Detroit Lions Mock Draft: Instant Contributors Detroit Can Find in Every Round
In the 2013 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions plucked several immediate contributors across many rounds. Now they have an opportunity to do the same in 2014.
There are players in every round that can provide help right off the bat at a variety of different positions. General manager Martin Mayhew scored last year, adding:
- First-rounder Ezekiel Ansah
- Second-rounder Darius Slay
- Third-rounder Larry Warford
- Fourth-rounder Devin Taylor
- Sixth-rounder Sam Martin (pictured)
All of those players except Taylor started the 2013 season opener, and Taylor worked his way into prominent rotation by the end of his rookie campaign.
What players can provide that sort of instant impact in 2014?
It will be tougher to find players making significant contributions right away. After all, every starting position except kicker has starting-caliber talent already in place.
Yet Detroit can add several players who can see meaningful action as rookies. Several positions, including outside linebacker, wide receiver and defensive ends and tackles, are in need of depth and players with upside.
Here are prospects, one from each round the Lions select, who could step right in and contribute for the Detroit Lions in 2014.
First Round: Aaron Donald
Let's clear this up right off the top...
Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans are not going to be around for the No. 10 overall pick. End of story.
Given that, the player who can make the biggest impact off the bat is one who doesn't get enough discussion as a potential Lions pick.
Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald would step right in and take over the third tackle role. In fact, if he shows motivation and consistency, he very well could usurp Nick Fairley's starting role before the end of the season.
Of course, given Fairley's tenuous future with the team, Donald could take over even sooner.
As highlighted in the above video, Donald offers versatility along the defensive line. That would allow the Lions to mix and match effective combinations up front.
Second Round: Kyle Van Noy
With the 45th overall pick, Detroit could have the chance to add a three-down linebacker who upgrades both the run defense and the pass rush.
BYU's Kyle Van Noy offers that kind of versatility and instant impact.
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reported that the Lions are indeed in the market for an edge-rushing linebacker.
Taking Van Noy at No. 45 overall would add that player to the mix. His familiarity with Ansah at BYU could help him fit in the locker room.
If coach Jim Caldwell is to be taken at his word (quoted by Birkett) that the team is "...trying to find maybe a little bit different flavor in that regard, trying to find maybe another guy that can do it..." the third linebacker role is going to be a more prominent position going forward.
Van Noy could be the beneficiary of that increased opportunity. It's sketchy at this point if he will fall to the Lions, but if he does so, he has to be a strong consideration.
Third Round: Donte Moncrief
Even after signing Golden Tate, the Lions still have a pressing need to upgrade the third wide receiver spot on the roster.
Right now that role falls to either unproven Jeremy Ross, oft-injured Ryan Broyles, or underwhelming Kris Durham.
Adding a more explosive, more athletically gifted youngster with the ability to contribute right away. Donte Moncrief can be that guy.
As the video above highlighted, the Ole Miss product has all the tools to make an immediate splash in the NFL. Consistency is his biggest issue.
Yet he stacks up fairly well with the more prominent Mike Evans against common opponents:
|Opponent||Alabama||Arkansas||LSU||Mississippi State||Missouri||LSU '12||Mississippi State '12|
It's worth pointing out that Moncrief didn't have a Heisman-winning, surefire first-round draft pick throwing to him, either.
Detroit would happily take his good games at the expense of his lesser ones, and he fills the need of a big, speedy downfield threat that the offense lacks opposite Calvin Johnson.
Fourth Round: Will Clarke
West Virginia defensive end Will Clarke fits the Lions' profile for the position.
He's long, and his length is augmented with an impressive wingspan. At the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, NFL.com logged his official numbers as:
|Height||Weight||Arm Length||40 time|
Those attributes were on display during both Shrine Game and Senior Bowl practices, where Detroit Lions Draft's Darren Page noted,
"Clarke converted speed to power on the outside and landed his hands to the chest of Martin, bulling him backwards with the power he generated. The length of Clarke is a big asset and one he needs to use more often."
If all that reminds Lions fans of Devin Taylor, that's not an accident. Like Taylor at South Carolina, Clarke didn't always translate his athletic gifts into on-field production in college.
Yet Taylor proved a quick study in the NFL. Clarke offers that same sort of potential to the Lions. Taking him in the fourth round would put Clarke in position to fill Taylor's rookie role, getting about 20 snaps a game as part of the defensive line rotation.
Sixth Round: Chris Boswell
The Lions took some heat for drafting Appalachian State punter Sam Martin in the sixth round of the 2013 draft.
General manager's Martin Mayhew's risk wound up paying off handsomely, as Martin finished his rookie campaign ranked seventh overall by Pro Football Focus (subscription required) among all punters. He also beat out veteran kicker David Akers for the kickoff specialist role.
Now the Lions need a replacement for Akers, and the sixth round appears to be the sweet spot, especially since Detroit does not have a fifth-round pick.
Rice's Chris Boswell did not have a great senior season, making just 14-of-21 field-goal attempts. However, he has a prior body of work and the proven leg strength to be a strong prospect.
What makes Boswell is his onside-kick prowess. Check out his sleight of hand, err, foot against the Houston Cougars in this YouTube video.
He proved his skill during Senior Bowl week, nailing several long field goals in practice sessions, as well as replicating his nifty onside trick, to the delight of astonished NFL coaches and scouts.
Seventh Round: L'Damain Washington
At this point in the draft, it's a real gamble to find a player that winds up making the team, let alone a big impact as a rookie.
One player that could do both is Missouri wideout L'Damian Washington.
He certainly passes the eyeball test:
|Height||Weight||Arm Length||40 time|
Alas, Washington has major issues with one very important detail: he struggles to catch the football.
It's often as if he's attempting to corral a greased piglet instead of a thrown pigskin ball. As NFL.com notes in his combine bio, where the above figures were obtained,
"Classic body-catcher with small, skillet hands -- consistently smothers and traps the ball. Does not track the deep ball well and adjustments look unnatural."
If Washington can grasp the concept of grasping the football, he's got a chance to be a solid contributor. His size and speed dictate he gets an opportunity to prove he can learn the fickle art of catching.