With The NFL Combine Now Completed The Board Has Begun To Shift Yet Again.
Some players showed off their athleticism and are flying up boards, while others got exposed and are beginning to crash down them. With free agency still looming however and pro days and team visits still on the horizon anything can happen as teams begin to firm up their draft boards. With this mock draft posting the day of the start of free agency, we realize that this work may very well become irrelevant in a matter of hours based upon what moves the Lions front office makes and when.
So with that in mind I decided to try a more fun concept. This time ground rules were that none of the writers could pick the same player throughout the draft or pick the same position in the same round. This will hopefully give fans a bunch of different strategic looks so they are more prepared based on what happens in free agency. I let my guest writers this week Cory Hayes and Brandon Knapp go first so let’s see how we all did:
Round 1 (Pick 21)
Brandon: Taco Charlton, DE, Michigan
Cory: Haason Reddick, MLB, Temple
Adam: Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
To open the first round Brandon went with his old standby (and not so secret man crush) Taco Charlton. While he gets ribbed every now and again for it, there are fairly many reasons to like Taco. He’s a power player with a large frame which he uses to bull rush and push offensive linemen out of his way. The thing that makes Charlton special though is he also brings with that frame some freaky athletic traits and a rare speed to size ratio. If he can learn to harness his raw ability with some pass rush moves and stay consistent with his effort both on and off the field he could be a major asset coming off the edge.
Cory went with the new highly anticipated product out of Temple Haason Reddick. In college he played defensive end and in high school he was a safety but in the NFL he fits right in the middle as a 4-3 linebacker. Reddick showed at both the combine and the senior bowl that he has great speed and movement skills, tearing up the testing and positional drills. While he has a lot of potential he’s still very raw and needs to development to play the position in the NFL. Harnessing all of that athleticism into one position that he can focus on and dedicate to learning completely could have phenomenal results for the team that decides to bet on him. Considering that Detroit has been heavily tied to Reddick through the offseason this is a name to definitely keep in mind.
Finally my choice was Sidney Jones the cornerback from Washington. Jones is potentially the most pro ready corner in the draft, with ability in both man and zone schemes. He’s got phenomenal ball skills, great technique and just about everything you could possibly want out of a cornerback. The one negative you could put on him though is size and physicality. While he has great length he has a fairly thin frame and can get boxed out or shoved at the line by bigger physical receivers. If he can add on weight without losing speed in an NFL strength program he would be a major asset in the secondary.
Round 2 (Pick 53)
Brandon: Tre’davious White, CB, LSU
Cory: Caleb Brantley, DT, Florida
Adam: Zach Cunningham, MLB, Vanderbilt
In the second round Brandon went with cornerback Tre’davious White, one of the stickiest cover guys in the draft. He is just one of many great potential corners that could slide to the mid/late second round due to the depth of talent in this class. White is not very physical with receivers, but he can out jump and out position them on a regular basis. Showing that he can go toe to toe against top talent on numerous occasions. There are also concerns with his deep speed, but if you’re considering him as a CB2 he will have over the top safety help regardless. With some refinement in his technique he might make for one of the best corner pairings in the league with Darius Slay.
Corey’s pick here was defensive tackle Caleb Brantley. The Florida senior is a compact but powerful penetrator in the interior capable of filling a three-tech role while also having the bulk to anchor as a nose tackle. With his body type and quickness it’s hard not to make Aaron Donald comparisons, creating gaps with a hard punch and sliding into them. He will need to keep developing pass rush moves for the next level and get more disciplined as his work ethic has been questioned and he tends to bite on hard snap counts. In Detroit however he has the potential to be a long term difference maker in the middle of the defense to help fill the gaping hole left by Ndamukong Suh.
With my pick I grabbed Zach Cunningham the linebacker from Vanderbilt. While I have had the Lions taking him at 21 in the past, concerns surrounding his weight for the position and tackling have dropped him down boards a little after an only OK combine. Make no mistake though he is still an asset and at a phenomenal value in the mid to late second round. Cunningham offers the full package at mike linebacker, with phenomenal coverage skills, run defense, blitzing, and leadership skills. If a team with a good development staff brings him in and gets him coached up the right way he’s a long term starter at the position with top ten potential.
Round 3 (Pick 85)
Brandon: Anthony Walker Jr., MLB, Northwestern
Cory: Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia
Adam: Adam Shaheen, TE, Ashland
Brandon’s selection for the 85th pick was middle linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. out of Northwestern. Walker Jr. was another perceived first round option for Detroit going back to September of last year, however his value has sagged significantly after a poor season caused primarily by some poorly advised weight gain. If he drops back down to just under 235 lbs, Walker has sideline to sideline speed combined with one of the highest football IQ’s in this draft, above average cover skills, and quality leadership ability. I believe he would be by far the best value linebacker of the draft at this pick if you get the guy from two years ago as opposed to the player that showed up last season.
Rasul Douglas, Cory’s selection, is another guy who’s value has sagged a little of late mainly due to his see sawing pros and cons list. He’s one of the second tier corners of this year’s draft with huge size for the position but some technical flaws. At 6’2, 209 lbs, he engulfs smaller receivers, however there are concerns especially after the combine about his ability to run with them. While he plays the ball well in toss up situations, he also doesn’t play up to his size from a physicality perspective. In a zone scheme he has the potential to be very successful in a CB2 role if he ups his physicality, acting as a turnover specialist that teams target in order to turn away from a high end CB1.
I decided to go for one of the most intriguing players in the draft here in my opinion; Adam Shaheen. Consider this guy from the tiny Ashland University the JJ Watt of tight ends. He’s an absolute monster at 6’6 and almost 28 lbs, but he’s also capable of running a sub 4.8 40, a number guys 30-40 lbs lighter then him were running. He also has deceptive shiftiness and hands at the top of routes, showing traits that he’s capable of being a two way guy at the next level. While he needs to work on his blocking technique all rookie tight ends need to do that entering the NFL. If you can teach him how to do that well, which shouldn’t be hard to do at his size and agility watch out because you have a top five NFL tight end in just a few years time.
Round 4 (Pick 126)
Brandon: Noah Brown, WR, Ohio State
Cory: Samaje Perine, RB, Oklahoma
Adam: Derek Rivers, DE, Youngstown State
Brandon had Noah Brown here, the raw but talented possession receiver fit for the Lions WR3 role. While Brown doesn’t have a whole lot of production coming out of Ohio State after breaking his leg, sitting behind a bunch of positional depth over the years and then being under utilized last season, he still has a lot going for him. He’s got prototypical size for the outside at 6’2, 220 lbs and long arms, a powerful physical play style, good body control, and strong hands. If he can develop to run cleaner routes and gain some separation to actually fit the ball in he’s built to be a poor man’s Anquan Boldin. Considering the legacy that man has that’s by no means a slight.
Cory went with one of my favourite picks here, Samaje Perine. The Oklahoma power runner is coming off a season where he broke the Sooners career rushing record and then went to the combine and put up an absurd 30 reps on the bench press. Combined with a speedy 4.65 40 for someone at 233 lbs and solid change of direction drills, Perine showed he is the real deal for the next level. While it would be nice if he had a little more wiggle to him, as a featured role player he fits perfectly as a power run element. He would be the ultimate banger that Detroit needs to pick up tough yards in short situations.
Finally I had Derek Rivers the edge rusher out of Youngstown State. He was a very productive player against lesser competition in his small conference, and NFL scouts love seeing big production. Rivers combines great speed with a wide array of pass rushing moves that can help him get the job done. A true technical specialist he will slowly pick linemen apart by testing things out on them before exposing weaknesses he finds throughout the game. He needs to get better at some technical aspects of the position outside of pass rushing such as run support, but if he can harness his pass rushing talents and not be completely exposed against the run he will make a team very happy in the mid rounds, even in just a rotational role.
Round 5 ( Pick 166)
Brandon: James Conner, RB, Pittsburgh
Cory: Trey Hendrickson, DE, Florida Atlantic
Adam: Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan
Brandon’s selection in the fifth was James Conner, an absolute battering ram of a runner. At 6’2, 235 lbs, Conner plows through contact between the tackles and gets yards out of nothing every time he’s headed north-south. While he’s probably never going to be versatile enough to be a three down guy in today’s NFL, he’s the perfect goal line/short yardage specialist to pair with an explosive lighting backfield. A leader known for his toughness and perseverance, Conner beat both a torn MCL and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the same time and returned to the field without missing a full season. If he continues to get burst and agility back and returns to the form he had as a world beating freshman, the Lions would get hands down the steal of the draft at this pick.
Cory’s pick of Trey Hendrickson from Florida Atlantic is certainly a fun one. The defensive end didn’t get considered much coming from an awful college program, however when he showed up at the East-West Shrine game and started bullying offensive linemen to the point of borderline humiliation. He plays with a swagger coming to take somebody’s lunch on every snap and then letting them know he did it after the fact. He has good size for a bigger 4-3 defensive end but he needs to improve his run support to get on the field at the next level. Overall he’s a good guy to stash in the rotation and hopefully start down the road.
Ryan Glasgow is a home town favorite and my pick for the Lions in the fifth. The brother of Lions left guard Graham Glasgow, he is a no nonsense, hard working, run stuffing defensive tackle. Currently at the next level he’s an anchoring nose tackle but with time developing his leg strength he can turn himself into a bit of a pocket pusher, something that would be great to have paired with A’shawn Robinson in the heart of Detroit’s defense. He has to work on his body a bit to get to become an every down guy as well as develop some more pass rush or at least pocket disrupting ability. End of the day though Ryan is a great fit in Detroit both with attitude and family in mind.
Round 6 (Pick 206)
Brandon: Cooper Rush, QB, Central Michigan
Cory: Jessamen Dunker, G, Florida
Adam: Dede Westbrook, WR, Oklahoma
Brandon took Cooper Rush here as the Lions developmental third quarterback Detroit has been looking for. Rush won’t wow anyone with his physical ability but he more then makes up for that with his football IQ. He has great anticipation, play recognition skills, and the ability to fit a ball into tight spaces with generally consistent accuracy. The key for him will be throwing mechanics and arm strength at the next level. If he can get both those improved he might make himself worth something for the Lions someday, namely from a team looking for a career backup.
Cory’s pick of Jessamen Dunker from Florida may not be a household name but it’s a developmental guy that should be kept in mind. The tough guard is an incredibly raw athlete with good feet and size but very poor overall technique. He often gets beaten on plays when the other team makes a nice move that he’s unprepared for and he can get tipped off balance relatively evenly. This also causes him not to play up to the strength he shows in the weight room, occasionally falling off blocks and exposing his quarterback. He’s a player that you sit down for a few years and then bring him back in when necessary as he comes from a zone scheme which is what they’re building and he has so much to learn still.
I took the falling Dede Westbrook in the sixth round, the speedster out of Oklahoma. He has been falling of late due to concerns over his size and durability as well as alleged domestic violence cases however his on the field ability is clear. Westbrook flies on the outside, runs precise routes, and does a great job of adjusting to balls being thrown in difficult places. The worry with his play is that he can’t deal with press so that should be addressed in team workouts. He can step in immediately however and offer Detroit a deep threat compliment that spreads the field for other guys to work underneath.
Round 6 (Pick 216)
Brandon: Josiah Price, TE, Michigan State
Cory: Darreus Rogers, WR, USC
Adam O: Josh Dobbs, QB, Tennessee
Brandon went with Josiah Price here as the Lions future at the tight end two spot. The big tight end out of Michigan State is primarily a blocker but can do little things when asked in the receiving game, mainly as a safety outlet. He doesn’t move very well, which is a bit of a knock, but it’s rare that traditional blocking guys do. If he shows development in his technique across the board he could be a highly underrated asset to a Detroit team that needs what he can do so long as expectations are measured.
Cory went with Dareus Rodgers the wide receiver from USC with this pick. While Rodgers has obvious ability as a receiver with good hands and ball skills, it’s tough to say what his NFL role is. I would think he’s a possession guy due to his lack of deep speed but he needs to improve his physicality and route running to succeed in that position at the next level. He also needs to work on his blocking skills in order to effectively help in the run game. The long and short of it is he’s a developmental receiver that needs to work on a lot of things but sure handed players are tough to find and that’s a great starting point.
Finally I went with Josh Dobbs the quarterback out of Tennessee. While Dobbs could potentially be gone before here, teams could let him slide to this late point in the draft based on what they’re looking for in a developmental player. While he has a tendency to spray the ball, Dobbs has phenomenal athletic intangibles and all the right traits to be a successful quarterback. If he can get the chance to rebuild his throwing motion and technique from scratch with a team willing to work on him he could be a huge value pick here. Considering the Lions have had multiple meetings with him at this point you could Detroit is definitely interested.
Round 7 (Pick 253)
Brandon: Isaac Asiata, G, Utah
Cory: Montae Nicholson, SS, Michigan State
Adam O: De’Veon Smith, RB, Michigan
Brandon went with Isaac Asiata from Utah here. The monstrous 325 lbs guard is generally a power scheme guy but has the potential flexibility to fit as a right guard in a zone look. He’s a player that’s all power, who will dominate against anyone who tries to bullrush him head on, however he will need to work on his positioning and footwork to prevent shiftier guys from getting the best of him on a good pass rushing move. He’s definitely someone worth looking at as a developmental guy who can set a firm anchor in the pass game and bust holes open to assist with the run.
Cory went with Montae Nicholson out of Michigan State. Nicholson has all the traits to be a great player at the next level. Before he steps on the field he’s a physical freak for the position, with crazy speed for his size, explosiveness, and has the awareness to get anywhere on the field at any time. Last year’s tape though is rough. Playing on a bad Michigan State team hurt Nicholson mentally to the point where he suffers from confidence issues and it showed. He was indecisive in almost every level of his game and will need rehabilitation to get to playing the right way. That said though if the Lions find a way to get him in the seventh they’ve picked up a potential Kam Chancellor talent so that’s a fair risk in my opinion.
I pulled out De’Veon Smith the power runner out of Michigan in the seventh round. He’s a big pro style power back that can get north-south in a hurry with quick feet but no frills or fanciness whatsoever. He’s got strong vision, identifies his hole, and hits it with regularity, but the key will be whether he can generate his own push at the next level. He’s had issues in college at getting stuffed up if there’s no running lane and will not be able to create for himself with agility or speed at the next level. If he can demo through a blocked up line then he will be an asset, otherwise he’s a less dynamic Dwayne Washington with pass protection ability.
Condensed List Of Mock Draft Picks
[table id=8 /]