The Detroit Lions are one great draft away from the playoffs, so this is the big one. If Mayhew works his magic again, then Lions fans around the world will get to finally experience some December football.
The Lions have picks in the first, second, third, fourth. fifth and sixth rounds, and there is a high likelihood that they will do some extra wheeling and dealing to get more picks or move up to get another starter.
This is how I think the draft will go for the Lions, but if there is a spectacular fall by a player like Prince Amukamara or Von Miller, then the whole draft will change completely.
This choice will raise plenty of controversy, as a lot of Lions fans want to see a cornerback bagged in the first round. However, I think it is finally time to spend a first-round pick on getting some protection for the future of the franchise.
Backus did play better last season, but he is at the end of his contract, and he will not be resigned. He would also be able to move to either right guard or right tackle for his final season and improve the offensive line that way.
Tyron Smith will be taken in the top 10 of the draft, but at No. 13, Castonzo is a real steal. He is not a mauler in the run game, but he is big, agile and a great pass protector. He is well-drilled and is the most NFL ready of all the offensive tackles. He should be a 10+ year starter on their offensive line.
This is where things will start to get interesting. After his interviews, Smith has slipped to having an early second-round grade. With this in mind, the Lions will have to move up to grab him, but for a player with his potential and ability to start from day one, it would not be a bad move.
The best chance to trade up would be the New England Patriots. They would have already picked two players in the first round and would welcome the chance to grab more future draft picks for wheeling and dealing with. This is pure speculation, but I think the Lions would be able to do the deal giving away their fifth-round pick in the 2011 draft as well as their second and third in the 2012 draft.
Smith is one of the best press corners in the draft, and this suits the Lions' needs perfectly. He showed at the combine he also had speed and decent agility to turn and run with wide receivers. He is also a willing and powerful tackler.
In the third round, it becomes time to deal with the linebacker problem. I do not think it is as bad as advertised. Bobby Carpenter and Ashlee Palmer both played well at the end of last season, and there are a few very good middle linebacker who are going to hit free agency when the new CBA is resolved.
Regardless, in the third round, Herzlich is too good a prospect to pass up. He will drop this far because of the talent in this draft and his battle with cancer. This affected his athletic performance at the combine. Despite this, he is very rich in instincts and intangibles, which make or break a linebacker.
Herzlich may only be a part-time starter as a rookie as he continues his recovery, but he should become a very good starter in his sophomore season. Other teams will wonder why they did not pull the trigger on him.
For the record, this is not really a selection for a tight end. The Lions already have two good ones in the shape of Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler. However, I believe that Cameron has the ability to develop into a very, very good wide receiver.
Of course, he would have to drop his weight a bit because 250 lbs is too much for a wide receiver. However, a 6'5", 230-pound wide receiver who runs faster than a 4.55 40 and can reel in bad passes would be a dangerous complement to Calvin Johnson. No defense has two corner backs who can win jump ball situations against athletic, tall, bulky wide receivers.
This pick would be developmental, but Cameron has the potential to be a real star in his second or third year.
Bartholemew turned a few heads at the combine when he ran a 4.97 40 dash but is still not really high up draft boards. However, as a late-round developmental project, he could reap dividends.
In the Lions, he would have a year to learn more about the game before Dom Raiola's contract expired. Bartholemew is a power run blocker who also has the speed and agility to be good in pass protection. While he is not well-drilled yet and his technique is not great, this can be fixed with coaching.