Detroit Lions 2014 NFL Draft Fact or Fiction
The 2014 NFL draft is so close that you can taste it, but yet so far away that it feels like the Detroit Lions may be waiting forever to make that top-10 pick. The rumors are coming so fast and furiously that your head is spinning as you make the kid-on-Christmas-Eve wait.
I understand your pain. And I'm here to help.
In each slide, we'll break down speculation that is floating out there regarding Detroit's draft position. Then I'll weigh in on whether it's fact or fiction, or maybe more precisely, likely or not likely.
So who wants to play some games? Don't laugh. They'll help kill some time as we march ever closer to the draft.
The Lions Will Trade Up for Sammy Watkins
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press did not mince words. The sports page of Freep.com practically screams with his headline that the Lions "seem willing" to give up plenty for the honor of adding Sammy Watkins.
It's easy to understand why. Watkins is almost unanimously praised as the best receiver in this draft and possibly the only offensive lock in a draft that's filled with plenty of depth but maybe not enough elite talent.
The only "sure thing" I see in this draft is Watkins. Clowney a step below for obvious reasons. Bridgewater the only one close at QB.— Michael Schottey (@Schottey) April 8, 2014
That doesn't mean a move everyone likes and the idea of giving up two second-day picks is a good idea. In fact, a poll in fellow Bleacher Report writer Gary Davenport's piece on the matter is pretty evenly split between those who want to see the move and those who don't.
Still, it's hard to ignore all the effort the Lions have put into Watkins. From head coach Jim Caldwell's dinner with Watkins' family to president Bill Ford's cameo during the stud wideout's visit to Motown, the Lions have made it clear how they feel.
Even in #Mock1v2 (a twitter-based mock draft), my co-general managers and I couldn't resist shipping Nick Fairley, the 10th overall pick and a sixth rounder to the Oakland Raider for the Clemson product.
When there's this much smoke, there's bound to be a little fire. I won't go as far as to call it a lock, but you can be certain general manager Martin Mayhew will be working the phones with Watkins in mind.
Anthony Barr Would Make a Lot of Sense at No. 10
The Lions could use another outside linebacker. Ashlee Palmer, the incumbent starter opposite DeAndre Levy, proved somewhat serviceable last year with a minus-1.5 grade, but he was on the field for roughly one-third of the snaps as his colleagues.
Plus, Palmer isn't a guy who can get after the quarterback. The man has two career sacks in five years.
ESPN's Mel Kiper, as reported by MLive.com's Justin Rogers, thinks that guy could be Anthony Barr. The rangy linebacker from UCLA could even be "in the mold of the pass-rushing defensive ends that are long and athletic," according to Kiper.
Barr is a special talent, but that tweener body doesn't seem to fit into what Detroit is trying to do with its commitment to the 4-3. The Lions need a linebacker who can play the traditional role with run-stopping, coverage and blitzing abilities and not someone who will take snaps away from another long and lean prospect like Devin Taylor.
In short, the Lions need someone like Khalil Mack. It just isn't going to happen.
I agree that Detroit should search for more pass-rushing options. However, as Kiper mentions later in the same article, the franchise can find pass-rushers further down the line and not try fitting a square peg into a round hole.
Detroit Should Look at a Top-3 Offensive Tackle
With everyone under contract from last year's overachieving offensive line, it seems ludicrous that the Lions would entertain the thought of an offensive tackle in the first round. Yet, here we are, at least according to NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah's mock draft and Taylor Lewan's recent visit, via Dave Birkett.
There are a couple of different theories in play here. First, Riley Reiff, the former first-rounder who was chosen to be Jeff Backus' replacement, is a better fit at guard. Second, the good ole' best-player-available strategy.
As for Reiff, that will be a tough pill to swallow. While a team shouldn't stubbornly stick to its past convictions, admitting just two years after his selection that he can't hack it as a tackle is a bold move, especially when he graded out toward the middle of the pack in just his first year as a full-time starter.
However, if progress can be made, the Lions have to think about grabbing the best player available with each draft pick, even if it means a tough decision like giving up on Reiff on the outside. But just blindly saying that Lewan is better than guys like safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix or even cornerback Justin Gilbert is a bit outlandish for my liking.
In the end, Mayhew will also have to weigh Lewan's off-the-field issues in light of the franchise's shift to a more conscientious and accountable environment. It's hard to see Lewan's talent outweighing the negatives when guys like Clinton-Dix and Gilbert are on the board.
Detroit Must Grab a Cornerback Within the 1st 2 Days
This slide will require a bit of extrapolation, but many of you won't have any trouble following along.
The myth is the Lions need to grab a cornerback early. Guys like SI.com's Don Banks and Doug Farrar have predicted Gilbert coming off the board to the Lions in the first round, and this point has been pounded home by my co-host on Lions Central Radio, Nick Kostora.
It's a fool's errand. Detroit does not need to grab a corner near the top of the draft, and the way it has been bringing in veterans over the past week, you can rest assured that the front office doesn't think so either.
The Lions recently signed Cassius Vaughn, a former Indianapolis Colt, and then brought in Josh Wilson for a kick of the old tires. That doesn't sound like a team that's gearing up to add some top-tier talent, but is trying to churn the bottom of the roster for depth.
And that second approach makes a lot of sense with the young potential on Detroit's roster. Darius Slay, Bill Bentley and even Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood need to be given a chance before they are cast aside for another high draft pick. Cornerbacks take time to develop.
For those who argue that none of the above players have the talent, are you going to say the same thing if Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard doesn't pan out in the first year?
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix Is a Must-Add
For the last go-round today, I'm putting Bleacher Report's draft guru Matt Miller and his mock of Alabama safety Clinton-Dix under the microscope.
There's no doubt that the importance of the safety position has sky-rocketed in the past decade. The NFL is more pass-happy than ever, so safeties have to be able to attack the ball deep while still making plays in the box and the backfield.
Clinton-Dix is more than capable of handling all three duties. His time at Alabama displayed a prospect capable of getting physical when needed, but also a defensive back who could attack the ball in the air.
Detroit is in dire need, as Miller explained. James Ihedigbo is a band-aid at best and won't be in Detroit for the long term. While the recent signee does take the heat off of the Lions to grab a safety high, passing on Clinton-Dix's talent could be a move Detroit regrets for a long time as it hasn't had a real impact safety since maybe Bennie Blades.
All stats, grades and rankings are courtesy of Pro Football Focus and require a subscription.