Draft Day Countdown: Who goes to the Lions at No. 5 in my Mock 5 Final, an escape plan in place to account for the strength of this year’s draft, one trade I’d make in the blink of a humming bird’s eye and random thoughts that apply to any draft.
Also, to paraphrase a line often used by Lions GM Martin Mayhew, the first round isn’t the finish line for the draft. There are six more rounds to fill needs. No matter which player the Lions draft in the first round, they have six more shots at filling needs.
We start with the annual mock draft I participated in Tuesday with beat writers from around the NFL that led to my Mock 5 Final:
1. Mock 5 Final: An annual session with beat writers covering all 32 franchises on Tuesday produced this top 5, with my comments on the picks:
1. Chiefs: OT Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M. The consensus No. 1.
2. Jaguars: DE Ziggy Ansah, Brigham Young. More people have Eric Fisher going here, but Ansah is a highly rated athlete. I have my doubts.
3. Raiders: OLB/DE Dion Jordan, Oregon. Best pass-rusher in the draft, outstanding athlete.
4. Eagles: OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan. Might have more upside than Joeckel and could go sooner. The Lions would prefer it to be one pick later, closer to where he grew up in Rochester Hills.
5. Lions: CB Dee Milliner, Alabama. I made this pick, based on the previous four picks.
2. The case for Milliner: He’s the best all-round cornerback in the draft and an opening-day starter, an absolute requirement for whoever the Lions draft in the first round ... and probably the second.
I wouldn’t worry about the list of injuries that surfaced recently. It’s a normal part of the evaluation process for the medical history to come in. Every team gets the information.
3. The case against Milliner: There really isn’t one. The only issue is whether you’re sold on a cornerback at No. 5 – with Joeckel and Fisher off the board – or if there are options to consider that might be more beneficial.
Which leads us to other options in this role as Fantasy GM with a lifetime contract.
4. The trading times: Full disclosure for those who remember, I’m against trading down in most cases, especially with a high first-round pick. There are exceptions, and the exception in the first round Thursday night is the instant that Joeckel and Fisher are both off the board – first two picks, first three, first four.
Once Joeckel and Fisher are gone, I’d work the phones with teams having picks six through nine – Browns, Cardinals, Bills, Jets – because of the strength of the remaining talent pool.
The asking price would be a swap of first-round picks, plus an extra second-rounder – but probably settling for a third and something lower to add bodies from a deep pool of lower picks.
5. Talent pool: This year’s draft is unusually deep at the top for offensive linemen. The reliable lists of top 100 prospects I’ve followed generally have five offensive linemen in the top nine. There are tackles – Joeckel, Smith and Lane Johnson of Oklahoma. Two are guards: Chance Warmack of Alabama and Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina.
If an offensive lineman is a priority at No. 5, then it still should be at No. 6-9 after a trade. And quality players will be there.
The falloff in quality after the first five offensive linemen is considerably steeper than for pass-rushers – defensive ends or outside linebackers – and for defensive backs.
Also, pass-rushers can be used in situations that play to a young player’s strength while he learns the nuances of the pro game. That is not the case for an offensive lineman in a starting role. He has to handle every situation. Mistakes and breakdowns can be critical.
6. Trade payoff logic: One theory about drafting an offensive tackle is that it locks the pieces into place on the offensive line and defines the role for
Reiff showed real ability as an extra blocker in some formations, and as the starting left tackle in the game Jeff Backus missed with a hamstring injury.
Reiff played the left side almost exclusively at Iowa. He started 28 games at left tackle and seven at left guard.
A trade down that nets Cooper or Warmack at right guard would lock in the line, with Reiff at left tackle. If the trade adds Lane Johnson to play left tackle, Reiff is the right guard.
All of these scenarios produce the intended result to rework the offensive line with young talent. They just do it with different players.
7. Warmack vs. Cooper: Warmack is a D-9 Rome plow that turns immovable objects into nuisances that topple over backward. Cooper is more athletic, with superior ability to block on the run.
Take your pick. I prefer power. In a trade scenario, Warmack would be my choice.
8. After the first round: As the board stands now, the Lions go into Friday with the fourth pick in the second round (36th overall) and No. 3 in the third round (65). Those are prime spots.
With or without a first-round trade, here are some possibilities for the Lions:
Defensive end Tank Carradine of Florida, rated at the bottom of the first round, could drop down further if quarterbacks are pushed higher than their rating into the first round.
Other defensive ends are Sam Montgomery of LSU, Alex Okafor of Texas and Margus Hunt of SMU, a superior athlete who would have to slip a half round to No. 36.
Cornerbacks: Desmond Trufant of Washington, Jamar Taylor of Boise St., Darius Slay of Mississippi St.
Wide receiver needs protection because of injuries last season to
Hunter likely will be drafted higher and Dobson lower, but both are worth keeping an eye on here.
Offensive tackle Terron Armsted of Arkansas-Pine Bluff had a world-class workout at the Combine and could be off the board. I’ve seen him as low as the top of the third round.
9. Denard Robinson: He doesn’t appear in the top 10 of any position groups, but if there is a designation for "football player," he’s on it. He never shied away from competition at Michigan.
For the Lions, anywhere from their supplemental pick deep in the fourth round through the sixth would be time to think hard about taking Robinson if he’s still on the board.
10. A Fantasy GM’s fantasy trade up: Assume the Lions have traded down in the first round and added at least a third-round pick and a sixth or seventh.
And assume it’s around pick No. 16 Thursday night and Tavon Austin, 5-8, 174 pounds of lightning strapped on a titanium frame, still hasn’t gotten out of the Green Room at Radio City Music Hall in New York.
Want to make the trade? Yes.
What about the defense?
Run wind sprints, guys.
The offense is going to score early and often.
Kick the ball through the end zone.