2012 NFL Mock Draft: Detroit Lions Full 7-Round Pre-Combine Predictions
With every mock draft, we creep ever closer to the NFL Combine, and eventually the 2012 NFL Draft.
And because I'm linking this one to the Combine, it's worth noting that this mock draft won't even have to wait until the draft to be disproved. While the Combine may not drastically turn every big board on its head, it will cause enough turbulence to make at least a couple of these picks look silly by March.
I mean, some of them are already going to look silly. I don't know that I'm going to get a lot of positive feedback on the first-rounder this time around, but that's okay. Someday we'll all look back on this and laugh.
Well, I'll laugh. You won't care. That's okay too.
Just as a quick recap, if some of these picks don't make any sense to you at all, it might be because I've already mocked all the guys you were thinking of, and the rule I've set for my mock drafts is "no repeating picks."
With that in mind, be gentle on this first one.
Dean's previous mocks:
First Round (23rd Overall): Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College
Previous pick: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
Alright, stay with me here. There are two immediate objections I expect to this pick.
1. "He won't be available at 23"
2. "The Lions don't need a linebacker"
I've addressed the latter concern in the not-too-distant past, what with concerns about Stephen Tulloch not returning, and pretty much every other starting-quality linebacker on the roster being a free agent in 2013.
But let me add another layer to that. Fans seem to have a short-term memory when it comes to team needs. Because the Lions gave up 900 yards in their last two games, everybody is now focusing on pass defense in the draft
Nobody remembers that earlier in the season, the Lions were taking heat for their inability to stop the run, but they were a top-10 pass defense.
Remember that? We talked about the 49ers running the "wham" play all week because it helped them to gain about 15 yards per carry en route to the Lions' first loss of the season.
This brings me to Kuechly, who is one of the most instinctive and intelligent linebackers to come out of college in years. He just knows where to be when the other team runs the ball, period. He also shows decent ability to cover passing routes over the middle, where the Lions got torched last year.
That's why he's considered a top-15 pick as a linebacker, despite lacking any considerable skill rushing the passer or remarkable foot speed. He just understands the game, and his knowledge makes him a step quicker than the rest of the field, despite average foot speed.
So why do I say he'll be available at 23? Well for starters, if he is available, he's almost certainly the BPA. But because Kuechly is not a phenomenal athlete, the Combine should not be his brightest day.
He's undoubtedly going to be a great player, but I would not be at all surprised to see teams get entranced with some of the more explosive athletic specimens, particularly at more blue-chip positions.
It's hard to justify a top-10 pick on a primary run stopper who doesn't flash amazing athleticism. It won't be hard for the Lions at 23 to take a guy is a top-15 pick regardless.
Second Round (54th Overall): Brandon Washington, G/T, Miami
Previous pick: Andre Branch, DE, Clemson
With all the talk about offensive linemen coming to Detroit in the draft, little of that talk has revolved around Brandon Washington, despite the fact that he's exactly what the Lions would be looking for.
Washington has experience playing both guard and tackle at Miami, Jim Schwartz likes versatility in his linemen. He projects best to guard, but has good enough footwork and athleticism to hold up on the outside.
Washington is a powerful and aggressive run blocker, the Lions sorely need to improve their run blocking.
Washington's biggest drawbacks are his poor technique and habit of giving up leverage. The Lions love coaching up raw linemen, and Washington couldn't have a better mentor than Dominic Raiola.
Raiola has made a living making up for his size with superior technique. Washington doesn't have to worry about the size part. A year of tutelage under Master Raiola will do Washington an incredible amount of good.
The only reason this doesn't makes sense is because Washington isn't great value here. He's no reach, but he's projected as a mid-late second-round pick, which is exactly where the Lions would be drafting him. There is the possibility of the Lions going for a more value-centered pick here.
Barring that, they could probably trade down a few spots and still get Washington.
Third Round (86th Overall): Doug Martin, RB, Boise State
Previous pick: Ben Jones, C, Georgia
There shouldn't be too much surprise here. The cat's already out of the bag in terms of the Lions' interest in a running back this spring.
Specifically, this running back.
I cringe a little at the thought of the Lions drafting yet another running back, but the concerns about Jahvid Best are very real, and it would be a whole lot better to have both Best and Doug Martin on the team than to have neither.
My concern with the Lions is that they seem to think their inability to run the ball is related to running backs.
It's not that talented backs aren't important (and they are, especially considering the Lions' need for them to catch passes out of the backfield), it's that they are no longer the main issue. Emmitt Smith couldn't run through the holes the Lions' offensive line is creating, much less Kevin Smith.
Of course, in this mock, the Lions have just shored up a portion of that problem in the second round, so Martin makes sense here. At the very least, the idea doesn't make me want to reach up and yank out copious amounts of hair.
Fourth Round (117th Overall): Billy Winn, DE, Boise State
Previous pick: Nigel Bradham, LB, Florida State
This is an unlikely dream scenario, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to double-dip from Boise State and reunite Titus Young with two former teammates.
More importantly, Winn would be a monstrously valuable pick here.
Winn has first-round potential as a pass rusher, which is not the kind of thing that typically gets left on the board until the fourth round.
But Winn is also lazy and notorious for not giving 100 percent on or off the field, and that is the kind of thing that does.
Ultimately, one of those teams who doesn't care about character or work ethic (I'm looking at you, Bengals and Cowboys) will probably scoop him up by the third round, and I'm not sure I'd touch him before then.
But if Winn ends up so radioactive he lasts until the fourth, he has too much upside for the Lions to not give him a shot and hope the blue collar attitude in the locker room reforms him. It could be the best pick of the whole draft.
Fifth Round (150th Overall): Leonard Johnson, CB, Iowa State
Previous pick: Jordan White, WR, Western Michigan
Another pick whose natural football talent outshines his relative lack of athleticism.
Leonard Johnson is neither the biggest or fastest guy on the field, but he is mature beyond his years at the corner position and a solid open-field tackler. He's also great value in the fifth round.
Johnson wouldn't step in and be a cure-all for the Lions' secondary issues, but he already exhibits better technique and ball skills than some of the guys the Lions started last year.
Johnson is 5' 10" and lacks elite speed, so his upside is somewhat limited, but he brings an unusual amount of value for a corner, right out of college.
And again, fifth round. We're not drafting Hall-of-Famers here (usually), just guys who can play.
Seventh Round (from Seattle, 202nd Overall): Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
Previous pick: Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
If you are wondering why this pick exists, check here for the story.
If you're wondering why the Lions would draft Drew Stanton again, let me counter with the following: At least it's not the second round.
Furthermore, the Lions may not actually employ Stanton by the time this draft comes around, and an additional quarterback wouldn't hurt anything, especially if they develop Cousins into a capable backup (or even prospective starter) while Matthew Stafford is busy lighting up the scoreboard.
The Lions are going to carry three quarterbacks on the roster, so why not try to make one of them worth something in the long run?
Seventh Round (212th Overall): Jerry Franklin, LB, Arkansas
Previous pick: Chigbo Anunoby, DT, Morehouse College
Jerry Franklin isn't going to blow anybody's doors off with any aspect of his game.
He can pick his way through the line of scrimmage, and he shows a decent feel for the game, but he doesn't trust his instincts and is prone to hesitation on the field.
In this sense, the Lions might be a great fit for Franklin from a growth perspective. Since the Lions employ a very instinctive, "attack first" style, Franklin might be well suited in a scheme where he can just bite down and attack.
Basically, Franklin is an okay run stopper and okay in coverage. There is nothing about Franklin that is particularly impressive, but he plays solid in every aspect, and could be good on special teams and possibly challenge DeAndre Levy for a starting spot.