Now we get to the meat and potatoes, my favorite part of the off-season process. These players are just targets as of the moment because there is a lot of work left to be done. There are pre-combine events like the Senior Bowl, the NFL Combine itself and players Pro Days and each of these events will have a big impact on the players draft stock. After these are done, the players I’ve listed as targets could look very different, right or wrong, the Combine carries a lot of weight in a players draft stock. I don’t know what it is but the draft process has always intrigued me and I’ll sit and watch every hour of the combine. It’s just fantastic. Here is the final part of the three part off-season plan.
Potential Draft Targets: As I’ve said, Cliff Avril is likely gone; the Lions can’t afford him and quite frankly, 9.5 sacks is not worth $12.6 Million to me or anyone for that matter. Plus it is a deep draft at defensive end, and with no elite cornerback like a Patrick Peterson to take, it’s only logical that either they draft a defensive end to replace Avril or they trade down in the draft and then draft Jonathan Banks or Dee Milliner in the 10-12 range. The two defensive ends that will likely be there for them to take are Damontre Moore out of Texas A&M and Bjoern Werner out of Florida State.
Werner and Moore both have high motors. They’re game changers that will be far cheaper than Cliff Avril, with solid skill sets. They both came in and played right away as true freshmen and not only that, they’re both about 6’4″ 250 and were consensus All-Americans this past year. The similarities are there, but they’re not the same player obviously. Moore does a good job in his pursuit of the quarterback, and he’s a very smart player. He did a good job of recognizing screen passes and getting over in the flat to try and make a play on the runningback. He recorded 26.5 sacks in his career at A&M, and finished with 197 total tackles, so he does a good job of wrapping up when he gets there.
Werner, meanwhile, only had 23.5 sacks and 99 total tackles. His lack of production isn’t a huge concern though. He had 18 pass deflections, so like J.J. Watt, he does a good job of recognizing when he can’t get to the quarterback, and making sure he gets his hands up in the passing lane. Werner dealt with a lot of double-teams this past year, and did a great job of still getting off blocks and making plays. Personally, I’d rather have Werner than Moore, but I don’t think Werner will be on the board when the Lions are picking.
Dee Milliner is a target at #5 and will be talked about a lot, but I think he would be a massive reach. And you have to keep in mind that GM Martin Mayhew picks “best player available,” and Milliner won’t be the best player available that early. He’s a good athlete and he’s good in zone coverage and can make good plays on the ball, but he isn’t elite in man to man coverage. You can’t take a cornerback #5 overall when he isn’t elite in man to man coverage. He would be unable to be on an island against any receiver in the league, and unless you trade down and acquire more picks, you can’t take him that early. He’s a good tackler and will be a good pro, he just would be a bit of a reach in the top 5, especially when defensive end will be a need, and there are elite defensive ends available.
A wildcard would be Luke Joeckel. I don’t think he will fall to #5, but if he did for some reason, and the Lions couldn’t trade down, I think taking Joeckel would be a great pick. Sure it doesn’t help on the defensive side of the ball. But Joeckel and Reiff then become your bookend tackles for the next 10 years to protect Stafford. This is a highly unlikely scenario, but one that I would be okay with.
Also, if you think the Lions should draft Manti Te’o, please think again. Unless the Lions trade down to 20-25, they shouldn’t touch him. Not only is he highly overrated, but the Lions have Stephen Tulloch signed for the next 4 years at MLB, and neither of them can play on the outside. It wasn’t just the Alabama game that showed how overrated Te’o was though, take a look at his film from the Stanford game. Nothing on there makes me think he is worthy of a Top 10 pick, and you can’t pick someone just because they have good character. Even if you go back and watch his film against BYU and Michigan State he isn’t great. The only reason he had a big game against Michigan is because Denard threw the ball directly at him a few times and made his job easy for him.
My ideal Lions draft for each round would be this:
1st Round: Bjoern Werner or Damontre Moore
2nd Round: OL Barrett Jones (Alabama) or S Eric Reid (LSU) or CB Xavier Rhodes (FSU)
3rd Round: CB Desmond Trufant (Washington) or OLB Jelani Jenkins (Florida) or RB/WR Denard Robinson (Yeah, that’s right, I said it.)
4th Round: I’m hopeful they will get a compensatory selection in the 4th round, so this would be a late 4th rounder. OG Omoregie Uzzi (Georgia Tech) or RB Andre Ellington (Clemson) or WR Ace Sanders (South Carolina)
5th Round: CB Tyrann Mathieu (LSU) or OLB Alonzo Highsmith (Arkansas)
6th Round: DE Craig Roh (Michigan) or C James Ferentz (Iowa) or CB Johnny Adams (MSU)
7th Round: OT Alex Hurst (LSU) or WR Tavarres King (Georgia) or LB Michael Mauti (Penn State)
Obviously, these are guys to watch, and if the rounds have back-to-back at a position, I’m not saying they should take back to back runningbacks, just potential targets at need positions for each round. There are plenty of good safeties that will go in rounds 2 or 3, so I’m confident they’ll pick up at least one of them. I’ll update this list after the pre-draft processes are done, and throw in a first round mock draft (maybe more) prior to the NFL Draft.
It will be interesting to see how these guys perform at the combine and to see how their rankings and draft stock fluctuates. Needless to say, this is an extremely important offseason for the Detroit Lions, and they must do their homework. GM Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz are currently on their last life; there is too much talent on this roster to not be competing for playoff spots every single year.