Jeff Risdon, DLD Editor
Since we haven’t done one in a while, it’s time once again for a full Detroit Lions mock draft. These represent picks I would make, not necessarily what I believe the Lions would do in the same situation, which is the opposite of my typical mock drafts.
This is still pre-free agency, which makes projections difficult. So I decided to set a few fairly realistic and perhaps even probable conditions here:
–Detroit signs S James Ihedigbo to fill the Louis Delmas role
–Brandon Pettigrew is not re-signed
–The Lions pull a mild surprise and sign WR James Jones
–Veteran corner Rashean Mathis re-signs for another one-year deal
That sets the stage for the draft…
First round, 10th overall
Before we get to the Lions pick, it’s important to lay out what players are available.
These players will all be gone:
Teddy Bridgewater, Jadeveon Clowney, Sammy Watkins, Greg Robinson, Khalil Mack, Jake Matthews, Blake Bortles, and Johnny Manziel.
You will note that’s only eight names. That’s what helps make this so exciting. And frustratingly speculative.
The ninth player that will be gone figures to be one of three prospects: Mike Evans, Eric Ebron, or Anthony Barr. Derek Carr is a possibility, but a pretty remote one. It’s not out of the question Taylor Lewan elevated his name into that realm with his tremendous Combine, either.
Because I cannot foresee which of those guys will be gone, they are all available for Detroit.
My choice here comes down to three choices. Each is my top-rated player this respective position.
- Wide receiver Marqise Lee
- Tight end Eric Ebron
- Outside linebacker Kyle Van Noy
The signing of Jones and the freakish depth at wide receiver makes me turn away from Lee, though I do think he would be great in Detroit. He’s a much better fit for the Lions than Mike Evans, whom I believe would be the actual Lions choice in this given situation.
Van Noy would be a perfect fit for the Lions defense, able to play in the base 4-3 at strongside backer. He would bring the potential as a blitzer, something neither DeAndre Levy nor Stephen Tulloch do well. He could stay on the field in nickel situations and replace Tulloch in those obvious passing spots, and he’s proven he can play well off former BYU teammate and buddy Ezekiel Ansah.
Ebron would fill the Jimmy Graham role that new Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi had in New Orleans. He’s a monumental upgrade to the departed Pettigrew as a receiver, and he would mitigate the need to rush a wideout into action. Ebron’s presence would dramatically improve the Lions passing game and really open things up for Reggie Bush and Joique Bell, too.
The pick: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina
Second round, 45th overall
With tight end now resolved and the need for alternate pass catching options for Matthew Stafford mitigated, the Lions can now turn to best player available.
The only positions that are ruled out here are quarterback, tight end and running back.
My hope here is that the run on second-tier quarterbacks has already happened, which would drop more players into the availability pool.
Three of the players I’m really hoping are available are Northern Illinois safety Jimmie Ward, Oregon State wideout Brandin Cooks, and Nevada offensive tackle Joel Bitonio.
Ward is the most likely of those to be gone, perhaps as early as the top 25.
There’s an outside chance Van Noy will still be available, but I doubt it. He would be the pick if he’s still on the board, and I strongly believe that would be the case in the actual draft too.
Even with Cooks and Bitonio still on the board, and I really like and would be content with either, the choice here is a bit of a curveball. It flies against what frequent readers and those who know me would guess.
I’m taking someone with ties to this Lions team already. He’s a bit of an injury risk, and he might not make much of an immediate impact. It creates a crowd at his position. But his talent ceiling and long-term impact ability at a position of chronic need prevails upon me to select him.
The pick: Kyle Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech
A quick note about the aftermath: I’d see what Fuller can offer during the preseason, and if he’s good enough to play right away as the third outside corner, I’d get rid of Chris Houston at that point regardless of the dead money on his contract. Otherwise I keep Houston for 2014 and let Fuller come along at a slower pace, unless he can definitively bump Chris Greenwood and/or Bill Bentley right away.
Third round, 76th overall
If the draft plays out like I think it might, this is the real value range for wide receivers. The depth of talent at that spot should keep the demand from outpacing the supply, and that means players that in other years would be 2nd-round talents will be around in the third.
The additions of James Jones and Eric Ebron have shored up the options in the middle of the field and in intermediate routes. Now is the time to add the outside-the-hashes field stretcher.
How about adding the wideout who tied for the fastest 10-yard split t the Combine? He blazed a flat 4.40 in the 40, and added the top broad jump and third-best vertical leap. He’s big at 6’3” and a rocked up 220+ pounds but still has the speed and explosiveness at that size.
Sounds great, right? So why he is still on the board in the middle of the third? His hands can be inconsistent, and really his whole game has some inconsistencies. He had vastly superior games against LSU and Missouri than Mike Evans did, but had little impact against Alabama or Mississippi State.
The pick: Donte Moncrief, WR, Ole Miss
Fourth round, 107th overall
The choice here is a player that caught my eye during Shrine Game week. I had not seen much of his body of work before then, but he immediately grabbed my attention with his athleticism and ability to quickly implement adjustments.
He’s a defensive tackle, on the beefier side but surprisingly light on his feet. His “fat guy” spin move is truly devastating, and he can take it in either direction. He plays with good pad level and has decent eyes against the run.
As for how he fits Detroit, he fills in the rotation behind Suh and Fairley, providing more of a pass-rushing dimension than current 3rd tackle C.J. Mosley. There is enough upside here to move up and start in a year or two if Nick Fairley moves along in free agency. But he has immediate value as a rotational contributor and brings much-needed depth to the D-line, which has just three players.
The pick: Justin Ellis, DT, Louisiana Tech
Fifth round, no pick
Thanks for nothing, Mike Thomas…
Last year I scoffed at the notion of drafting a specialist. Sam Martin’s success as a punter and kickoff specialist has changed my tune a little.
It’s time for the Lions to draft the rightful heir to Jason Hanson. Trying another veteran free agent is not worth it, as David Akers proved.
I’d be happy with either of two kickers here. Tulane’s Cairo Santos is small but has a proven leg with great accuracy. He’s also got some personality, which doesn’t hurt; the Lions are in need of more characters after losing two of their biggest ones in Delmas and Burleson.
The other acceptable choice is Zach Hocker from Arkansas. He made quite an impression when, during Shrine Game practices, the coaches had to tell him to dial it back so they could actually run return drills. He nailed a 60-yarder in practice there, and made a 55-yarder in another practice on a damp field that would have been good from 65.
The dome experience gets the tiebreaker.
The pick: Cairo Santos, K, Tulane
This pick is completely self-indulgent, but it does make some sense for Detroit.
It’s not secret I’m not a fan of Kellen Moore, who will be the de facto #2 quarterback when Shaun Hill leaves via free agency. Aside from just not thinking he’s very good, he’s also not at all like Stafford. That means the backup cannot run the same offense as the starter, and that’s an unnecessary burden on the coaching staff should the unthinkable arise.
I want a backup with a big arm and confidence in said arm. He needs to have the ability to anticipate throws and deliver strikes outside the hashes. Added mobility would be nice, but this particular prospect makes Stafford seem speedy. There’s a reason why he’s a 7th rounder, after all…
The pick: Tom Savage, QB, Pittsburgh
The Lions should get a compensatory pick in either the fourth or fifth round, based on last year’s free agency. That pick would be used on an interior offensive lineman like Florida State’s Bryan Stork or Notre Dame’s Chris Watt.