The Detroit Lions head into the 2013 NFL draft holding the fifth overall pick. With holes on both the offense and defense, General Manager Martin Mayhew has more work to do this offseason. With free agency in the rear view mirror, the Lions look to answer many questions in Thursday’s draft.
First Round: 5th Overall Pick, Dee Milliner, Alabama
Hometown hero Eric Fisher, of Central Michigan University, has become the favorite to land with the Lions with the 5th pick — following Jeff Backus’ rather abrupt retirement. While that may be the case, it seems unlikely he’s available when the Lions are on the clock. Yesterday, NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah says the Raiders have serious interest in landing a left tackle, which would likely be Fisher — with Luke Joekel the favorite to land with the first overall pick in Kansas City if the team trades Branden Albert.
The Lions front office allowed defensive end Cliff Avril to walk, signing with the Seattle Seahawks, and reportedly feel comfortable with Jason Jones replacing him at left defensive end. In fact, Jim Schwartz went as far as saying Avril restricted what the Lions could do on defense. This led many — including myself — to believe defensive end would be the pick. Thursday, Mayhew addressed the media for his annual predraft news conference.
“I think it’s really important,” Mayhew said of capitalizing on early picks. “You want guys with that high ceiling, but it’s also important to make sure you’re getting a solid player that you can have around for a long time. It may not be the best place to swing for the fence. You might not want to be Dave Kingman at 5. You might rather just get on base if you know what I mean.”
So, what should Mayhew’s statement tell you? BYU defensive end Ezekiel Ansah may not be the Lions pick at No. 5 (although trading down would keep him in the conversation). He’s raw, yet incredibly athletic. He would define the term “swinging for the fence.”
Milliner, however, is polished and is the consensus No. 1 cornerback in the draft. He has the build (6-foot 200 pounds), speed (4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL combine), and pedigree (hailing from powerhouse Alabama) that the Lions covet. Last year, he broke up an NCAA-best 22 passes in 2012 while intercepting two.
Mayhew addressed those attributes at his news conference Thursday.
“Well, you know, he’s the elusive, big corner,” Mayhew said. “Everybody’s trying to find that guy. You know, we’ve been here for years talking about these guys and trying to find a guy with some size, and he certainly fits that mold.
Although the Lions may have options through trading back (Or here), the deal Mayhew is looking for may not present itself. If they’re looking for the safe pick, Milliner would allow them a formidable duo at cornerback with Chris Houston.
Second Round: 36th Overall Pick, Alex Okafor, DE, Texas
If the Lions pass on a defensive end in the first round, it’s likely they will look to address their need in the second round. While players such as Damontre Moore or Sam Montgomery may be available, Okafor is my favorite 4-3 defensive end in this class.
Sure, he missed all but the bench press at the NFL combine due to a bruised hip flexor he suffered at the Senior Bowl. He then followed that up by running a 4.91 40-yard dash at his Texas pro day.
However, tape doesn’t lie. He gets off the ball with ease, shows incredible strength in run defense — played defensive tackle for Texas as a sophomore — and has the quickness to get around the edge. He’ll never blow you away with athleticism, but has drawn high raves as a leader and through his work ethic. He spoke about those area’s at the combine.
“As a person you’ll get a high-character guy, a professional, somebody who’s accountable and responsible,” Okafor said of himself at the scouting combine. “As a player you’ll get someone whose going to come in and make an immediate impact right off the top. And I’m going to make some noise right off the bat and hopefully play some meaningful minutes.”
He displays a powerful punch and arm extension which allows him into the backfield. His quick hands allow him to disengage lineman and help in run defense.
If the Jason Jones signing says anything about a sheme change in Detroit, Okafor would be a terrific fit from day one. His senior year at Texas, he had 12.5 sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss, 20 quarterback pressures, and four forced fumbles.
If this scenario plays out, the Lions defense will be much improved heading into the 2013 season.
Third Round: 65th Overall Pick, Aaron Dobson, WR, Marshall University
Once again, the Lions will need to address the wide receiver position– following the uncertainty surrounding the recovery of Nate Burleson (broken right leg) and Ryan Broyles (torn ACL). And once again, they will likely use a high draft pick. Aaron Dobson — who stands 6-foot-3 210 pounds running a 4.43 40-yard dash at his pro day — is the type of receiver the Lions covet.
His body type is eerily similar to Calvin Johnson and posses the speed to be an asset on the outside for the Lions. He’s raw, runs with his pad level a bit high, and needs to polish his route running. But he has strong hands, flashed dominance in college, and tracks the ball well in deep patterns. He presents the Lions with insurance as well as a stop gap. His value in the third round is great, allowing them to focus on defensive needs in the first two rounds.
With a perfect mentor in Johnson, Dobson can grow into a viable No. 2 option for the Lions passing game when Nate Burleson begins to fade.
Fourth Round: 132nd Overall Pick, Earl Watford, OG, James Madison
After right guard Stephen Peterman was released, it opened the doors for speculation along the offensive line. Since then, Jeff Backus has retired, and right tackle Gosder Cherilus has moved on to the Indianapolis Colts. The Lions addressing their need at right guard will be heavily telling by their first round pick. With Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard set to battle for right tackle, Riley Reiff — last years 23rd overall pick — will likely play either left tackle or right guard next year.
In this mock draft, we assume tackles Eric Fisher and Luke Joekel are off the board — leading to the selection of Earl Watford. He boasts the natural strength and explosive first step needed to be an effective run-blocker, displays a nasty streak and works to create space off the line of scrimmage.
His downside, however, is in pass protection. His technique needs work, as he routinely keeps his pad level too high. But Watford has the athleticism to fix these errors, and has the potential to be coached up into an everyday starter.
If the Lions look to the draft to address this need, Watford would give them potential and pure athleticism to mold into a future starter.
Fifth Round: 137th Overall Pick, Vance McDonald, TE, Rice
The Lions have yet to retain free agent tight end Will Heller, leading many to believe this need will be addressed late in the draft. I could be completely wrong here — and the Lions could opt too grab a predominent run blocking tight end, such as Alabama’s Michael Williams — but I feel the Lions grab an athletic, pass catching tight end.
He has all the tools to become a very successful tight end in Detroit. Mcdonald –6-foot-4 267 pounds and ran a 4.69 40-yard dash — was used in a very familiar role at Rice. They spread him out, used him in the slot (primarily at the Y) to create mismatches with linebackers in space. He runs great routes, creating separation with quick feet. Snatcher, doesn’t allow the ball to get into his body, although he dropped two at the Senior Bowl.
The best part about McDonald is he showed he could block. He uses his long arms to drive and keep defenders off his body, and gets himself squarely in front of the defender. He never blocked in-line, blocking from the slot, H-back or as a motioning fullback sets, which is concerning for some.
If the Lions are looking for that athletic, red zone, pass catching tight end late in the draft, McDonald could very well be their guy.
Sixth Round: 171st Overall Pick, Ace Sanders, WR, South Carolina
Love this pick for more reasons than one. First off the Lions need receiver depth, especially with quick, agile receivers. Sanders gives them that. Second, the Lions are in dire need of a return specialist — following the debacle known as Stefan Logan.
Sanders, on my board, is the best punt returner in this class. His quickness, vision, subtle side step (crucial to a great punt returner) and second gear allowed him to dominate the college game (returned 29 punts for 429 yards and two touchdowns).
He is schooled in route running, stepping on defensive backs toes before making his cut. His quickness out of breaks allows him to win inside move. His inside foot often gets lazy, allowing him to slip or make a false step when making an outside cut.
His knock is size (5’8 175 punds) and speed (ran a 4.58 40-yard dash) he recorded at the combine. I tell you folks, combine 40-yard dash times are immensely overrated. He plays faster than his forty time suggests and has one of the top arsenal of moves of any receiver in this class.
If the Lions look to add a return specialist who has room to improve at receiver, Sanders could be their man at the top of the sixth round.
Seventh Round: 211th Overall Pick, Mike Catapano, DE, Princeton
The Lions will eventually look for depth late in the draft at defensive end. He may provide a little more than that. A non-combine invite, Catapano presents an intriguing prospect in the mold the Lions look for in their defensive lineman. He has an impressive body stature (standing 6’4 with a very lean 275 pound frame) and was reported to have ran a 4.65 40-yard dash (likely towards a 4.75 on electronic combine official time) in spring practices, and measuring an incredible 7-foot wingspan. In 2012, he posted a stat-line of 12 Sacks, 15.5 TFL and 3 FF, which led to him receiving the Ivy League Defensive Player of the Year.
“I’ve trained a lot of great Dl/LB/OLB, Mike Catapano wont take a backseat to anyone in this years draft! He will be special!”
Seventh Round: 245th Overall Pick, Brad Wing, P, LSU-
The Lions heavily filled the need at kicker this offseason, but have yet to truly sink any investment into their punter situation. This leads me to believe this card may be drawn in the draft. Now, usually I wouldn’t encourage the Lions to spend a draft pick on a kicking specialist. However, if the front office wants to fix their punting situation, Wing could very well be the solution.
Replacing last years duo of punters, Nick Harris and Ben Graham, is a must. Harris appeared in 13 games, averaging 41.5 yards per punt, which was the league’s second-worst average. Graham ranked dead-last at 41.3 yards.
The Lions signed former UCF punter Blake Clingan earlier this off-season, but he hasn’t played since his senior year in college back in 2010.
Wing comes from an iconic football program, in LSU, while performing to the highest level. In 2012, he had 59 punts for 2,643 yards for an average of 44.8 yards per punt and pinned 21 inside the 20 yard-line.
Wing could very well solve a huge problem for the Lions in the seventh round.
Note: The Lions were awarded an additional 4th and 7th round compensatory pick for losing Drew Stanton and Eric Wright via free agency.
Make sure to check back with Detroit Jock City April 25th, as Bradley La Brie and Tony Fischer live blog the 2013 NFL Draft.