Detroit Lions Mock Draft: Post-Combine Look at All 7 Rounds

James Van Etten@jbvanettenContributor IMarch 8, 2012

Detroit Lions Mock Draft: Post-Combine Look at All 7 Rounds

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    With the results of the 2012 NFL Combine in the books, it’s time to take a fresh look at the Detroit Lions' draft possibilities.

    The lights have been dimmed in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning has been given his walking papers and the combine has again come and gone.

    The prospective players have completed their testing, pouring themselves into the required Under Armour uniform, while being prodded like cattle at the state fair and forced to dance like well-groomed pups at the Westminster Dog Show.

    So how have these results changed our previous views of these potential future millionaires?

    For some, not much; for others, Indy spelled disaster for those who underachieved and a winning lottery ticket for others who exceeded expectations.

    For this mock, I have continued to not replicate evaluations of players. I’m certain that many of you feel similar to me as you read these mocks and have become bored with the repetitive ramblings regarding Janoris Jenkins and Wisconsin linemen.

    Predicting the NFL draft is a crapshoot and gathering more information on many different players should not only enlighten, it will probably further confuse. At least that’s my feeling at times.

    These seven selections are a combination of BPA and combine risers. Some will be available, some will not; but all of them would help the Detroit Lions in the future.

    Below are my previous looks at potential picks, in case your favorite is not in this mock.

    Preliminary Seven-Round Mock, January 17

    Seven Additional Draft Targets, January 24

    Seven to Watch at the Combine, February 20

First Round: Nick Perry, Defensive End, Southern California

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    When Lloyd Carr was “helped” to the exit door in Ann Arbor, the Wolverines lost out on one of their top defensive prospects, and Nick Perry switched his allegiances and headed for the surf and sun offered by Pete Carroll and the Southern California Trojans.

    Perry made the most of the switch, earning freshmen All-American honors in 2009 as a backup and becoming an All-Pac-12 player as a redshirt junior last year with 9.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles.

    He has the proverbial “great motor” to go along with a powerful base which allows him to get off the ball quickly.

    His hips are fluid, allowing for lateral pursuit of the ball-carrier, and when he gets there he’s a sure tackler.

    The knock on Perry is his shorter arms (33”) and his difficulty with double-teams, but with Ndamukong Suh & Nick Fairley up front, how often do you think Perry is going to see a double?

    Some are projecting Perry’s game is better suited for a 3-4 linebacker position, but Nick has told anybody who will listen that he prefers to keep his hand on the ground and stay in a 4-3 system where he feels comfortable.

    The Lions' “wide-9” DE position is the closest thing to a 3-4 'backer while keeping a hand in the turf. It’s the ideal fit for a guy whose best attribute is getting up field and harassing the quarterback.

    Going into the combine, he was already headed for a Thursday-night selection and his results in Indy did not prove otherwise.

    Tops in the 40-yard dash, bench, broad jump and vertical jump at his position, Perry will need a visit to the tailor for some custom threads when his name is called within the first couple dozen selections.

    At first glance, this may appear to be overkill for the defensive line, but with Cliff Avril still without a long-term deal and an aging Kyle Vanden Bosch set to make $5 million in 2013, this would be a proactive pick that could keep the Lions' front-four dominant for several years, which is the core value of Jim Schwartz’ coaching philosophy.

    It's not the ideal first round pick, but if Detroit sticks with their BPA mantra and the draft falls a certain way, it could be a homecoming for Nick Perry and an additional boost to an already scary-good defensive line.

Second Round: Mychal Kendricks, Inside Linebacker, California

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    The Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year would fill an immediate hole in the Lions defense and massage the increasingly difficult salary cap problems facing the decision-makers in Allen Park.

    At 5’11” and 240 pounds, Kendricks is heavy enough to punish running backs and his less-than-ideal height should not be a concern. Chris Spielman got the same knock coming out of school and his career made the height worry laughable.

    Mychal Kendricks is a three-year starter for the Bears, playing the outside linebacker for two years and then moving inside for his senior campaign.

    The move was a blessing as Hendricks led the team in tackles with 106 and earned All-American honors.

    Beyond his tape, which shows a physical tackler with strong hands that are able to shed blocks and a limitless motor that attacks the ball-carrier with correct angles, it was the combine results that raised eyebrows and made him a realistic second-round pick.

    Best in the 40 and vertical jump when compared to the other “Mike” linebackers and top three in bench and shuttle, Kendricks is a workout wonder who also has produced on the field.

    It should not come as a surprise to anyone. His father was a running back at UCLA and led the Bruins in rushing twice in the 70s; the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

    He was considered a top-100 prospect, but as we’ve seen, an elite performance at the combine can justifiably skyrocket a player—and Kendricks falls into this category.

    With the franchising of Cliff Avril, the Stephen Tulloch era is in all likelihood over.

    According to reports, Tampa Bay and Philadelphia have high interest in the Lions' middle linebacker; Detroit is currently over the salary cap and will have a tough time matching the dollars the Buccaneers can throw at Tulloch.

    Mikel Leshoure, Mychal Kendricks; doesn’t anybody use the Corleone spelling anymore?

    If he gets the results of the Al Pacino character for Detroit, it will be an offer no Lions fan will refuse.

Third Round: Brandon Mosley, Offensive Tackle, Auburn

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    According to Sun Tzu, if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles.

    If we can apply that to the gridiron, Brandon Mosley has a chance to be a viable starting left tackle.

    The former JUCO defensive end made the switch to tight end when he transferred to Auburn; then the coaching staff strapped him in at the training table, and Mosley has now blown up to a robust 314 pounds and was one of the highlights of the combine for offensive linemen.

    Mosley was top 10 in the 40 with a 5.21 compared with other 300-pound-plus tackles and second only to Matt Kalil in the cone test.

    With the conversion from tight end, Mosley is obviously an athletic tackle with the footwork necessary to start on the left side in the future, but he also knocked out 30 reps on the bench in Indy, fourth-best amongst tackles.

    Having 34” arms, Mosley has the length to keep defensive ends at bay and keep Stafford upright, but because of his limited playing time at the position, he will be available after the premier tackles are off the board.

    This should be acceptable for Detroit. They like athletic hogs who need some additional seasoning and with Jeff Backus probably getting a two-year deal, the Lions could be in a position to cultivate a diamond in the rough.

    Yes, the Lions are still high on Jason Fox, but regardless of their optimism, Detroit needs to protect their franchise quarterback with a tackle who can stay on the field.

    Mosley’s play in the spread offense will scare some teams off, reminding them of former first-round bust Jason Smith from Baylor.

    But grabbing a tackle in the third round with system questions is much different than giving big guaranteed jack to a second overall selection.

Fourth Round: Ronnie Hillman, Running Back, San Diego State

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    How would a running back with abilities similar to Marshall Faulk look in Honolulu Blue?

    There are no guarantees for future production, but so far Ronnie Hillman has exceeded the Hall of Famer’s collegiate career.

    In his freshman year, Hillman broke Faulk’s freshman rushing record with 1,532 yards on the ground and followed that up with 1,711 yards as a sophomore, setting the new WAC conference single-season rushing record.

    After only two years as an Aztec and the departure of Brady Hoke to Michigan, Hillman declared for the draft with the nation’s fifth-best average of nearly 132 yards rushing per game; his eligibility realized with a redshirt of his first year on campus.

    At 5’9" and 190 pounds, his slight frame was a concern, but Ronnie yoked up for the combine, putting on 11 additional pounds and still flew like the wind.

    Posting a 4.45 in the 20 plus a 37” vertical, both fourth-best amongst running backs, Hillman showed everybody he can bulk up and still be one of the most athletic running backs in this year’s class.

    His running style is perfect for what the Lions’ offense presents.

    He’s quick to the outside with tremendous burst and has terrific lateral agility to bounce the play when the hole is not there—a necessity for all Lions running backs.

    Surprisingly, he is also a patient runner. He can pick his way through the interior of the line and will stick his nose into a blitzing linebacker and cut him when necessary.

    Hillman rarely caught the ball out of the backfield in college, collecting only 33 receptions over two years, but don’t let that be a red flag. Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders didn’t catch too many balls when they were at Oklahoma State and both caught the ball well in the flats at the professional level.

    With only two years' collegiate experience, Hillman is inexperienced, but so was LeSean McCoy and I think that’s turned out rather nicely for Philadelphia.

    The Lions cannot count on Jahvid Best to play an entire season, let alone an entire game going into next year.

    The Lions are hopeful Mikel Leshoure will still be their thunder, but lightning could come in the form of Ronnie Hillman.

Fifth Round: Asa Jackson, Cornerback, Cal-Poly

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    Many fans are clamoring for an upgrade at corner, but the draft is deep in both cornerbacks and defensive linemen; quality can be found deeper in the draft for both—enter Cal Poly corner Asa Jackson.

    At 5’11” and 190 pounds, Jackson has the size to play at the next level even though he comes from a small program.

    Small program may be an understatement. His pro day performance was conducted at the Hawaii pro day, but the kid can play and has performed well against NFL-caliber talent in conference play.

    He’s strong in man coverage, understanding the nuances of covering on an island, but is also willing to come up and play the run.

    Plus, he has plenty of speed and hops. At his pro day he improved his combine 40 time of 4.49 to a 4.45 and his vertical jump from 34.5” to 37.5”, both putting him easily into the top dozen amongst his peers.

    Jackson is a four-year starter and comes from a cerebral family where both his parents have earned their doctorates.

    It’s not a coincidence he attended California Polytechnic, a nationally recognized school known for hands-on learning; Jackson has applied these ideals to the field and is set to make his dreams a reality in April.

    The draft is full of small-school corners this year who are capable of playing with the big boys; with good footwork and unquestioned athletic ability, Asa Jackson is one of them.

Seventh Round Compensatory Pick: Jaye Howard, Defensive Tackle, Florida

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    For an explanation of this pick, click here.

    How can an honorable mention All-SEC defensive lineman from the University of Florida last until the seventh round?

    A perfect storm of depth at the position and inconsistent play will push Jaye Howard to the back of the draft and possibly into the waiting arms of the Detroit Lions.

    Big and athletic, Howard is a dream pick in the seventh round. The defensive tackle weighs in just over three bills, so he automatically becomes a nice space eater.

    But it’s the speed and quickness that impresses. At the combine, Howard ran a 4.82 40. Let’s put that in perspective: that’s the fourth-fastest 40 time for a defensive tackle and only .03 behind Fletcher Cox, who now is projected to go in the first round.

    Also placing in the top 10 in both the three-cone and shuttle tests, Howard is a massive piece of clay who can be molded into a masterpiece.

    The knock on Howard is that he takes plays off and can vanish in the middle of a game. This is where Lions’ defensive line coach Kris Kocurek earns his pay.

    The high-energy coach is exactly what will be needed to maximize Howard’s ability; being put into an already dominant rotation, Howard can get his feet wet giving max effort without the requirement of consistent play.

    A perfect three-technique tackle, Howard is best when penetrating and using his natural quickness, but can play anywhere up and down the line. A great attribute for a Jim Schwartz D-lineman.

Seventh Round: Austin Davis, Quarterback, Southern Mississippi

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    The NFC North has been without Brett Favre for more than a year; it needs a new Southern Miss gunslinger.

    The second-team all-Conference USA quarterback is the type of signal-caller who would be a great addition for the Lions.

    He has plenty of experience, having started four years on campus for the Golden Eagles and improving each year, with a crescendo senior year amassing 3,500 yards with 30 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions.

    What’s more impressive than the stats is that during his senior year he continually connected with second and third options.

    This ability is a major plus for a QB coming out of college; there are too many who go to the NFL without this necessary ability and are unable to make the progression reads beyond their primary receiver.

    The combine did not hurt him either.

    As many of the top quarterbacks decided to stand off to the side, Davis took the opportunity and showed nice spin on the ball in both short and intermediate routes and very good accuracy on the deep ball.

    Davis is not limited to a West Coast system as some have suggested.

    Our own Matt Miller recommended the Lions look at Case Keenum late in the draft, but at 6’2” and 220 pounds, Davis has better physical measurables across the board and plays his best on the biggest stage.

    Davis beat Keenum head-to-head in the C-USA championship 49-29—killing Houston’s perfect season with 279 yards passing and four touchdowns.

    Shaun Hill is 32 and has accepted the backup role. The Lions cannot be content with the Drew Stanton experiment anymore. It’s time for some new blood and at the end of the draft, Austin Davis makes sense.


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