Leading up to the 2011 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions could go in any number of different ways. They have needs at offensive tackle, linebacker and cornerback. They have made huge strides in recent drafts and the front office has a chance to get to the playoffs with a few of the right moves in this year's draft (provided that there is an NFL season next year.)
Let the speculation begin about what the Lions will and should do with their draft picks. Speculation is the part of the draft that I find to be the most fun.
Here are a few moves and players the Lions should look at in this year’s draft. A few of these picks might be a stretch, but the draft is one big gamble anyway.
First off, I think that the Lions should trade the 13th overall pick and try to grab another second or third-round selection. Having only five picks this year could hurt their chances at a really good draft class, but by trading down and acquiring another second or third-rounder, they could complete their class.
If they trade down to the late first round, expect it to be with a team that wants a crack at running back Mark Ingram.
A few teams come to mind when thinking of who might be interested in Ingram. The New Orleans Saints, Kansas City Chiefs and Green Bay Packers might all be interested in nabbing Ingram and willing to deal a second-round pick to get him.
As a Lions fan, I hope he does not end up in Green Bay, but if that is the last option, I say they make the deal. Having two good players on defense would help the Lions to stop Ingram and the Packers.
For all practical purposes, let's say Detroit trades with Green Bay for the 32nd overall selection and a second-round pick. Here are a few players I think the Lions should target with their picks.
Anthony Costanzo, OT, Boston College
He could slip to a late first-rounder and, if he does, the Lions should jump on him. He is an intelligent player who could contribute in his first year.
Also, when the Lions finally get rid of Jeff Backus (or as I call him, "Jeff Go-ahead-and-sack-us"), expect Costanzo to create a dynamite tandem with left guard Rob Sims.
This could finally be the duo that keeps Lions quarterbacks off the ground.
Gabe Carimi, OT, Wisconsin
Carimi is a physical specimen who is known to be a fierce player. He is an absolute truck with a great work ethic. He also has a lot of experience on the left side as he started there for four years.
He could be the franchise left tackle that the Lions desperately need.
His nasty side and work ethic would fit in nicely with the attitude that Detroit is trying to create. He may drop because of a lack of overall speed and, if he does, the Lions should be quick to grab him.
Derek Sherrod, OT, Mississippi State
He is a great run blocker who would help Detroit’s average run game. He has good size and good balance.
While he does not have great lower-body strength, he might not need that while trying to block smaller, quicker defensive ends. He would also fit nicely next to Rob Sims, and if the first two are gone when the Lions pick at 32, then they should be happy to get him.
Greg Jones, ILB, Michigan State
Greg Jones is a hard worker who was a four-year starter at Michigan State and helped turn that team into a winner. He is a good, strong tackler who has a knack for the big hit.
He could switch to outside linebacker and the Lions would likely facilitate that transition because of his size and the fact that they already have DeAndre Levy in the middle.
Jones doesn’t quit on plays and would benefit from playing behind a good defensive line. Also, having played at Michigan State, he would fit in nicely with the Lions fanbase.
He is projected as a second-rounder and I think the Lions should snatch him up with their first pick of the second round.
Casey Matthews, ILB, Oregon
This is my favorite player in the draft. I think the Lions should take him for a number of reasons.
First off is the fact that he comes from a pure football family. He grew up in the game and knows it well.
Second, he has a high motor. He might be undersized for the NFL, but that is what was said about his brother, Clay.
Casey Matthews, like Jones, would benefit from playing behind a good D-line and could move to the outside as Clay did in Green Bay. Casey Matthews' tenacious style of play would fit nicely in a defense that also features Ndamukong Suh.
The third reason is the storyline that it would create. Just imagine the rivalry that would be created if Clay Matthews and the Packers squared off against Casey Matthews and the Lions. It would be good for the media, much like the Eli Manning-Peyton Manning rivalry that has created such a frenzy.
I think it would be good for the younger brother, who has a strong work ethic, to play against his older brother and the defending-champion Packers. Casey Matthews would not want to be outdone by his brother and could provide a real spark for the Lions defense, much like Suh did last year.
Most analysts have him falling to the third round, but I say the Lions take a chance on him and get him in the second round.
They need more guys like Matthews and Suh on their team if they want to make a playoff push in the future.
John Clay, RB, Wisconsin
The Lions could use a bruising running back to complement the speed of Jahvid Best.
While Clay lacks overall speed, he is tough to tackle and could pick up three-four yards on any given carry. He is a tank who could get much-needed yardage on 3rd down by running over people. Jahvid Best cannot do this, so I think the Lions should pick up Clay in the later rounds.
Most analysts have him dropping to the fifth or sixth round, so he could be a steal for the Lions there.
I do not have the Lions drafting any CBs this year because they already have some young, unproven players in their secondary who could be good if given the chance. Also, by solidifying their linebacker corps, they will subsequently improve the secondary. If they want another CB, I expect them to look in free agency.
They should draft the best OT available in the first round and then nab Jones and Matthews in Round 2. After that, it doesn’t really matter what they do until they get Clay in the later rounds.
As a fan, I hope like crazy that the Lions get all of these guys.
They all fit the style of play that the Lions are trying to instill and all could be great contributors down the road. With Kyle Vanden Bosh and Ndamukong Suh in the locker room, these guys would only add to the fire that we Lions fans are beginning to not only hope for, but expect.
General manger Martin Mayhew has done a good job so far and I trust him to do what is best for the team. He is, after all, the one who is calling the shots, while I sit at home and write about everything.