I know there are at least four people that are highly anticipating my thoughts on the Detroit Lions and who they should take in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft.
In the past, most Lions fans would be looking at the draft as their version of the Super Bowl. And while I choose not to dwell on past drafts, we all know the Detroit Lions have mostly been in the dark since 1980.
Yes, we have had some bright moments: Billy Sims, Lomas Brown, Bennie Blades, Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Robert Porcher, Johnnie Morton, Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford & Ndamukong Suh to name a few.
And while these players have been successful and productive for the Lions, the flameouts they have are just downright spectacular: Chuck Long, Andre Ware, Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, Mike Williams & Ernie Sims.
Now we have a new regime in place, the first one since William Clay Ford passed away. I’ve had my criticism of Mr. Ford in the past but he was Detroit loyalty and he did more for the city than people can imagine.
Martha Ford, William’s widow, has taken over and pretty much with her will has moved the Detroit Lions organization in a different and hopefully, a better direction. She and her daughters have been less loyal to the Lions management team than Mr. Ford has, holding them accountable for the team’s results and by them failing, removing them from their positions.
The ownership team knew they didn’t have a lot of insider knowledge of how to build a successful football team. The enlisted the expertise of Ernie Accorsi, a successful NFL GM with the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns and the New York Giants, to conduct a national search to hire a GM for the Detroit Lions. The results was Bob Quinn, director of player personnel for New England Patriots.
Se here we stand, with new ownership and new management. Will they begin with a smart draft or will they hope to make a big splash to appease fans? My guess is the Lions renaissance begins this year and by 2018, we’re looking at a Super Bowl bound team.
For the upcoming draft, here is my mock draft. I’ve done all 10 picks with three options at each. I tend to look at what is needed rather than best available.
First Round, Pick 16:
- Taylor Decker, OT, 6’7″ 315 lbs. – Ohio State
- Jack Conklin, OT, 6’5″ 308 lbs.. – Michigan State
- A’Shawn Robinson, DT, 6’3″ 307 lbs. – Alabama
Lions need to beef up that offensive line, particularly at left tackle. They missed out on getting free agents Russell Okung and Ryan Harris. While I like Reilly Reif a lot, I think he is overmatched at left tackle and would do better at his natural spot over at right tackle. Decker and Conklin are 1 & 1A here and if the Lions take either one, I’m satisfied. Help is also needed on the D-line and Robinson would take a lot pressure off Ziggy Ansah to get to the quarterback.
Second Round, Pick 46:
- Adolphus Washington, DE/DT, 6’4″, 290 lbs. – Ohio State
- Derrick Henry, RB, 6’2″, 247 lbs. – Alabama
- William Jackson, CB, 6’0″, 189 lbs. – Houston
Big pick here and any one of these three players could have an immediate impact. Washington is a versatile player and is a good run stopper as well as getting to the QB. Henry would be a grinder at running back and a surprise catching passes. Would be a great fit with Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. Secondary can always use help and Jackson would push others in the secondary to up their game.
Third Round, Pick 95
- Anthony Zettle, DE/DT, 6’4″, 258 lbs. – Penn State
- Jeremy Cash, S, 6’0″, 212 lbs. – Duke
- Conner Cook, QB, 6’4″ 218 lbs. – Michigan State
Zettle would need to beef up a bit to go to the interior. If the Lions take him, perhaps they have him as a defensive end…or when the ball is snapped, have him snake behind DT pushing the line forward. Cash could bring a Kam Chancellor attitude to the Lions secondary which could use a player of that caliber. As for Cook, if he’s there, Lions might be smart to grab him. Stafford is only 28 years old but Orlovsky isn’t a capable back-up if Stafford goes down for an extended period of time. Bring Cook in, let him watch and learn how to play to give him some time to develop to the NFL game. He might even push Stafford for the starting job in a couple of years.
Fourth Round, Pick 111
- Jack Allen, C, 6’2″, 296 lbs. – Michigan State
- Denver Kirkland, G, 6’4″, 335 lbs. – Arkansas
- Graham Glasgow, C, 6’6″, 306 lbs. – Michigan
Totally an offensive line pick here. And I believe that going for a center is tantamount. Travis Swanson is good but his talent lies more toward being a guard. Jack Allen has that quickness and smarts to be a starting center in the NFL. If Swanson stays, he’ll need some help…and what would be more comforting than a 335 lb. guard to the left of you to help open holes and give your left tackle some breathing room? Kirkland could be the pick here. Glasgow was the best O-Line player on an under-achieving Michigan team.
Fifth Round, Pick 151 (first of two picks in the fifth)
- Taveze Calhoun, DB, 6’1″, 181 lbs. – Mississippi State
- Laquan McGown, OL/TE, 6’7″, 410 lbs. – Baylor
- Luther Maddy, DT, 6’0″ 287 lbs. – Virginia Tech
Calhoun might play in the nickel package but I see him more of special teams player. He’s fast so good on punt returns but also would be good as a gunner, getting good hits on opposing team’s returner and causing turnovers. McGown is an interesting pick because I think you go could do some interesting things with him. Imagine a short-yardage situation and him being part of the “Jumbo Package” with him shedding a block and then going out in the flat. Or switch him to the defensive line and have teams try to run up the middle on him. Maddy would give you some much needed depth which seems to be a requirement on NFL teams these days.
Fifth Round, Pick 169
- Kenny Lawler, WR, 6’3″, 185 lbs. – California
- Hassan Ridgeway, DT, 6’3″, 303 lbs. – Texas
- Victor Ochi, DE, 6’2″, 245 lbs. Stony Brook
Lawler isn’t fast but he has a knack for getting open and makes the clutch catches. Giving Stafford another safety valve other than Theo Riddick makes the team that more dangerous. Ridgeway and Ochi are sleepers in this draft and will surprise teams.
Sixth Round, Pick 191 (first of three picks in the sixth)
- Dominque Alexander, LB, 6’2″, 232 lbs. – Bowling Green
- Glenn Gronkowski, FB/TE, 6″2″, 238 lbs. – Kansas State
- Cassanova McKinzy, ILB, 6’1″, 248 lbs. – Auburn
Alexander is big and fast enough to cover opposing tight ends in the flat and running backs coming out on screen passes. Needs work on tackling correctly. If Rob Gronkowski’s little brother has half the talent his big brother does, this could be a steal. If he does play TE, will need to beef up a bit. McKinzy could transition to middle linebacker but would need some time to develop.
Sixth Round, Pick 202
- Matt Johnson, QB, 6’0″, 219 lbs. – Bowling Green
- Joe Schubert, OLB, 6’1″, 247 lbs. – Wisconsin
- D.J. Reader, NT, 6’3″, 340 lbs. – Clemson
Johnson would need to work on a better delivery when passing. Surprised that at 6’0″ he would opt for a side-arm motion which just makes him smaller. Good instincts and resilient, correct that delivery and you might have something. Schubert has a motor that doesn’t quit and is a sure tackler. Needs better technique on pass coverage. Reader would be a great addition to the D-Line as a tackle to close off the middle for the ground game and get a push on the QB in the passing game. I imagine he would knock down a few passes.
Sixth Round, Pick 210
- Nelson Spruce, WR, 6’1″, 206 lbs. – Colorado
- Drew Kaser, P, 6’2″, 212 lbs. – Texas A&M
- Jeff Driskel, QB, 6’3″ 230 lbs. – Louisiana Tech
Some interesting options here. Spruce will be the same guy, every game, every snap. Fearless as a punt returner, willing to go over the middle and fight for the ball. Lacks speed but is sure handed and will strike with purpose while blocking for the run game. I generally don’t like to draft punters or kickers but this time I make an exception with Kaser. Has a big leg and good directional kicking that can change field position from just about anywhere on the grid iron. Could change momentum of games with one kick. Driskel is a Drew Stanton type QB but with better set-up in the pocket. Gets the ball out quick but has issues in throwing receivers open. Accurate and confident in the short passing game, tends to overthrow on long passes and gets happy feet if protection breaks down.
Seventh Round, Pick 236
- Devon Johnson, RB/FB, 6’0″, 238 lbs. – Marshall
- David Morgan, TE, 6’4″, 262 lbs. – USTA
- Ross Martin, K, 5’10” 183 lbs. – Duke
Johnson earned the nickname “Rockhead” and no one wanted to get in his way. Receiving skills could land him some time as an H-Back. Will drop his pads and drive through tacklers, would be excellent in short-yardage and goal line situations. Lions need an answer at TE. Pettigrew is sporadic and Ebron hasn’t fulfilled expectations. Morgan has very sure hands and will secure the catch despite hits coming. Former high school basketball player with leaping ability and good body control. Needs work on his stride and tends to give his route movement away early. More upside at this draft spot then down. Another exception to drafting kickers, Martin is a true technician as a kicker. Last two years was outstanding with accuracy with 90.5% and 86.7% respectively. Was 4-4 from 50 plus yards and can also punt if needed. Doesn’t have the NFL leg for kickoffs but was one of the most consistent kickers over the last two years.
So there you have it Lions fans…is the Beer Thinker nuts or on track?