that the Lions felt comfortable in letting Willie Young leave via free agency.

    Should Mayhew and his staff opt for the same course of action this year, they will find several viable options in this range.

    Some players fitting that bill that project in this range include:

    • Louisiana Tech DT Justin Ellis
    • Indiana WR Cody Latimer
    • Colorado State TE Crockett Gillmore
    • Rice CB Phillip Gaines
    • Florida State LB Christian Jones

    While some of these players would represent a doubling up of picks at a position, that is not an uncommon occurrence in the draft. The Lions did so a year ago with Ansah and Taylor, and in 2012 the team drafted three cornerbacks (Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green, all still on the roster). 

    Latimer is an under-the-radar prospect with intriguing measurables. Rotoviz.com ranked him atop its "Phenom Index" and notes these stats from the underclassman:

    • Big Ten Conference Yards/Gm:  93.8 receiving yards  (8th best final season total since 2005)
    • Big Ten Conference TDs/gm:  .9 touchdowns  (6th best final season total since 2005)
    • NFL Combine Bench Reps:  23  (6th best performance since 2006)

    The Hoosiers aren't exactly a Big Ten power, but those are impressive in their own merit. Others have noticed too...

    See the radar dish? Look under it. A treat is there. RT @AdamSchefter: Indiana WR Cody Latimer will run his 40 at his pro day.

    — Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) March 14, 2014

    Being able to run his 40 is key, as he was unable to do so at the NFL Scouting Combine.

    Latimer and Landry would nicely round out the wide receiver depth chart for Detroit. The Lions would add two promising young receivers from one of the deepest classes in draft history. 

    The pick: Cody Latimer, WR, Indiana

Round 6

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    April L Brown/Associated Press

    Detroit does not have fifth-round pick, as they traded it to Jacksonville for wideout Mike Thomas during the 2012 season. 

    Moving onto the sixth round, it's time for the Lions to address finding a replacement for longtime kicker Jason Hanson.

    Veteran David Akers didn't impress in his one year in Detroit, and the Lions must find a long-term answer at the position. They scored a year ago in taking punter Sam Martin in this round, and can do the same in 2014 with the franchise kicker of the future.

    One kicker who captured Detroit's attention during Shrine Game week was Zach Hocker of Arkansas. During one practice session, coach Jerry Glanville (wearing all black, of course) had to tell Hocker to stop kicking the ball so far so the team could actually run a return drill. 

    After that practice, where he also nailed a 60-yarder on soggy turf to complete the day, I personally witnessed a Lions staffer talking to Hocker. 

    He followed that up with an impressive game too...

    #Arkansas kicker Zach Hocker just drilled a 56-yard FG to give the East a 16-13 lead in the #ShrineGame

    — Charlie Bernstein (@nflcharlie) January 18, 2014

    The Razorback alum could wind up kicking in Detroit for many, many years.

    The pick: Zach Hocker, K, Arkansas

Round 7

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    One of Mayhew's distinct patterns in the draft is to take an athletic project from a smaller school in the seventh round. 

    Detroit's seventh-round picks over the last four years are:

    YearPlayerPositionCollege
     2010 Willie YoungDE N.C. State
     2010 Tim TooneWR Weber State
     2011 Johnny CulbreathOL South Carolina State
     2012 Travis LewisLB Oklahoma
     2013 Michael WilliamsTE Alabama
     2013 Brandon HepburnLB Florida A&M

    Other than Lewis in 2012, the Lions have taken a small-school project every year. 

    One player that Mayhew might consider is Jacksonville State safety Pierre Warren. He currently ranks 17th on the free safety list at CBS.

    His 6'1", 202-pound size and college productivity (five INTs, three fumble recoveries and a blocked FG in '13) merit a look. NFL.com had this to say about the All-OVC first-teamer:

    Warren is athletic, has good size and runs well (4.53 in the 40). In four career games against FBS schools, including three SEC opponents, Warren had 22 tackles, a pass breakup and two fumble recoveries.

     

    The pick: Pierre Warren, S, Jacksonville State

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