Normally I publish a couple mock drafts by this time but I just haven't had time this year! So instead I'm going to switch things up and lay a basic game plan for my team: the Detroit Lions. Below you will see what I believe should be the Lions plan of attack with each pick heading into the draft. Clearly each pick after the first round depends on what was done with the preceding picks but you'll get the point.
Round 1: Pick #5
Option 1: Trade Back.
I just don't see a true difference maker here and if some other team does, let them have it. Perfect scenario would be to swap 1st Round picks with Miami (#12 overall) or the Jets (#13 overall) while adding a pick at the top of the 2nd Round (#39 overall - NYJ or #42 overall - MIA). This would allow the Lions to let the chips fall a bit and perhaps find some value just outside the top 10.
Option 1a: Jarvis Jones - OLB
If they are able to trade back to #12 or #13, I really believe they should target Jarvis Jones from Georgia. Here's a guy who was being talked about as the #1 player in this draft based on his on the field performance and the film. Now all of a sudden he runs a 4.9 in shorts and he can't play football?! I don't buy it. Jones would be a perfect fit as a hybrid 4-3 OLB/DE; much in the same way Von Miller is used for Denver. He could play the OLB position on early downs and more than hold his own in coverage there and then he could put his hand in the ground as a speed rusher from the DE position on passing downs. I've thought from the beginning of this offseason that he would be an ideal fit for Detroit and in a way he fills two needs with best player available IMO.
Option 2: Ezekiel Ansah - DE
I've debated which order to put my next two options. But if there's one player being valued in the top that would be worth the #5 pick on the defensive side of the ball, I believe it's Ansah. He's a physical freak who showed really well on tape. And unlike just about anyone else in this draft, he's just learning how to play football. With a little coaching to match his physical talents and you could have the next Jason Pierre-Paul. You put this guy on the line next to Suh and Fairley (both of whom will be eating up double-teams) and he has a chance to be a double-digit sack guy for a long time. Ansah is the one difference maker on this side of the ball I'm most rooting for the Lions to grab; fills need with best player available.
Option 3: Luke Joeckel/Eric Fisher - OT's
I'm not sold that it???d be beneficial for the Lions to use this top pick on an OT. I really think if they are going to stay in this spot, a defensive difference maker (see option #2) is a must. However, in terms of drafting philosophy of best player available these two fit that bill. In most people's opinion (mine included) they are the two best players in the draft and if they Lions can grab one of them at #5 it would provide some value for such a high pick. As things are shaking out, it doesn't look like either of these two will be available at #5 anyways.
Option 4: Jarvis Jones.
Would be a bit of a reach at #5 but see option 1a as to the impact I believe he could have.
Round 2 - Pick #4 (36th Overall)
Option 1: Bjoern Werner - DE
If the Lions don't take a true DE with their first round pick and one of these two fall into the top of the 2nd Round they should grab them quickly. I'm a huge fan of Werner for the Lions. So much so that I believe he's a great fit even if the Lions take Ansah in the first round. Ansah has unlimited potential but he's also a little raw in terms of football IQ; Werner is the opposite. He's a high-motor, high IQ player who has a high floor type as a prospect. He may never be a top 10 DE in the league but could start for 10 years on your line. Actually reminds me a lot of Vanden-Bosch in terms of how his game translates. A defensive line of Ansah, Suh, Fairley, and Werner with Jones and Young rotating in becomes formidable overnight. The big question here is whether he will be available in this spot and would he be worth giving up next year's 2nd Round pick to jump up 8 or so spots to grab him.
Option 2: Trade Back.
If no one falls to the Lions here who they in love with they may be able to sneak a 2014 1st Round pick or a 2014 2nd Rounder along with a 3rd Rounder this year.
Option 2a: Barrett Jones - OC/OG/OT
There may not be a player in this draft that fits the Lions needs more than Jones. He has Detroit written all over him. They need help everywhere on the offensive line. They have 1 maybe 2 positions that they currently have a good idea who will be starting Game 1. Jones gives them all sorts of options. He was an All-American at Left Tackle and Center going against the best D-Lines college football has to offer in the SEC. He also played some guard while at Alabama. Injuries may be a concern but he's the type of guy who could be your starting center for the next 12 years or he could be you starting Left Tackle for the next 12 years. The knock on him is that he's more of a technician than a mauler; I personally don't see that as a negative in a lineman these days. Lions aren't exactly looking to ground and pound so I'd rather have someone like Jones.
Option 3: DJ Hayden/Jamar Taylor/Blidi Wreh-Wilson/Xavier Rhodes - CB
The Lions need some depth and talent at CB although maybe not as big of a need as some think. Personally, I believe the Lions should target one of the veterans still available right now (Chris Gamble on a 2 or 3 year deal would be perfect). However, adding a talented young CB to the mix is always a good idea these days in the pass-happy NFL.
Round 3 - Pick #3 (65th Overall)
Option 1: Barrett Jones - OC/OG/OT
See Round 2 - Option 2a. He would be a perfect fit with this group of offensive lineman.
Option 2: Marcus Lattimore - RB
It may be way too early to take a guy who possibly won't see the field until the 2014 season but how often does a top ten talent fall this far? He absolutely shredded his knee but if history tells us anything, it is more likely than unlikely than he'll return to form. If the Lions have to wait one year for that to happen, they should do it gladly. Marcus Lattimore at 100% in 2014 with Reggie Bush as a hybrid back/receiver gives the Lions run game instant credibility.
Option 3: Sio Moore - OLB
If the Lions don't grab an OLB by this point, they're going to have to take a serious look at Moore. Moore isn't going to blow you away with his measurables but his production has been high and he is good in coverage which Lions LB's struggle haven't struggled with recently.
Option 4: Same Montgomery/Damontre Moore/Alex Okafor - DE
Depth at the DE position is a major concern and unless they grab 2 of them early, picking up a DE that has slid a bit is good value. Any one of the three guys mentioned above would be great value here.
Later Round Possibilities:
Zac Dysert - QB. Could parlay a 4th or 5th Round pick into a future 2nd Rounder (ala Matt Flynn). Good Value in 5th Round.
Knile Davis - RB. Would be good insurance for Leshoure. More explosive than Bell and good value in 5th or 6th.
Denard Robinson - WR. If he's available in the 6th Round they should give a look. He doesn't have a true position but as a return guy/slot receiver/wildcat QB may be worth a shot.
T.J. Knowles - TE. If he can get the physical tools to translate he would be a steal. 6'7 and runs a 4.7.
Reid Fragel - OT. Extremely raw prospect. Has the measurable (6'8 - 308 lbs.) but he's still learning the position; only played one season of OT after moving over from TE. He would be a nice 5th Round pick.
Joe Kruger - DE. Good pedigree and work ethic. Ceiling not real high but floor is high. Could be solid rotation guy on defensive line.
Greg Reid - CB. If not for off-the-field issues he'd be a first round pick. Kicked off the team at Florida State before this season. A dynamic return man and an above average cover corner. At some point the reward outweighs the risk. 6th or 7th Round maybe?
TJ McDonald - S. Get downgraded on a lot of boards and could provide outstanding value in the 4th or 5th round. Safety isn't a need but this guy would be great insurance for the injury-prone Delmas.
My Dream Draft (for the Lions):
Round 1: Ezekiel Ansah - DE
Round 2: Bjoern Werner - DE
Round 3: Barrett Jones - OC/OT
Round 4: TJ McDonald - S
Round 5: Knile Davis - RB
Round 6: Greg Reid - CB
Round 7: Denard Robinson - WR
Round 7: T.J. Knowles - TE
This draft would provide 2 starters at DE, Jones would find his way onto that starting offensive line unit by Game 1, McDonald gives the Lions a very talented 3rd safety as insurance to Delmas, Davis is a more explosive backup than Bell, and the last 3 picks are all extremely talented players. And it's my belief that one of the three final picks (not sure which one) will end up being an absoltue steal and the other two won't have sustained careers in the NFL.
It's as easy as that....