LIONS INSIDER

Lions have lots of options at No. 23

Posted Apr 9, 2012

The NFL Draft is less than three weeks away and the 2012 version will be the first time in a long time the Lions are selecting toward the back of the first round with their first selection (No. 23).

They’ve had picks late in the first round recently (Brandon Pettigrew at 20 in 2009 and Jahvid Best at 30 in 2010) but those picks were generated via trade and the team already had a pick in the bag.

It’s hasn’t been since 1992, when the Lions selected Robert Porcher with the 26th pick, that they’ve selected this low with their first pick.

There is likely to be a number of players with similar grades at No. 23 and the possibilities seem endless for the Lions.

It’s also conceivable the Lions never pick at No. 23, instead choosing to move up a few spots to get a player they like or move down to accumulate more picks. Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has proven over the last three years that he has no problem with draft-day trades.

That’s the great part of this year’s draft for Lions fans, it’s the great unknown. A lot can happen over the first 22 picks before the Lions are on the clock. Some players will fall, there’s always one player who’s selected before anyone expects him to be (Christian Ponder at No. 12 to the Vikings last year) and the Lions could move up and get into the fray earlier.

It’s probably why the NFL Draft had more than 42 million viewers last year – it’s unpredictable.

Cornerback

The Lions haven’t selected a cornerback in the first round since Terry Fair in 1998, but that streak could end this year.


LSU’s Morris Claiborne will be gone in the first 10 picks and Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama) and Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina) will likely be off the board by the time the Lions select, too.

North Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins could be there at 23, but it’s unlikely the Lions would pull the trigger on him in the first round. It has nothing to do with what happened last week with Nick Fairley and Mikel Leshoure getting busted with marijuana -- something Jenkins was kicked out of Florida for -- but rather Jenkins’ own checkered past and the fact that teams weren’t impressed with his interview process.

The Lions could move up to get a Gilmore or Kirkpatrick, or go another route and select a cornerback like Central Florida’s Josh Robinson, Montana’s Trumaine Johnson or a number of other cornerbacks in the second round.

Either way, I’d be surprised if a cornerback wasn’t picked in the first two rounds.

Guard

One of the deepest positions in the draft is also a possibility for the Lions early on.

The Lions have already hosted Iowa State’s Kelechi Osemele, Midwestern State’s Amini Silatolu and Miami of Ohio’s Brandon Brooks for pre-draft visits.

It’s unlikely Stanford’s David DeCastro or Georgia’s Cordy Glenn are on the board at No. 23, but if they fall, the Lions will look long and hard at either of those players. Glenn is an interesting prospect because he looks like he could play either guard or tackle at this level.

It’s also possible, depending on their final grades, that DeCastro and Glenn merit Mayhew moving up a few spots if they fall into that comfortable range.

Tackle

The Lions have five tackles on the roster -- Jeff Backus, Gosder Cherilus, Corey Hilliard, Jason Fox and Johnny Culbreath -- but would still like to get a young athletic tackle who could push for a starting spot or add great depth.

The tackle class drops off significantly from tier one to tier two, but it’s possible tier one players like Mike Adams (Ohio State) or Jonathan Martin (Stanford) could be there for the Lions late in the first round.

Defensive end

Don’t sleep on the possibility of the Lions selecting a pass rusher in the first round.

Kyle Vanden Bosch turns 34 next season and Cliff Avril (franchise tag) and Lawrence Jackson are playing in the last year of their deals.

It’s certainly plausible that Whitney Mercilus (Illinois) or Nick Perry (USC) could still be on the board for the Lions at No. 23.

Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz have said many times that the draft is about accumulating talented players. There might not be an immediate need at the position, but there could be as early as next year and it’s good to have talent ready to plug in.

Safety

Even Alabama’s Mark Barron can’t be counted out as a first-round possibility if he falls to the later part of the first round. Barron isn’t projected to be on the board when the Lions pick at 23, but stranger things have happened.

It's probably premature to count out linebacker, receiver or running back in the first round, either. Simply put, the Lions can go a number of different ways in the first round and that should make for some must-see TV come draft time.