The annual r/NFL_Draft community mock was held Thursday and Friday, and I had the honor of representing the Lions as general manager in the draft. I had some assistance in the war room from some users from the r/DetroitLions community, along with one of the podcast’s very own, Case. The first three rounds were held on Thursday, with the last four being conducted Friday. While the ideal scenario didn’t play out for us – and you honestly couldn’t expect it to – I came away feeling very good about our haul. In this article, I’ll lay out the selections and the reasoning behind them, as well as briefly profile the players selected.
Going into the draft, the Lions had ten selections. Their pick set is as follows:
Round 1, Pick 16 (16); Round 2, Pick 15 (46); Round 3, Pick 33 (95) [comp]; Round 4, Pick 13 (111); Round 5, Pick 12 (151); Round 5, Pick 30 (169); Round 6, Pick 14 (191); Round 6, Pick 27 (202); Round 6, Pick 35 (210) [comp]; Round 7, Pick 15 (236)
Ultimately, we ended up taking just nine players after executing two trades, one to move up, and another to move down.
Round 1, Pick 16 (16)
Jack Conklin was the guy who the war room almost unanimously wanted to target, but he was scooped up by Oakland at no. 14. Plan B was to sell the pick and move into the 20s in an attempt to take either Jason Spriggs or our favorite defensive tackle, whoever was available. Consequently, we shopped the pick and fielded a few offers, but none of them would have yielded the value we were looking for.
In the end, we had our pick of the litter and made Louisiana Tech’s Vernon Butler the first defensive tackle off the board. While he was something of a reach, we felt he was the best fit for Detroit. With Haloti Ngata past his prime, the Lions are going to need another nose tackle sooner rather than later. Butler is a giant who can act as a space-eater, while still being athletic enough to be disruptive in the backfield. Butler’s versatility was also a plus, as he can play in a few places along the line. Some might have preferred Rankins here, but the Lions are replete with zippy, penetrating defensive tackles already. It would have been nice if we could have traded down and acquired him a bit later, but we were still happy about the value, so we pulled the trigger.
Round 2, Pick 15 (46)
This was another pick we shopped, but the best trade offer we received – the 60th and 91st overall picks from New England – came in too late. After missing out on Conklin in round one, we zeroed in on Texas A&M tackle Germain Ifedi, but he was sniped a few picks prior. With the next tier of tackles seeming like a bit of a reach at no. 46, we opted to upgrade the offensive line at another spot. We took Nick Martin, the center from Notre Dame. With Travis Swanson having struggled mightily in his first full season at the position, it made sense to solidify the spot.
Martin has received rave reviews from scouts due to his high football IQ. He’s able to identify blitzes and call protections accordingly, which would take a big load off of Matt Stafford. Mike Mayock is really high on him as well, and said that he would be drafted in the second and go on to play ten years. The drop-off from Nick Martin to the next center was much steeper than the drop-off from Ifedi to the next tackle, so this move seemed the most practical.
Round 3, Pick 18 (81)
We acquired this pick from the Falcons via trade. In exchange for the first of their round picks, we shipped the 111th, 191st, and 202nd overall selections to Atlanta. According to Football Perspective’s draft value index, this was a perfectly fair trade, and I think it worked out well for both sides. In my mind, we effectively moved up thirty spots at the cost of two of our three sixths, which seemed worth it, especially considering who we used the pick on.
This move proved to be a huge boon for us, as we used the selection to take Jerald Hawkins, the offensive tackle out of LSU. While he’s unlikely to start at left tackle, at least initially, he can come in and compete for the right tackle spot immediately. With Todd McShay projecting him 51st to the Jets in his most recent two round mock, Hawkins was a huge steal more than halfway through the third. Between him and Nick Martin, the war room believed we got two second round talents to upgrade what’s been a decrepit line.
Round 3, Pick 33 (95) [comp pick]
This was the first pick we didn’t try to move, and we probably would have tried were compensatory selections tradable. As the pick neared, Kentrell Brothers was still on the board and he probably would have been on the selection based on pure value alone. However, we knew he was unlikely to make it past both Green Bay and New England. Alas, the Packers scooped him up, but we had a contingency plan in place.
After having addressed defensive tackle and two positions along the offensive line, strong safety appeared to be the biggest positional need remaining, beside maybe receiver. With Ihedigbo having been cut and IAQ taking his talents to South Beach, the safety spot opposite Glover Quin is a huge question mark. Tavon Wilson is an unknown commodity and Rafael Bush has a history of injuries, so it remains to be seen if they can be counted on to earn the starter’s role. We considered a few prospects here, namely the Clemson duo of TJ Green and Jayron Kearse, but ended up deciding on Miles Killebrew, the strong safety from Southern Utah. Killebrew is a world-class tackler who’s built like a linebacker, and his highlight reel is chock full of big hits. He’s not exceptional in coverage, but we felt he was perfect to fill the role Digs played in 2014 – a box safety who can excel in run support.
Round 5, Pick 12 (151)
The guy we were eyeing as our developmental quarterback, Ohio State’s Cardale Jones, got snatched away by the Steelers before we could take him. There wasn’t anybody else we loved, so we ended up trading down, and, ironically, Pittsburgh was our trade partner. In exchange for our pick, they sent us the 176th and 246th overall selections.
Round 5, Pick 30 (169)
We almost dealt this choice to the Seahawks for a future fourth, but they backed out at the last second after their guy came off the board. Despite this, I had a guy I was eyeing all along. I was nervous he wouldn’t be there come 169, which is why I was ready to deal it to Seattle. He ended up being there, and, while it was a reach, I’m very happy with the call we made. Moritz Boehringer, the wide receiver of the Schlesinger Hall Unicorns – yes, that really is their name – from Germany.
While he’s an extremely raw prospect, I felt as if Boehringer’s upside was too great to pass on. If nobody’s coined the nickname yet, I’m copyrighting it right now – Frankenstein. At 6’4″, 227 lbs, he has elite size. He performed at Florida Atlantic’s pro day and really wowed scouts. He ran a 4.43 on grass, hit 39″ on the vertical leap, and benched 225 lbs. 17 times. He’s a freak. All of his measurables would have been good for top five among receivers at the combine. He has good hands and isn’t a bad route runner, either. I saw Frankenstein as being the one player at wide receiver that even came close to the physical talent of Megatron. While I don’t think (or expect) he’ll ever be Calvin Johnson, I think he offers the freakish athleticism we lack after CJ’s retirement. He’ll need to be developed, but he could eventually be a force in the NFL.
Round 6, Pick 1 (176)
This is the first of the two picks we acquired in the Pittsburgh trade. Having addressed the team’s biggest needs, it was time to select a quarterback. As I said earlier, Cardale Jones was a guy I really liked, but we ended up with another Big Ten quarterback I’m high on.
Nate Sudfeld, the signal caller of the Indiana Hoosiers, fell to us here and it was unlikely he was going to make it to no. 210, so we pulled the trigger. Sudfeld is somebody I’ve been interested in for a while. As I’ve explained before, you really want a backup who can emulate what your starter does. Sudfeld is a big guy (6’6″, 234 lbs.) with an even bigger arm, so he can mimic some of what Stafford does. He’s not very cerebral and doesn’t have much experience running a pro-style offense, but he has the luxury of a learning curve. He can pick up the offense and refine his game while learning under Stafford. I see him as a solid backup with potential to develop into a starting-caliber player down the line.
Round 6, Pick 14 (210)
The war room was initially at a bit of a loss for what to do here, and the other teams helped by narrowing it down for us. It proved to be a blessing, as we found a player who can provide depth on day one while having potential to develop into a starter.
UTEP defensive end Roy Robertson-Harris, who Lance Zierlein compared to Jason Jones, is a raw prospect with elite size (6’7″, 250 lbs) and good athleticism. He has a good arsenal of pass-rushing tools, including a pretty solid club move. When Ezekiel Ansah was taken fifth overall out of BYU in 2012, he was an unrefined prospect with immense physical talent. While I don’t see Robertson-Harris as having the ceiling of Ziggy, I think Ansah’s rapid development into a top pass rusher bodes well for the UTEP product’s potential to become a starter for us.
Round 7, Pick 15 (236)
Long before drafting Robertson-Harris at 210th overall, there was somebody I had been eyeing here at 236. He just so happened to be here, and I was elated about the value.
Western Michigan standout Daniel Braverman is an absolute steal in the seventh. The first sentence of his NFL.com draft profile reads, “Looks like a Patriots slot receiver from jump street.” Braverman is already a pro-level route runner who is dangerous after the catch. At 5’11”, 177 lbs, he’s a bit undersized, which raises questions about his durability in the NFL, but he can play with the best of them. In the Broncos’ game against the Buckeyes, Braverman caught ten passes for 177 yards and a TD. He made Vonn Bell and Eli Apple look silly, and those are two guys who could be first round picks come draft day. Dude can flat out play.
Round 7, Pick 25 (246)
This was the second pick we acquired in the trade with the Steelers. Like the Braverman selection, I feel like we got a good value here while building depth and filling something of a need.
Cornerback Juston Burris of NC State, who I see as a sixth-round talent, was available, so we snatched him up. He’s a long, physical, and competitive corner who used his height and length to challenge receivers at the point of the catch. In three seasons as a starter for the Wolfpack, he recorded five interceptions and twenty pass breakups. His physicality can be seen in his play in the run game (no missed tackles in 2015) and his ability to press receivers. However, he can be a bits handsy at times, and drew six penalties (four DPIs) in 2015 because of it. With proper coaching, he could rid himself of this bad habit and eventually earn playing time if neither Nevin Lawson nor Alex Carter prove to be the answer at cornerback.
All things considered, I was very happy with this draft. Again, we didn’t always have things fall our way, but I almost feel as if things worked out for the best regardless. I’m happy about the acquisition of Hawkins in the third and all the value buys we found in the later rounds, particularly Frankenstein and Braverman. Those two could become valuable assets in the passing game for a good time to come. As happy as I am about the results, and as fun as the process was, I’d really like to hear what other Lions fans think about how the team’s representatives did in the mock. I encourage feedback in the sub, and would love to hear everyone’s opinion on both the individual picks and the draft class as a whole. As long as nobody dubs me Matt Millen, I’ll take it.