by: P.J. Wascher
The draft is just a couple days a way. There’s no other way to put it, this draft is not looking good. One of the weakest I’ve seen since I started following the draft. Going into this draft, the Lions have a lot of positions they could draft for. This article is a chance to rank the positions and see how likely the Lions are to target it:
Draft Class Grade: (D+) It’s a very weak class. There’s no “sure thing” in this class, or even somebody with amazing potential. There are just a lot of question marks. Count me as no fan of Geno Smith, who never put it all together at West Virginia. His hot start last season quickly cooled off once the competition got stronger. Anybody expecting him to be the next RG3 needs to lower expectations. I’m a fan of Ryan Nassib. Personally think he’s the best QB in the class, but his physical tools do not separate him enough to justify a top ten pick. He will need development like the rest of this class. There may be a few QB’s out of this class that become solid starters in the NFL, it’s just hard to predict which ones.
Possibility: (1 Low – 10 High) (1) Can’t see the Lions even making a late round pick here. They have three QBs they’re comfortable with. If anything they’ll test one out that is undrafted.
Draft Class Grade: (C -) There’s a few interesting pieces at the top and like usual some good athletes available. The top end of this class is not great though and there is a smaller mid-level of talent than usual. The most intriguing prospect is Tavon Austin out of West Virginia. Comparisons to Percy Harvin seem fair. Just a little small to justify the top pick. Can’t be a #1 guy under 6 feet tall.
Possibility: (7) The Lions had Tavon Austin visit before the draft, but the only that pick will happen is if the Lions trade back. They need a new return man with Stefan Logan gone. They will also need some more insurance at receiver with both Broyles and Burleson injured. Lions will likely make a pick for this position, but I anticipate it coming beyond the second round.
Draft Class Grade: (C+) There’s no “star” running back in this class, but there are several solid prospects and quite a few underrated ones. Which is fine, running backs are a dying commodity in the draft. Teams are no longer interested in using top picks on them. A passing league has caused almost all of these player’s stocks to drop over the last decade.
Possibility: (3) Never say never here. Maybe there’s a prospect they fall in love with in the late round and go for it. But with the signing of Reggie Bush and LeShoure/Bell still on the roster, not much space available to make a move here.
Draft Class Grade: (B) TE’s tend to have at least one difference maker in the class. They have become important passing targets in the NFL offense. This year’s TE appears to be Eifert out of Notre Dame. Some other picks will certainly contribute. Dion Simms out Michigan State could be a nice mid round pick.
Possibility: (2) The Lions are not replacing Pettigrew and they have some solid backups at TE. Just don’t see them even taking a project TE this draft.
Draft Class Grade: (B-) This class is tough describe. Yes, there are some solid picks at the top end of the draft. No sure things, but players that look ready to succeed in the NFL, which is more than we can say for a lot of these draft classes. There is even some solid mid-first round prospects. It just doesn’t have that “sure thing” and even more disturbing is how quickly this position’s talent level drops off. If you are going to draft a tackle this season, make it early or prepare for a big project.
Possibility: (8) The Lions need another tackle. They have one spot filled by Reiff, but still have another side to replace unless they are really comfortable promoting backup Hilliard. If the Lions are going to make a move for a tackle it will be early, very early. This class doesn’t offer the depth to wait. They will need to make that selection with that 5th pick. Eric Fisher is the dream pick, but I think he may go number one. Fisher along with Joeckel are the two standouts, if one drops, Lions have to make a move. Would be very lucky if it’s Fisher, who has more physical tools to work with. Most likely tackle option will be Lane Johnson out of Oklahoma. After last year’s draft, it’s clear the Lions have been scouting that school hard. Not as polished as the top two, but if they don’t grab him, there will be no shot at drafting a day one starter for that line.
Draft Class Grade: (C+) Guards are rarely make or break for a team. It tends to be a position teams try to hide discounted players to help with the salary cap. Having said that, the Lions may have tried to do that a little too much. This class has a very strong top candidate and then a lot of average underneath. Warmack will be a first round pick, tough to see much else getting drafted till at least the second round.
Possibility: (8) The Lions got rid of Peterman. If they do not move Reiff or Fox there, they will need another guard. Warmack’s name has been tossed around, but that is a heck of an investment for guard. I think we’ll see one draft in the third round or later.
Draft Class Grade: (C+) Center is the other line spot that often is ignored except for a few high-talent players. This class has couple centers in Frederick (Wisconsin) and Jones (Alabama) that are the clear top talents. Just hard to see centers getting taken much earlier than the late first round.
Possibility: (3) Never say never. The Lions restructured Raiola’s contract, he will start this year for the Lions. But maybe they find a late round prospect that will nudge Raiola out the door soon.
Draft Class Grade: (A-) Must be the age of defensive tackles. For a few years in row we’ve been seeing strong DT classes. This looks to be one of the strongest positions in a weaker draft class. Some solid depth in top-talent. Just wonder if this position takes a hit because we’ve had several strong classes from this position. Star Lotulelei is the clear leader in this position, will be a top three pick and should be.
Possibility: (4) A little higher than most expect, I know. Not saying it will happen early. But I could see the Lions consider one later on in the draft. Losing Sammie Hill to free agency they had a spot free up. Could go for a run stuffing DT project in the late rounds. Depends if one they like falls to them.
Draft Class Grade: (B-) This class has some talent, but very little polish. Take your pick and see if you can find something special. Even at the top of this, there are question marks. It’s just hard to tell how high teams are on these DE’s. The top two Bjoern Werner and Ezekiel Ansah have bounced all around the first and even second round. Both look like first round picks to me. Some solid talent after this, but will take some coaching to find what you’re looking for here.
Possibility (9) Hard to not see the Lions being aggressive here. They let both their DE’s go at the end of the season. They signed Jason Jones in free agency and have several lower round picks that have had limited contributions. I anticipate the Lions will make a move early here. Still think the Lions will go OT first round and DE second round. But if the OT’s they are interested get drafted, they may go after Ansah or Dion Jordan with that fifth pick.
Draft Class Grade: (B+) This is a better than usual draft class at MLB. There are at least 5 players that will be considered in the first two rounds. Will be interesting to see where Teo ends up, would probably have been top of this position if not for some off the field issues.
Possibility: (2) With Tulloch locked up, can’t see the Lions making a move here unless they have a prospect they really like.
Draft Class Grade: (C+) Another position that just doesn’t have as much depth as usual. The top two players in this position, Dion Jordan and Barkevious Mingo, are both tweeners with DE. Jarvis Jones was great at Georgia, but injury concerns will hurt him.
Possibility: (6) Lions have drafted at least one linebacker several years in row to mediocre results. For awhile Jarvis Jones was a hot name with the Lions. That has cooled. Could still see them searching for a playmaker pass rusher. But I also see them waiting till the later rounds. That doesn’t exactly line up in this draft, with limited talent later on. We’ll have to see if a player drops to them.
Draft Class Grade: (B) I’m not convinced Milner is a shutdown corner yet. He may develop into one, but I’m concerned there is a little bit too much hype around this player. Looking beyond the top spot there are several solid prospects that will get selected in the first two rounds. One that I am particularly interested in is Desmond Trufant out of Washington. Will probably go in the middle of the first.
Possibility: (7) It’s very likely the Lions will look for one more piece here, it’s just a question of which round. Mayhew is on record saying he doesn’t love drafting corners high. The fragility of the position makes it tough to invest a lot. Mayhew has in the past searched for larger more durable corners in later rounds hoping that a solid pass rush will cover up any inability to shutdown a receiver. He has several options from last year’s draft and with Houston resigned, can’t see them drafting a CB in the first round unless they trade back. Would expect to see a CB drafted in the third round or later.
Draft Class Grade: (C) Free safety looks decent, strong safety not so much. Vaccaro looking like the only first round possibility in this draft class, but there are teams that are looking for some safety help. There may be a few stretches in this position. Teams are starting to need help in the back end of their pass game. Looking at teams like Denver after that last second loss to Baltimore.
Possibility: (6) The Lions resigned Delmas and also made a free agent signing in Glover Quin. They seem set here, but may make a late round pick to add depth. Delmas still fragile and Spievey injured they do not have many backup options.
PJ’s Draft Board (First Round Predictions)
- Lane Johnson, OT, Oaklahoma
- Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
- Luke Joeckel, OT, Texas A&M
- Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU
- Bjoern Wener, DE, Florida State