2011 NFL Draft Grades: What Detroit Lions Need To Do To Ace Rounds 2 and 3
A day after Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz took the majority of Lions nation by surprise with their first-round draft pick, DT Nick Fairley, we get ready to head into the second and third rounds of the draft.
Before we do so, it may be worth mentioning that Schwartz and Mayhew could not have been happier with getting Fairley with the 13th overall pick. What many have considered to already be an area of strength for the Lions, the interior defensive line, has just gotten bigger and stronger.
The idea, as told by Schwartz, is to be able to rotate the DTs so they are always fresh on the field. Ndamukong Suh took almost 1,000 snaps last season. It would appear that Schwartz doesn't want to risk wearing down the 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year. He also wants to make a formidable line into a beastly one.
If Fairley can keep his helmet out of the backs and legs of other players and not have any late hits on the QB, the Lions have all the makings of a much-improved "Williams Wall" of the Minnesota Vikings.
Interestingly, with the first round in the books, the Lions chose to play to their strengths and get a guy they never dreamed would fall to 13. They went with the "best player available" philosophy on their first pick.
Will this point to a trend of not getting players based on need and instead getting players based on best player available?
We are about to find out.
With the second and third rounds about to begin today we will look at the positions of need that did not get addressed yesterday. Which players are left on the board that the Lions should be looking at?
Mayhew and Schwartz left with a grade of A- after the first round and even that was hard to give them at the time. What will they need to do to get an A with the second- and third-round choices?
Here are the players they should target if they hope to leave today's picks with a better grade than yesterday's. To be honest, I wish we could somehow walk away with all of them. The second and third rounds are going to be very heavy with needed positional players.
Since there is no way of predicting how the second and third rounds will go, all of the players I have included here cover both second- and third-round picks.
May the best players come out wearing Honolulu blue and silver!
1. CB Brandon Harris
The Lions front office may feel they have all the players they need in the secondary with Alphonso Smith, Chris Houston, Nathan Vasher, Aaron Berry, Prince Miller, Brandon McDonald and Paul Pratt. You have to admit that is quite a list.
Even with this number of players on the roster, the secondary did not do a very good job of stopping the pass last year, nor were they able to stop the run very often. Now I happen to believe in the ability of the secondary with one year under its belt. The starters, Smith and Houston, seemed to jell toward the end. I love the idea of Aaron Berry getting back on the field too. He had a great start last season before he was injured.
However, the secondary shows some serious need of upgrading if they don't step it up. This is where Brandon Harris comes in.
If Mayhew picks Harris in the second round, even if they have to trade up to get him, they get an A.
2. CB Aaron Williams
Several teams will be vying for a cornerback in the second round. The Dallas Cowboys are interested in taking one here, as are the Philadelphia Eagles and the San Francisco 49ers. The last two teams have picks after the Lions but could make a move to trade up once they see that the CBs they want could be off the table.
Given the projected competition for corners in this round the Lions have to get their CB early.
If Brandon Harris is gone or if they like Williams better they get him here.
Brandon Harris would give them an A.
3. OG/C Stefen Wisniewski
Stefen Wisniewski has always been high on my list of players who fill a need at OG/C. The Detroit Lions had problems protecting the QB (all three of them) and making room for RB Jahvid Best to break out.
Many have suggested that the Lions need a new OT but LT Jeff Backus is in his final year of his contract and would likely be offered another contract after this season. Why? Because Backus has never missed a game or start (159 consecutive starts) in his career.
More importantly though is that when paired with RT Gosder Cherilus he was part of an offensive line that ranked fifth in NFL in sacks per pass play (4.33 percent) giving up just 24 sacks last year on 554 pass plays.
OTs are not the Lions' biggest problem on the offensive line.
I submit that the area in need of the biggest upgrade on offense is at the OG/C position. Stefen Wisniewski would make an immediate impact taking over for OG Stephen Peterman.
Peterman did OK last year but did not play at the level needed to keep the lane open for Jahvid Best. An argument could be made about needing to help C Dominic Raoila also.
Stefen Wisniewski brings what the Lions need and would give them an A for a second-round pick. If he is still on the board in the third round, this would be a no-brainer pick but I don't see him sliding that far down.
The Lions may have to do some creative trading to get two picks in the second round. Then we get a CB and OG/C.
4. OLB Akeem Ayers
Going back to the defensive side of the ball, we now look at outside linebackers.
The first pick out of the remaining OLBs in the draft would be Akeem Ayers.
Ayers is considered to be a better fit for a 3-4 defensive scheme but could easily convert to 4-3 with a little bulking up.
Ayers was projected early on to go in the mid-to-late first round but he's still on the board. Many mock drafts have Ayers now going to the New York Giants at No. 52, which means he would be available for the Lions at No. 44.
If the Lions get Ayers in the second round, they get an A.
5. OLB Bruce Carter
One more player at the OLB position that I have on my list for a second- or third-round pick is Bruce Carter. He is already a true 4-3 guy and could come in and have an immediate impact.
6. OLB Mason Foster
Mason Foster is not likely to go in the second round. He is more likely to land in the third round. He would be a great addition after we grab a quality second-round player.
7. G John Moffitt
The other guard worth looking at is John Moffitt out of Wisconsin. He is another player likely to fall to the third round.
8. RB Ryan Williams
The first RB I see being able to help Jahvid Best will likely fall in the third round. RB Ryan Williams would be a terrific asset to the Lions running game and give Jahvid Best someone who can be a power back.
Others being considering are OLB Mark Herzlich and CB Ras-I Dowling.
Let's see how the Lions do on their picks today!