Just like any other April, there are many questions surrounding the Detroit Lions and their first-round selection in the upcoming draft.
Uncertainties range from what position to draft, to the possibility of trading up or down, and even whether general manager Martin Mayhew will stick with his “best player available” approach.
How it breaks down:
Draft ‘em if they’re there
It’s unlikely that any of these players will fall to the Lions but if one of them does, Detroit’s draft room shouldn’t hesitate to send in the selection.
Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina: Clowney’s size, speed, and athleticism is well worth the risk of his personal motor, no questions asked.
Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson: It’s tough to find something about Watkins to dislike. He’s versatile, explosive, and isn’t afraid to catch balls in traffic.
Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo: Mack would provide new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin with a player comparable to a guy he coached in Baltimore, Terrell Suggs.
Positions to pass on
It’s safe to say that Detroit is set with offensive tackle and quarterback, no need to draft those positions in the first round. Walterfootball.com’s mock draft has five prospects at these two positions being selected in the top ten.
Quarterbacks: Blake Bortles, Derek Carr, and Johnny Manziel
Offensive Tackles: Greg Robinson and Jake Matthews
Trade up: The only player worthy of the Lions trading up is Sammy Watkins. The cost will be high, but it’s an option well worthy of consideration.
Trade down: If the right player isn’t available at ten, there’s no need to reach or settle for the best player available. If there’s a team willing to pay the hefty price, it would be in the Lions’ best interests to move down and grab some picks in this year’s draft.
Detroit now has six corners on their roster by re-signing Rashean Mathis. If the coaching staff and front office believe that he can still contribute at a high level in a starting role (along with one of the other corners) then the Lions should pass on Justin Gilbert and Darqueze Dennard.
If Austin and his defensive staff want to add a top-tier prospect at that position then Detroit could move back a few spots and fulfill that need in the 13-18 pick-range.
If the Lions find themselves on the clock without taking the course of one of the above possibilities, there are four remaining players that Detroit should select from. (In order of preference.)
Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA: Detroit has two solid linebackers in DeAndre Levy and Stephen Tulloch but neither of them posses great ability to rush the passer and Barr has exactly that. He’s a versatile weapon that can be featured in Detroit’s defensive scheme from day one and his natural abilities will aid him in developing a full repertoire.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: The safety position has transformed from a glaring weakness in the Lions defense to a much better asset than analysts are willing to give it credit. With Glover Quinn at free safety and Ihedigbo taking over strong safety, Clinton-Dix would give the Lions plenty of options in sub-packages as well as a possible three-safety rotation.
Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M: It was a hard decision to put Clinton-Dix ahead of Evans but it makes more sense for the Lions to solidify the secondary before giving Matthew Stafford more weapons to work with. However, with that being said, it would be nice to throw another 6-foot-5 wide receiver into the mix.
Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: The only necessary reasoning behind this pick, in the simplest words possible, is this: “Do you remember the numbers that Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski put up when they played together for the New England Patriots?”
In two seasons they caught 275 passes, for 3,510 yards, and 40 touchdowns.
I am confident that the eventual pick will come from the “remaining” group. It no longer comes down to making the best case for any one player, but more so, who has the weakest case against drafting them.
My mind changes nearly every time the sun rises, however, it’s a nice problem to have because each of those four players will drastically improve the Lions in their own way.