Over the past few seasons the Detroit Lions have been unable to find a consistent receiver behind Calvin Johnson, causing the offense to sputter when Megatron is injured or taken out of the game by the use of double and triple coverage.
The Lions have previously tried to address that need in free agency (Nate Burleson) and in the draft (Titus Young and Ryan Broyles). Burleson was cut just last week due to constant injuries and limited salary cap space and Young was dismissed from the team due to constant detrimental behavior. Broyles short career has been plagued by season-ending injuries, a knee injury in 2012 and a ruptured Achilles in 2013.
Now, with not much depth on the roster and concerns regarding the salary cap, the Lions should take aim at the 2014 NFL Draft to address this need.
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The talent at the receiver position in this year’s draft is unlike any in recent years. Clemson’s Sammy Watkins is hands-down the best of the bunch, he is the only receiver who has the complete package, making him two steps ahead of the next tier of talent. At 6-foot-1 and 211-pounds, his explosive speed and ball-skills are second to none. He’s a top notch play-maker who is equally effective on the outside as he is in the slot.
Not one second should run off the Lions’ clock if nine teams happen to pass on Watkins during draft day, he’s a lock to be an all-pro receiver.
However, assuming the former Clemson star is selected before Detroit is on the clock, using the tenth overall selection on Mike Evans (Texas A&M) or Marqise Lee (USC) would be another first-round wide receiver mistake by the Lions. Neither possess the all-round talent that Watkins does. Using a top-ten pick on a receiver who lacks an all-around game when there are plenty of other difference-making players available, would be a waste.
Brandin Cooks (Oregon St.) and Jordan Matthews (Vanderbilt) are two players, who could possibly be available in the second round, that could easily be viewed as first-round talent if it weren’t for the greatness of depth at the receiver position.
Cooks (5’10” 190-pounds) is mostly featured in the slot due to his size and 4.3-speed, but does provide some utility as an outside receiver. Matthews (6’3″ 212-pounds) is the most comparable to Watkins, he has the size and leaping ability (35.5″ vertical jump) to line up on the outside as well as the speed (4.46 40-yard dash) to be featured in the slot.
Even though popular opinion would suggest otherwise, Detroit isn’t limited to the first two rounds in search for a number two receiver. If the right guy isn’t available in the second round the Lions could hold out until the third, maybe even the fourth, round to find their man.
Martavis Bryant (Clemson) and Donte Moncrief (Ole Miss) are both projected to be third round picks. Standing at 6-foot-4 with a 39-inch vertical and 4.4-speed, Bryant could easily step in and pose an immediate outside-threat to defenses. Moncrief is just a bit shorter at 6-foot-2, but with more speed and greater leaping abilities. Although both players need to work on their route-running skills, they have the physical abilities to start in the NFL right away.
The potential-talent at wide receiver will even reach the later-rounds. General manager Martin Mayhew and his coaching staff could add depth and talent to their roster with a receiver chosen in the late-rounds. Brandon Coleman (Rutgers), Kevin Norwood (Alabama) and L’Damion Washington (Missouri) all possess qualities similar to Marques Colston of the New Orleans Saints; great size, average speed, but on the rise as a football player.
Whether the Lions will draft a receiver early, late, or multiple times, there will be plenty of talent to choose from come draft day.