The talking, rating, predicting, guessing, rumoring, discussing and mocking are almost over. The first round of the 2013 draft is Thursday night.
Are you ready for the real thing? More importantly, are the Lions ready for the real thing, and which way will they go with the fifth pick overall?
Mike: The Lions are ready, just like every team is. They have three distinct primary needs, and all have to be opening-day caliber starters -- offensive tackle, pass rusher and cornerback. That's a must. The first-round pick cannot be a development project.
Almost every mock draft I've participated in -- including one Tuesday with a group of national writers -- has had the same four players in the top five: offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher, pass-rusher Dion Jordan and cornerback Dee Milliner.
My first-round pick for the Lions, based on that mock draft and other information, is Milliner. Milliner fills a need with a high-quality player who can start on opening day.
Tim: The Lions would love nothing more than to get one of the top two tackles -- Joeckel or Fisher. Taking one of those players allows them to move Riley Rieff to right guard. All of the sudden, the Lions are better at two spots with one pick.
I, for one, don't think Fisher will be there for the Lions at No. 5. If he‘s not on the board, then Milliner is the safest pick for the Lions. There are question marks about his shoulder, but believe me, the Lions have done their homework on that, and if it all checks out medically, he has fewer risks than Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson or some of the other pass rushers.
I think Milliner fits a need and also fits the criteria Detroit Lions general manager Martin Mayhew laid out to the media last week, when he said the Lions need an “impact” player at No. 5.
What about the athletic DE Ziggy Ansah from BYU? Where does he fit into the equation?
Mike: Ansah's a great story, coming to the U.S. from Ghana and picking up football late after trying out for basketball first at Brigham Young. But except for a big game in the Senior Bowl, I don't see much that indicates he's a high first-round prospect.
In fact, there are pass-rushers such as Margus Hunt of SMU and Tank Carradine of Florida State who I'd take ahead of Ansah if all three are available in the second round.
Ansah, to me, is more of a question mark than the answer. You saw him all week at the Senior Bowl practices. Am I off my rocker on this one?
Tim: I made a point to walk over to defensive line drills every day at Senior Bowl practice to watch Ziggy Ansah. I'll say this about what I saw during the course of the week: no one was more surprised than me with the dominant performance he showcased in the game itself (3.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks and forced fumble).
I didn't see that coming all week on the practice field. He was just another guy at practice. You could see the speed and athleticism, that was evident. But he was very raw.
One question I have in regards to Ansah is: how much practice time is he going to need? Just being athletic isn't going to get it done in the NFL. You also have to be technically sound and have a number of different moves in the repertoire to get by some of these NFL tackles.
I think Ansah is a great story, and he very well could be a 15-sack player at some point in his career, but I think that takes a little time. Time the Lions don't have.
Is either of the two top guard prospects – Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper – in play for the Lions?
Mike: Either one could be in play, but only if the Lions trade down from No. 5 to somewhere around ninth or 10th in the first round.
They have different playing styles. Warmack is a power player who has been compared to Will Shields, a great guard with the Chiefs. Cooper runs better and blocks better on the move.
I'd take Warmack over Cooper because of the power factor. Either one would help the Lions similar to the way Joeckel of Fisher would. It would lock the pieces in place on the offensive line and cement
How about a fantasy, never-gonna-happen pick in the bottom of the first round?
Tim: Here's my draft flyer, Mike, hold onto your toupee. Dynamic West Virginia receiver/return man Tavon Austin to the Lions. For this scenario to play out, the Lions would have to either trade back into the teens or move back up after making the fifth pick.
Austin is a big play waiting to happen, and if you don't believe me, watch the four-minute YouTube clip of the game he had vs. Oklahoma last year.
He can legitimately play three positions on offense and one NFL talent evaluator told me he's the best return man entering the draft in the last 10 years.
Ideally, the Lions would like an outside threat at receiver, and Austin projects more in the slot, but he can stretch the field and he instantly makes the return game better. Oh, and did I mention Austin came in for a pre-draft visit with the Lions last week?
I think this scenario is highly unlikely, but that's my fantasy, never-gonna-happen pick.
Scott Linehan could sit around all day thinking up ways to use Austin. Top that never-gonna-happen scenario.
Mike: Toupee? Wait until my hair stylist finds out. He thinks the wind blew it off 10 years ago.
Austin would be my pick, too. With
It won't happen, though, because Austin won't be around anywhere near the bottom of the first round.
Another flyer, slightly -- or maybe not -- more realistic would be a trade up for Barkevious Mingo. He's a high-energy pass-rusher with the fastest first step in the draft.
I think we're in dreamland here.
Time to wrap it up and get to the real thing?
Tim: The draft has become a season unto itself. I always look forward to the draft. I get the sense that this is a fun time for Mayhew and Co.
The Lions are looking for four starters from this draft. We'll see if they hit their mark starting Thursday night.