Assigning Odds to Every Potential Detroit Lions 1st Round Pick
Right now, however, it's still speculation season.
A number of prospects are bandied about as potential future Lions. Be it mock drafts, reports of team visits or idle conjecture, many names have come up connected to Detroit.
Last draft season went similarly. Before Detroit ultimately selected defensive end Ezekiel Ansah, several names were attached to the Lions. Dee Milliner, Lane Johnson and Kenny Vaccaro were all seen as strong possibilities at various points in the process.
Here are the odds for several of this year's prospects to become that tenth pick, or even to be selected at a different spot via a trade.
This list is a conglomeration of factors: talking to various sources, studying draft trends, evaluating need and pure guesswork. These are some rough projections, but that's about all anyone can do at this point.
As Tom Petty once sang, "the waiting is the hardest part." In three more weeks we will know which of these players delivers on the odds.
Oklahoma State cornerback Justin Gilbert is one player frequently tied to Detroit. In fact, three of the five current iterations of mock drafts at CBS have the speedy corner coming to Detroit.
Yet taking Gilbert would be an out-of-character surprise.
The Lions have used four draft picks in the last two years on cornerbacks, including the 37th overall pick a year ago on Darius Slay. Veteran Chris Houston returns as a starter, and on Monday they brought back their most effective corner from 2013 as well:
Earlier today the Lions re-signed CB Rashean Mathis. He allowed a 48.7% catch rate which was 4th lowest for those with 75+ times targeted.— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 15, 2014
While it might not be the most talented spot on the roster, cornerback is almost inarguably the deepest at this point.
Selecting Gilbert would mean that general manager Martin Mayhew is admitting failure with some of his recent picks and signings. While some fans, and apparently many national pundits, would like to see this, it's simply not likely to happen.
The kids are going to play, and we'll all find out if the kids are alright. Numerous people around the team have echoed that sentiment to me in off-the-record conversations, and Tim Twentyman of the team's official website intimated the same recently.
If there was a general consensus pick from the comment-section and message-board realms, it's of the Lions taking Texas A&M wideout Mike Evans.
It's easy to see why fans covet Evans. He's massive at 6'5" and 231 pounds, with incredibly long arms (35"). With Johnny Manziel, he authored two of the most impressive performances of 2013, dominating his matchups against Auburn and Alabama.
He's certainly a desirable option to play the outside receiver opposite Calvin Johnson. Yet there are a couple of issues with Evans landing in Detroit.
First, he does have some very visible and legit weaknesses. As noted in his official NFL.com combine bio:
Monotone mover with pedestrian speed -- cannot separate vertically or pull away from the pack. Unsudden acceleration. Stiff hips. Will have to make a living in traffic at the next level -- will struggle to separate vs. quick-twitch NFL cornerbacks. Did not run a full route tree and could require patience learning the nuances of refined route running. Backyard element to his college success -- must become savvier instead of depending on superior size and improvisational production.
Secondly, there's a strong chance he won't last to the tenth pick.
Between the risk and the availability issues, the odds of Evans landing in Detroit are not strong.
Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald has a couple of factors in his advantage at the No. 10 pick.
First, he very well could be the "best player available" on Detroit's board at that point. Mayhew has shown in the past that he will stick to his board even if the positional fit doesn't make a lot of sense. He's done so with Riley Reiff, Ryan Broyles and Devin Taylor in the past couple of drafts.
Donald is currently rated tenth on Matt Miller's latest Big Board, 11th at Optimum Scouting and 12th by Todd McShay of ESPN (subscription required). Given that the Lions are not going to take a quarterback, that leaves Donald a good chance of sitting atop Detroit's rankings when it picks.
Secondly, the Lions figure to be on the lookout for a replacement for Nick Fairley, whose contract option for 2015 was not exercised. His future in Detroit is very much in doubt, as wonderfully broken down by Kyle Meinke of MLive.
While Donald is more of a 3-technique tackle (a la Ndamukong Suh) and Fairley plays more of a shaded 2-technique, the University of Pittsburgh product has shown the leverage concepts to have success in that role.
It's a critical role in the defense, and right now the depth chart lacks sizzle behind the starters. With Fairley's future an open question, it's not hard to see the Lions making a proactive move in selecting Donald.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
The last line in the above video says it all about Clinton-Dix's appeal to Detroit:
"He'll be a playmaker from Day One."
Even though the Lions did sign veteran James Ihedigbo to fill the starting safety spot created by cutting Louis Delmas, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix would offer much more playmaking potential and long-term stability at what has been for years a position of weakness for the Lions.
He and Glover Quin could be interchangeable, as both are adept in man coverage and can range to the sidelines to make plays. Clinton-Dix is more of a deep-field cover man than either Quin or Ihedigbo, which would help cover for the young corners, too.
The Alabama safety would be a bit of a reach at No. 10, however.
Without knowing the Lions final draft board, it's hard to accurately project just how they feel about him. But with such a respected consensus all having Ha Ha in that range, the perception has to be the reality.
Now if the Lions can trade back a few spots and pick up an extra pick or two, all of the sudden Clinton-Dix seems much more of a viable option.
Odds: At No. 10, 10-1. In a trade back, 8-1.
North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron sure seems tailor-made for new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi's passing offense.
While in the above video he is compared to Julius Thomas, Ebron in Detroit could echo the role that All-Pro Jimmy Graham played for Lombardi in New Orleans. He can line up flexed out from the formation and vertically challenge the defense in both the seam and up the sidelines.
However, the potential of the Lions drafting Ebron took a significant blow when the team opted to re-sign Brandon Pettigrew for four years and $16 million (h/t Spotrac). Considering rookie touchdown machine Joseph Fauria is also returning at the position, it's hard to find room for Ebron.
Still, he does offer a unique set of skills that the Lions currently lack. Ebron appears more likely to be available at No. 10 overall than does Mike Evans, and they could play the same sort of role in the red zone.
Selecting Eric Ebron would be a surprise but not an unrealistic option.
Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins is the juicy draft apple of many an eye...including Martin Mayhew's.
As Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press recently reported, the Lions do seem infatuated with the concept of trading into the top five to select Watkins.
That's what it would take to get the top wideout in this, and perhaps the last several, draft classes. Watkins is widely projected to go between second and fifth overall, and it's almost impossible to concoct a credible scenario in which he lasts to the tenth pick.
The widespread talk of trading up for Watkins may or may not be a smokescreen. It's akin to the classic "battle of wits" scene in The Princess Bride, with Mayhew playing the role of The Man in Black.
Only Mayhew knows the true answer, while the rest of us play the role of Vizzini and try to make sense with all sorts of mental gymnastics to ascertain the correct answer.
Odds: With no trade, 1,000-1. With a trade, 4-1
This is one of the possibilities that has been discussed quite a bit. Barr offers definite intrigue as the "flamethrower" (h/t Tim Twentyman of DetroitLions.com) that head coach Jim Caldwell indicated he desired at linebacker during the NFL owner meetings last month.
His potential as a game-changing pass-rusher is readily evident. His ability to bend the edge and blitz from the outside offers a dimension the Lions sorely lack on the current roster.
Alas, he does carry some pretty significant risk. As noted in his scouting report from Detroit Lions Draft:
Very raw technique…has little to no concept of how to use his hands and often fails to use them at all…struggles to shed blocks, has no real countermeasures to get free other than trying to bull through it…overpursues and abandons contain edge contain as a rusher too frequently…doesn’t always close on the ball under control, will miss plays because he cannot gather himself to the point of attack.
He represents the high-risk, high-reward sort of prospect that scares many fans. Yet the Lions found immediate success with a similar talent in Ezekiel Ansah in the first round last year, which could embolden Mayhew to take that kind of gamble once again.
Barr is widely projected in the 8-15 overall range, which puts him in the sweet spot for draft value for the Lions.
Most of the prospects here fall into the "what if" category.
What if the Lions trade up, and it's not for Sammy Watkins?
What if the Lions trade down?
What if they pull a major surprise that no one sees coming?
Some of the players that would answer these hypothetical questions include:
- South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney
- Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews
- Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward
- Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier
- Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller
- LSU wideout Odell Beckham Jr.
Trading up for Clowney or Matthews is probably the most likely of these scenarios. Adding such tantalizing top-end talents would require a move into the top three, but should provide immediate impact at a key position.