Like last year, I was extremely open to multiple players that the Detroit Lions could select. Unfortunately last year they selected one of the few players I didn’t want and I’m praying that doesn’t happen again. The Lions are a few pieces from being a championship team and it would be pretty neat if they filled them and didn’t draft another tight end. Their offensive line has holes right now, specifically at LG, they’re missing a #2 DT with the loss of Nick Fairley and a true #1 RB. It’s important to remember that the Lions are a “Best Player Available” team, so don’t be shocked if they don’t fill all of their needs in the draft. I certainly wouldn’t be. I would also expect the Lions to make some deals to acquire more picks throughout the Draft since they only have six right now.
For my money, offensive line is the Lions biggest need right now. The Lions offered Rob Sims a new contract but he hasn’t given them an answer. Personally, I hope he rejects it because I think he’s gotten awful. The Lions have a hole at LG but could fill it multiple ways. They could draft a LT and slide Riley Reiff to LG, or draft FSU G/C Cameron Erving and slide Travis Swanson to LG or put Erving at LG. They have some flexibility thanks to the versatility of some of their offensive linemen. Worst case scenario the Lions decide that Cornelius Lucas is worth of starting at LT so they slide Reiff to LG and then go with Swanson at C, Larry Warford at RG and La’Adrian Waddle at RT. It’s a fluid situation but one that needs to be resolved as soon as possible. Erving has awesome length and for an interior lineman, the right tools to develop into a good starting guard. He’s my personal choice for the Lions pick at #23. I would also love La’El Collins (LSU OT) but I don’t think he’ll last that long. There are a lot of offensive lineman that are going to go around pick #20 and they would all be solid selections for the Lions, they just may not have an impact right away. Another name to keep an eye on round 2 is Laken Tomlinson. He’s pretty much Larry Warford 2.0 right now and we all know how that worked out.
I will say that if the Lions draft Andrus Peat out of Stanford in the first round, I’ll be furious. He may be big but he’s slow and his tape is just not good. Hope for Peat to go early so he’s not there for the Lions to look at.
The Lions did the prudent thing and acquired Haloti Ngata after losing Ndamukong Suh but they still are missing another starting defensive tackle for the rotation. I’m not a huge fan of any of the defensive tackles in the top part of this draft (outside of Leonard Williams who is going top 5), so I’m hoping that the Lions wait until the 2nd or 3rd round to fill the need. I think Danny Shelton and Malcom Brown are just flat-out not good enough to warrant going in the first round. Signing Tyrunn Walker makes for an interesting #2, but I don’t think he’s quite ready for that. I would also expect Jason Jones to rotate heavily between defensive end and defensive tackle this year, probably more so than last year.
Clemson DT Grady Jarrett may end up going in the first round, but if he lasts until the second round, he would be a huge pick up. Jarrett is a big boy who is athletic for his size and can cause some disruption. I also like Carl Davis from Iowa, Michael Bennett from Ohio State, and Henry Anderson from Stanford; if we’re talking 2nd-3rd round options. On a little bit of a lower key need, the Lions need another defensive end with the loss of George Johnson. They need to finish off their two-deep at that spot, especially if Jones is rotating. Larry Webster could be developing nicely and ready to step up in the rotation, but we don’t have any way of knowing more until the pre-season.
Theo Riddick and Joique Bell look like they could be a decent pair in the backfield, but I’m not sold. In a draft that is very deep at running back, it’s crucial to pick one up. I’m not saying they need to select Todd Gurley or Melvin Gordon in the first round (though it would be enticing to do so), but it is critical that they pick one up in at least the 2nd or 3rd round to replace Reggie Bush. Whenever Bush was hurt, the offense lacked explosiveness and became very one-dimensional. His injuries last year really hurt the offense a lot and it is crucial to pick up a running back. One that can be a playmaker (DUKE JOHNSON), because Riddick and Bell aren’t that type of player. When all of your running backs are averaging less than 4 yards per carry, it’s time to make a change. Tevin Coleman would be a great, explosive player to add if he’s available round 2, but I think waiting on Duke Johnson and filling other needs is the best choice. If you can’t tell, Duke is my favorite player in the Draft and I’m dying for them to snag him.
Darius Slay has shown that he is developing into a true #1 cornerback but it’s time to get someone to start developing to replace Rashean Mathis. Mathis is aging and while he had a good season last year, won’t be able to keep up the pace for much longer. I think Nevin Lawson could be a solid nickel corner but he didn’t play much last year since he got hurt early on. Other than Lawson though, I’m not thrilled with the youth available. Adding a young CB would be a great idea to bring along since corners always take a while to develop. I don’t love the cornerbacks in this draft, at least when it comes to taking them top 15 in this Draft, but from the Lions pick on, they could end up with some really good picks. Trae Waynes obviously has no chance of being there, but Kevin Johnson, Marcus Peters and Byron Jones are all names to keep an eye on in the first round. Quinten Rollins and P.J. Williams would be solid second round options, but the bottom line is the Lions don’t have to move up to snag themselves a solid cornerback.
The Lions drafted Eric Ebron last year in hopes that he could be the third receiving option behind Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Unfortunately, he wasn’t very good and they really need a return man to replace Jeremy Ross, who is horrible at his job now. The staff doesn’t seem to like Ryan Broyles for whatever reason, so it’s time to draft a guy like Tyler Lockett, who can make a huge impact in the return game and be a slick little slot receiver. I would also be just fine with drafting any wide receiver and moving Tate to the Slot to be a mismatch. It will also be interesting to see how Corey Fuller and Ebron develop this offseason, no matter if they decide to draft a wide receiver or not. I do think that it is critical to use at least one of the late picks on a wide receiver that can return kicks and punts, and the Lions brought enough guys in for a visit that can do that, so it is obvious they agree. Other guys to keep an eye/guys that I like are Stefon Diggs, Sammie Coates or Tre McBride. You’ll notice that these guys are all projected for the third round or later and that’s because I don’t want the Lions to take a wide receiver early.
I think this is the most open I’ve ever been to who the Lions could take in the first round and so I really hope I’m not disappointed. It’s critical for the EDGE rushers to go early on, even though I don’t think some of them should, so it pushes more talent down towards the Lions. NFL teams are really all over the board on players this year, perhaps the most that they have ever been, or so it seems. With so much depth and less elite talent, team’s boards are going to be wildly different and I think this could be the most unpredictable/entertaining draft in a long time.
The Detroit Free Press put together this interesting database detailing all the players the Lions have drafted in the Martin Mayhew era and all of their measurables. Pretty cool to see what kind of guys he might target in this year’s draft, but it’s pretty bad that they have only combined for 5 Pro Bowls with Suh having 4 of them.
Team Needs (in order): OL, DT, RB, CB, WR, DE
Below is the ideal draft, along with multiple options in each round for each of the positions of need that the Lions have. Just like last year, the first choice will be listed next to the round and the number of the pick and my 2nd and 3rd choices will be listed in italics underneath. Again, I’m pretty open this year to who they take, more than last year, and who knows who will actually be available when it comes time for them to pick; some of the guys I’ve got listed could go earlier than I have them listed and not even be there for the Lions. I used a composite of many different big boards to try to get an average ranking to give the most realistic options at each selection. I also tried to pick only one player per position for each round, so I don’t list three wide receivers for the second round or three defensive ends in the third, etc.
1st Round, 23rd Overall: Cameron Erving, C, Florida State
Byron Jones, CB, UConn or Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
2nd Round, 54th Overall: Ronald Darby, CB, Florida State
Laken Tomlinson, G, Duke or Grady Jarrett, DT, Clemson
3rd Round, 88th Overall: Duke Johnson, RB, Miami
Sammie Coates, WR, Auburn or Ali Marpet, G, Hobart
5th Round, 168th Overall (From Tampa Bay): Stefon Diggs, WR, Maryland
Rakeem Nunez-Roches, DT, Southern Miss or Jacoby Glenn, CB, UCF
6th Round, 200th Overall: Bobby Richardson, DT, Indiana
Tyler Varga, RB, Yale or Ty Montgomery, WR, Stanford
7th Round, 240th Overall: Jalston Fowler, FB, Alabama
Ray Drew, DE, Georgia or Tevin McDonald, S, Eastern Washington
And if you think the players the Lions had in for a visit are a good indication of who they are targeting, these are the 30 guys they brought in (per detroitlions.com):
- Xavier Cooper (Washington State)
- Mario Edwards Jr. (Florida State)
- Jordan Phillips (Oklahoma)
- Angelo Blackson (Auburn)
- Marcus Hardison (Arizona State)
- Carl Davis (Iowa)
- Marcus Rush (Michigan State)
- Danny Shelton (Washington)
- Alex Carter (Stanford)
- Steven Nelson (Oregon State)
- P.J. Williams (Florida State)
- Eric Rowe (Utah)
- Damarious Randall (Arizona State)
- Anthony Harris (Virginia)
- Antoine Everett (McNeese State)
- Donovan Smith (Penn State)
- Cedric Ogbuehi (Texas A&M)
- D.J. Humphries (Florida)
- Jamon Brown (Louisville)
- La’el Collins (LSU)
- Breshad Perriman (Central Florida)
- J.J. Nelson (UAB)
- DeVante Parker (Louisville)
- Kaelin Clay (Utah)
- Tyrell Williams (Western Oregon)
- Tyler Lockett (Kansas State)
- Tre McBride (William & Mary)
Related: 2015 NFL First Round Mock Draft
Related: 2015 NFL Scouting Combine Recap Day 1: Offensive Linemen and Tight Ends
Related: 2015 NFL Scouting Combine Recap Day 2: Quarterbacks, Running Backs, Wide Receivers
Related: 2015 NFL Scouting Combine Recap Day 3: Defensive Linemen and Linebackers
Related: 2015 NFL Scouting Combine Recap Day 4: Defensive Backs