Pre-free agency mock draft 1.0

In this, the first of our mock draft series, join one of our writers as he explores the potential picks for the Lions in the forthcoming Draft. This installment is brought to you from the keyboard of Brandon Knapp

First round pick: Jack Conklin – OT (Michigan State)

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Detroit had many issues this season, and the main one to address is the offensive line. Right tackle was a big issue for Detroit this past season as Cornelius Lucas and LaAdrian Waddle both struggled before Michael Ola came in and did a good enough job to keep the right side somewhat consistent. Conklin has had some injury history with his knee the past season, which is something to watch and consider before making the pick, but Detroit needs a tackle in the first round – with Stanley and Tunsil off the board at pick number 16, Conklin is the best option available. While Conklin is a left tackle, they could move him to the right side, or flip Reiff over to the right side and have Conklin slip right in his natural side. Conklin is great at moving defenders around and forcing them to attack from a different point. Also, his strength is shown when he can cling onto the defender, making it even harder for them to attack and break free.

Second round pick: Anthony Zettel – DT (Penn State)

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Another place to focus on for this draft for the Lions is the defensive line, especially the defensive tackle spot. Haloti Ngata will be back in the NFL next season, now whether or not that is with Detroit remains to be seen, but even with Ngata coming back, Detroit needs more bodies at this spot. Tyrunn Walker got knocked out for the season during the week four loss to the Seahawks and he only signed a one-year deal so his future is also yet to be determined. Caraun Reid stepped up with Walker going down and with Ngata not being as great as he once was. Gabe Wright did alright in the time he was asked to play, but besides that Detroit didn’t have anyone else that really stepped up or impressed during the season. Zettel is a monster at the defensive tackle position as he can use the spin move to get around lineman easily and get to the quarterback or stop the running back. He’s that quick but big type of defensive tackle that can break a double team or spin by a guy quickly to make a play. Detroit already has Ziggy Ansah on the line and with the offense more focused on stopping him, it would give Zettel even more of a chance to make a stop.

Third round pick: Aaron Burbridge – WR (Michigan State)

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While Detroit doesn’t officially have a third round pick, they are expected to gain a compensatory pick for the departure of Ndamukong Suh. Also with Calvin Johnson possibly retiring, Detroit might well need a big play wide receiver and while Laquon Treadwell, Michael Thomas, and Braxton Miller are all projected to be taken in the first two round – along with Detroit addressing their bigger needs with the first two picks – Burbridge is the next best guy. He is coming off a huge senior year with 85 catches for 1,258 yards and seven touchdowns. Burbridge is 6-1 so he has some height on him, but he can make some really nice catches and has the speed to break away from defenders. Burbridge could come in as the number two wide receiver behind Tate and be another threat for opposing defenses.

Fourth round pick: Graham Glasgow – C (Michigan)

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Another offensive lineman? Yes, another one! Detroit needs all the help it can get and center was a weak point with Travis Swanson last season. Graham can come in and possibly fight for the starting job now that Ramirez is out of Detroit. Glasgow is able to protect well as Michigan over the season could run the ball and gave Rudock time to throw with protection in the pocket. He started in all 13 games too which is good to see as player health is more important now than it ever has been. Glasgow has good footwork and he can be an anchor when needed. He has that strong work ethic and a good amount of athleticism to put it into second gear.

Fifth round pick: Nate Sudfeld – QB (Indiana)

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Without realizing it, I have the Lions taking five straight players out of the Big Ten in this mock draft. Now while it is completely unintentional, they are all needs for the team and they fit Detroit well. Another need is backup quarterback and Sudfeld is a young quarterback that can do the job. While at Indiana, Sudfeld threw for 7,879 yards, 61 touchdowns with only 20 interceptions in the four years he played. He came in halfway into his freshman year when starter Tre Roberson broke his leg. Sudfeld impressed and won the starting job for 2013. In 2014 he would have his season cut short due to surgery on his non-throwing shoulder, while this season he had some ankle issues. Now this isn’t me saying we need Sudfeld because he will replace Stafford, but it would be nice to have a young quarterback that can play if Stafford were to get hurt. Sudfeld is a tall quarterback at 6-6 and he can stay calm in the pocket when pressure comes at him.

Fifth round pick: Josh Forrest – LB (Kentucky)

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Now it is time for a non-Big Ten player to get drafted! Stephen Tulloch has left Detroit and while Forrest is not going to come in starting, he could be a good backup to whoever starts at the middle linebacker position. The Kentucky native has been tearing it up the past two years in the SEC, getting a total of 203 tackles, four and a half sacks, two forced fumbles, and four interceptions. Forrest has the speed and power to knock a ball loose or force an incomplete pass. He is not much of a blitzing linebacker as he has problems shedding blockers, and he tends to fall for misdirection plays, but he could be a good special teamer who can contribute.

Fifth round pick: K.J. Dillon – S (West Virginia)

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This is another possible compensatory for Detroit with Nick Fairley leaving Detroit. Safety is a need, but more as a backup like middle linebacker. James Ihedigbo is all but gone and Isa Abdul-Quddus will most likely be taking that starting position if he resigns with Detroit. He is going to need a backup and K.J. fits the need. He can attack the ball and make the catch a problem for receivers. He has had 20 passes defended and five picks over the past two years. Downside for him is once he believes he has gotten beat by a receiver, he tends to hold which could easily draw penalties and issues for the secondary. Tackling is another issue for him, but if he can hit the gym and bulk up, he could fix that problem easily.

Sixth round pick: Nick Vannett – TE (Ohio State)

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Back to Big Ten country. The tight end depth for Detroit is thin behind Ebron and Pettigrew. Pettigrew going down last year gave Tim Wright a chance to step up, but he couldn’t do the job. Vannett is that mixed type of tight end where he can make the big catch if needed and he can take the one-on-one blocking assignments if needed. He can be a good number three tight end and maybe after a year or two, replace Pettigrew as the backup.

Sixth round pick: Sedrick Flowers – OG (Texas)

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Detroit needs some depth at the guard spot with Ramirez leaving. Darren Keyton missed all of last season so his return could help add even more depth at this position. Flowers can be a big bruiser when it comes to the power run game, something Detroit doesn’t have much of. Doesn’t mean he can’t still contribute and create holes for any type of back. Even though his pass blocking isn’t the best, it can be something he works on and improves at given the right coaching.

Seventh round pick: Brian Poole – CB (Florida)

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Rashean Mathis retiring made me think we needed to take a cornerback high in this mock draft. After looking at the team and remembering how they played, Detroit should be just fine without Mathis. Lawson and Diggs made some plays, while looking impressive in their playing time last year. Still with Mathis gone, that is one less cornerback and Brian Poole is still on the board. He is a good zone coverage back and can anticipate where the ball is going. He makes the receivers fight for the catch, but being 5-9 will have its disadvantages in the NFL.

SO, there you have it folks.  We’ll revisit these post-free agency and see if Brandon’s picks change as the Lions’ needs do.  Got an opinon?  Come and join the discussion in our Reddit community!

Follow Brandon Knapp on Twitter @BKnappBlogs

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About the Author

Brandon Knapp
Brandon Knapp is a senior at Central Michigan University, majoring in Journalism, minoring in Sports Management. He was born and raised in the city of Marysville, MI. He also writes for and covers the Michigan Wolverines Football team (his other love). Brandon also enjoys watching the Detroit Red Wings, Pistons and Tigers.