Detroit Lions Mock Draft Roundup
It's the peak of NFL mock draft season, as both prominent media personalities and bored high school students frantically concoct and tinker with ideas about what each team will do in the upcoming draft.
A quick perusal of the latest mock drafts around the Internet casts a wide net as to which prospects the Detroit Lions will select. As nobody—including the Lions themselves—know exactly how the rest of the draft will play out, there are a wide variety of draft options and projections.
Here are a few ideas that others have on Detroit's picks, as well as thoughts of my own on each pick. Among the mock drafts included here are those from the following experts:
- Matt Miller of Bleacher Report
- Dane Brugler of CBS
- Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com
- Chris Burke of Sports Illustrated
- Mel Kiper Jr. of ESPN (subscription required)
- Pat Kirwan of CBS
- Todd McShay of ESPN (subscription required)
Think back two drafts ago. How many mock drafts successfully pegged Riley Reiff (pictured) to the Lions in the first round of the 2012 NFL draft?
These are all just projections, and it's important to note that an analyst's projection can differ from his evaluation of the player listed.
This is the signature pick for Detroit, the tenth overall selection. Right now, however, there is no signature consensus for what the Lions will do with this premium pick.
|Miller||Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama|
|Brugler||Aaron Donald, DT, Pittsburgh|
|Jeremiah||Taylor Lewan, T, Michigan|
|Burke||*Calvin Pryor, S, Louisville|
|Kirwan||Justin Gilbert, CB, Oklahoma State|
*Burke projects a trade with Dallas where the Lions fall back to No. 16.
Half of the projections assign Alabama safety Hasean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix to Detroit. With Burke also projecting a safety and Kirwan going with a cornerback, the overwhelming emphasis is on the secondary.
It's hard to argue with the reasoning. Detroit's pass defense has been a problem area for years, and the unit lacks a standout performer; the last Lions defensive back to make a Pro Bowl was Dre Bly in 2004.
The Lions currently have eight cornerbacks under the age of 28, four of whom have been drafted in the last two years. That does not include the primary starters from last season, Chris Houston and Rashean Mathis, both of whom return.
When paired with safeties Glover Quin and Louis Delmas, the Lions fielded a secondary good enough for Pro Football Focus (subscription required) to grade it as the 10-best defensive backfield in terms of pass coverage. Delmas, who bolted in free agency to the Miami Dolphins, has been replaced by former Ravens safety James Ihedigbo, who is apparently seen by these mock drafters as nothing more than a placeholder at the position.
Interestingly, the only offensive player listed here is Taylor Lewan and not a wide receiver. Lewan is definitely a gifted athlete, but Pro Football Talk and Deadspin document separate instances of off-field misconduct that calls his character into question. It's hard to see the Lions, a team trying to get away from negative press after a spate of recent arrests, adding another potential headache.
The other player here is Donald, who would offer immediate pass-rushing oomph. He also would be insurance against losing either Ndamukong Suh or Nick Fairley, neither of whom are under contract beyond 2014.
As for the pick I would make?
Tenth overall is too high for any defensive back in this draft. If the Lions can engineer a trade like the one Burke laid out in his mock draft, I have no problem with Detroit taking Clinton-Dix. Neither Pryor nor Gilbert are in my personal top 25, and while Clinton-Dix would be a reach on my board, I buy into his potential impact and his fit within the Lions' defense system.
At the ten spot, give me LSU wideout Odell Beckham Jr. or North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron, if he's available.
In a trade up, I would prefer University of Buffalo outside linebacker Khalil Mack or Texas A&M tackle Jake Matthews over Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins.
The Lions hold the 45th overall pick, which is the 13th pick of the second round. Here is what the experts predict for that pick:
|Miller||Marqise Lee, WR, USC|
|Brugler||Scott Crichton, DE, Oregon State|
|Burke||Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State|
|Kiper||Stanley Jean-Baptiste, CB, Nebraska|
|Drafttek||Kyle Van Noy, LB, BYU|
Only five of the eight highlighted mock drafts braved a second-round offering. But those that did each had a different player going to Detroit.
Miller and Burke both opted for wide receivers, which makes quite a bit of sense. The Lions are seeking a third wideout to play alongside Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate.
They chose very different players, however. Lee is a smaller, quicker, more precise player who is similar to Tate in that he's able to play both in the slot or on the outside. Robinson, as noted in the video above, is a bigger, stronger sort of playmaker who offers more physicality and grit.
Of those, I prefer Lee. His 2013 season was hampered by a lingering knee injury, which has watered down his stock. The same was true of Keenan Allen a year ago and Alshon Jeffery (his issue was weight, not a knee) in the 2012 draft. Both wound up right away dramatically outperforming their draft slotting, and Lee can do the same.
Both Brugler and Drafttek opted to bolster the defensive front.
Crichton is a high-motor, disruptive edge player with the versatility to play both tackle and end. However, as noted by Darren Page in his Bleacher Report profile on the Oregon State DE, Crichton is not a great athlete and lacks ideal size. He would compete with 2013 fourth-rounder Devin Taylor and veteran Jason Jones for reps at left defensive end.
Van Noy is an outside linebacker who can step in right and play in all situations. His all-around game is quite impressive; check out how long the "positives" checklist is in Page's B/R draft outlook. He's not the strongest or most physical athlete.
Then there's Kiper's choice, Stanley Jean-Baptiste. The converted wide receiver has outstanding length, which is the buzzword du jour for teams trying to emulate Seattle's Super Bowl-winning strategy. Despite that, he's not a good fit in Detroit.
As noted in Ian Wharton's B/R feature, Jean-Baptiste is best-suited for a Cover 2 zone scheme. The Lions are looking to play more man coverage under new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, as nicely broken down by Kent Lee Platte of Detroit Lions Draft. Also, Kiper has the Lions doubling down on defensive backs and ignoring pressing needs at wide receiver and linebacker.
My personal choice would be Van Noy. I love his versatility and intelligence, both of which would allow him to quickly assimilate and contribute right away. In fact, I'd be willing to take Van Noy in the first round.
Any of the other options here would be acceptable, except Jean-Baptiste. From my cornerback big board at RealGM:
18. Stanley Jean-Baptiste
Notes: Possesses outstanding size at 6’2” and a sturdy 218 pounds. Plays fast and has experience in all sorts of coverages. Fairly fluid mover, can turn and run though lacking in short-area burst. Lacks instincts. Was an underachiever most of his career, didn’t start full-time until ’13. Has tiny hands (8.5”) for his length. Other than about 5 games his senior year he looked nothing like a NFL prospect except for his size. Caveat draftor.
The list drops off here quite a bit, as only the Miller and Drafttek mocks extend beyond two rounds.
With the 76th overall pick, Miller selects Montana linebacker Jordan Tripp. Drafttek opts for Arkansas center Travis Swanson.
Both are interesting choices. While casual fans might not know either very well, Tripp and Swanson both make sense for the Lions.
Tripp was a two-time All-American at the FCS level who did a little bit of everything for the Grizzlies. As noted in Darren Page's B/R draft profile, Tripp (pictured) has great quickness and plays quite well in coverage. A strong Senior Bowl week elevated his draft stock, though this still seems a little high for a player with his lack of size and physicality.
Swanson is probably a bit of a reach too, though he fills the need for an interior offensive lineman to groom as an eventual replacement for aging center Dominic Raiola. Lance Zierlein of The Sideline View wrote of Swanson:
Swanson is an above average run blocker for his position and has enough functional strength that teams with 3-4 heavy defenses in their division may prioritize him over some other teams. There isn't really anything about Swanson that jumps off the field at me, but by the same token, I don't see any glaring flaws that overly concern me on the next level either.
It's not exactly a ringing endorsement, and I echo that sentiment. Swanson looks like a perfectly average NFL starter at either center or guard, a high-floor, low-ceiling type of player. He wouldn't be a bad choice, but I'd rather go for a little more upside with this valuable second-day pick.
The next two players off the board in Drafttek's mock, Florida State center Bryan Stork and Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, make better choices, especially Ward. Getting the safety in the third round is a pipe dream. Miller has him going 21st overall and is almost universally considered a top-40 lock.
In an ideal world, I would nab Florida State safety Terrence Brooks here. He appears likely to be gone, in which case I would turn to either the best wideout on the board (if I didn't get one already) or a defensive lineman like LSU's Ego Ferguson or Penn State's DaQuan Jones.
Detroit holds three picks in the fourth round. The original pick is No. 111 overall, but the Lions received two compensatory selections at the end of the round as well. Those are slots No. 133 and 136, and they cannot be traded.
Those compensatory picks help make up for the lack of a fifth-round selection, which the Lions traded away for wide receiver Mike Thomas back in 2012.
Miller's picks here are:
- Oregon State CB Rashaad Reynolds
- Michigan State S Isaiah Lewis
- Tennessee T Ja'Wuan James
Drafttek's selections are:
- Alabama DE Adrian Hubbard
- Michigan T Michael Schofield
- Oklahoma WR Jalen Saunders
I'm going to disagree with Miller here and speculate that Ja'Wuan James will be long gone by the 111th pick, let alone by No. 136. As chronicled by Seahawks Draft Blog, former NFL general manager Mark Dominik believes he's a first-round pick.
There's also this tidbit:
#Dolphins have given first-round grades to OTs Greg Robinson, Jake Matthews, Taylor Lewan, Zack Martin & JaWuan James, according to sources— Sportsfeedia.com (@sportsfeedia) April 27, 2014
It's worth noting that "sources" can be a fickle creature at this time of the draft season.
Of the others listed, Reynolds would be my preferred pick. I did a full scouting report on him at Detroit Lions Draft, noting, "I’d be comfortable taking him in the 4th round and using him right away as a 4th corner, with upside to eventually start."
Hubbard would offer functional depth at defensive end, though I concur with NFL.com's Bucky Brooks in his unflattering assessment from the Senior Bowl:
Although Hubbard has played outside linebacker in Alabama's 3-4 system, he isn't a dynamic pass rusher nor an explosive athlete in coverage. I've been surprised at his marginal first-step quickness and his lack of nuance with his pass-rush technique. Hubbard doesn't overwhelm blockers with outstanding speed and quickness.
Saunders would ostensibly take over for slot receiver Ryan Broyles in Detroit, just as he did for the Sooners. He's got both elite speed and quickness, which are indeed mutually exclusive traits. Unfortunately, he's very undersized, as noted in Ryan McCrystal's draft feature on Bleacher Report.
Lewis and Schofield both seem like big reaches here. The Wolverine tackle does offer intriguing potential as a reserve lineman, but that's a more typical pick in later rounds than this.
My personal choices here would be:
- Wyoming WR Robert Herron
- Missouri CB E.J. Gaines
- Georgia QB Aaron Murray
The Lions hold the 189th overall pick here. Once again, the mock picks offer divergent ideas.
Miller selected Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard, while Drafttek opted for USC tight end Xavier Grimble.
Ikard is an excellent athlete for his position, very agile and light on his feet. He certainly captured my attention last fall, when in person I witnessed him completely dominate highly regarded Notre Dame defensive tackle Louis Nix III.
As B/R's Alex Dunlap notes in his draft feature, Ikard's athleticism is his calling card. Alas, there's not much to like beyond that. Ikard struggled to make a positive impression at either the East West Shrine Game or Senior Bowl practices, and his lack of lower-body strength and aggressiveness are going to be hard for him to overcome at the NFL level.
Grimble is more of an athletic, project type of pick. Former NFL general manager Greg Gabriel was not a big fan in his report on Grimble for National Football Post, noting:
I do not see Grimble as a starter at the next level. He has enough speed to be a move tight end, but I have doubts that he can line up at Y and be effective. More of a mid-round type of player.
That sentiment makes Grimble seem like a decent value pick here. In Detroit, he would compete with 2013 seventh-rounder Michael Williams for the third tight end role behind Joseph Fauria and Brandon Pettigrew.
My personal choice here would be to address the need at kicker. I would opt for either Zach Hocker from Arkansas or Daniel Fera from Texas.
Detroit's final pick in the 2014 NFL draft comes at No. 227 overall. The projections here once again go in very different directions.
Miller pegs Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning, while Drafttek projects Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines.
Wenning would make a fine value pick here as a backup to Matthew Stafford. Among his advocates is Chris Trapasso, who stated:
His arm strength isn't special, but Ball State QB Keith Wenning has the most impressive downfield / overall touch in the 2014 QB class, IMO.— Chris Trapasso (@ChrisTrapasso) April 23, 2014
In a twist here, Miller breaks down Drafttek's opposing pick in the above video. While many think highly of the rangy former Owl, he is a project. From the cornerback big board at RealGM:
12. Philip Gaines, Rice
Notes: Lanky, long, experienced man-cover corner that projects better to zone or off-man in the NFL. Better with ball in the air than before throw, average instincts but quick reactions. Slight frame that will always lack strength and missed games in 4 of his 5 seasons at Rice with injuries. Opportunistic and smart.
Either player would be a fine choice in the seventh round. Another option I would consider is Shepherd linebacker Howard Jones. Things can only get better for the small-school stud, who received praise in Shawn Zobel's scouting report for Draft Headquarters.