There are plenty of roster holes the Detroit Lions could fill with their ten picks in the 2016 NFL draft. Although only a few glaring needs exist, there is always room for improvement at other positions.
Projected Draft Strategy:
Offensive Line- It doesn’t make a ton of sense to draft an offensive tackle in round one who can’t eventually excel at left tackle. Right tackles can be had in later rounds.
Elite centers usually go mid-to-late first. Maybe Travis Swanson needs a year to mature, but drafting another center is a must in case Swanson’s issue isn’t just lack of experience.
Running Backs– After the addition of Stevan Ridley, it might be a luxury pick for Detroit to go after a running back early. It would be advantageous in the later rounds to nab a bigger athletic bruiser who can take it to the house once in the open field.
Quarterbacks– Bob Quinn has made it clear the Lions will draft a young backup quarterback. Brandon Allen, Jeff Driskel, Blake Frohnapfel, Kevin Hogan and Jake Rudock are guys to watch out for in day three.
Wide Receivers– There is no easy way to replace Calvin Johnson, but the Lions could benefit from a true deep threat and some size on the outside. It should not be a priority until after the third round barring any unforeseen slippage.
Defensive Tackle– There is a ton of defensive tackle talent in this year’s draft. The Lions have plenty of depth behind Haloti Ngata and it isn’t a huge need, but if a player is too good to pass up, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to have a contingency plan for the aging Ngata.
Defensive Ends/Linebackers– With outside linebacker and defensive end, the Lions have adequate players, but could upgrade or build quality depth. It is very possible that an OLB or DE ends up being their first-round selection because of the best player available philosophy.
Secondary– It is a deep safety draft and there are quite a few good looking prospects in the later rounds.
Cornerback will probably not be an early round priority, but Nevin Lawson is a below par number two. If a corner falls in the second or third, it would not be a surprise if they pulled the trigger.
In saying all this, here are six players per round that Detroit could potentially land in the first round.
Up Next: Round One
Trading down makes a lot of sense. There are too many second tier players after the first six elite prospects.
Ronnie Stanley, OT, Notre Dame- The only LT that would not be a reach at #16, most likely won’t be there.
Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson- May not ever be elite, but should be an all-around solid player. Would also fill an immediate need with only three NFL caliber DEs on the roster.
Darron Lee, LB, Ohio State- An under-the-radar possibility. Levy-type backer with unlimited potential. Still maturing into the position.
Round One (Trade down scenario): Players who the Lions should target but should try to trade down a few spots first.
Vernon Butler, DT, Louisiana Tech- My favorite DT in a strong class. Lions also appear interested.
Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama- The straight-line Derrick Henry had those huge holes to run through because of Kelly. A big drop-off in talent after the Alabama center.
Jason Spriggs, OT, Indiana- Don’t see the point of drafting an OT round one unless they can play on the left. Spriggs can.
Up Next: Round Two
These are all players who are first-round talents, but with question marks. I find their red flags less worrisome than most.
Emmanuel Ogbah, DE, Oklahoma State- Super athletic. More explosive than agile. Needs to improve consistency and effort.
Germain Ifedi, OG/OT, Texas A&M- A big man that should be able to fill in immediately at RT. Versatile as well.
Corey Coleman, WR, Baylor- Not the ideal size, only a limited route tree, and occasional focus drop will scare teams off. Still my No. 1 receiver. Flashes glimpses of OBJ.
Andrew Billings, DT, Baylor– One of the better DTs will fall to the mid 2nd round. Billings is a top-3 DT most years.
Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech- Has been a playmaker since day one at VT. Injuries during the pre-draft process have hampered his stock.
Darian Thompson, S, Boise State- Ball-hawk. Could have been a day one pick if he wasn’t sick at the combine.
Up next: Round Three
Jaylon Smith, LB, Notre Dame- At this point, if he is still floating around, he is worth the risk and the year of convalescence.
Deion Jones, LB, LSU- Continuing the trend with fast LBs. Very undersized, but that seems to be en vogue in the NFL.
Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh- Might not be elite in any category, but he knows how to control his body and make contested catches.
Javon Hargrave, DT, South Carolina State- Hate to put such a superstar comparison on him, but he has plenty of Aaron Donald-like attributes in him.
Sean Davis, CB/S, Maryland- Physical enough for safety yet still athletic enough to play corner.
Charles Tapper, DE, Oklahoma- His athleticism alone warrants the selection in the late third.
Up Next: Round Four
Charone Peake, WR, Clemson- Has it all, except production. I’ll gladly take the next graduate from WR University.
Matt Judon, DE, Grand Valley State- Local guy who looks like he belongs in the NFL. Will need a couple years to adjust.
Justin Simmons, S, Boston College- Other than his 40, he was a top performer in everything. He is 6-foot-2 and also has good game film.
Joe Haeg, OT, North Dakota State- The guy needs to get stronger for the NFL, but that shouldn’t be an issue with time. Future LT.
Jonathan Williams, RB, Arkansas- The only back I would not mind the Lions drafting within the first four rounds.
Max Tuerk, OC, USC- Was a 1st-team all PAC-12 player in ’14. Injuries limited his 2015 season and a majority of the pre-draft process.
Up Next: Round Five
Kyle Friend, OC, Temple- A combine snub. Not overly impressive when in street clothes, but has grit and gets the job done.
Kevin Byard, S, Middle Tennessee- Unfortunately, it appears the hype train has snagged Byard. He is good- and could even go as high as day two.
Kenny Lawler, WR, Cal- May have the best hands in the draft. Could be a Jarvis Landry type player.
Daryl Worley, CB, West Virginia- Good hands and plays the ball. Big enough to play outside.
Deon Bush, S, Miami- An intimidator we need in the back end. Far better than all the overhyped hybrid SS/OLBs in this draft.
Isaac Seumalo, OG, Oregon State- An injury derailed his college career. Can play just about anywhere.
Up Next: Round Six-UDFA
All of these players have flaws, but they also have plenty of upside.
Travis Feeney, OLB, Washington
Jeff Driskel, QB, Louisiana Tech
Darius Jackson, RB, Eastern Michigan
Aaron Wallace, OLB, UCLA
D.J. Hunter, S, Marshall
Cre’von LeBlanc, CB, Florida Atlantic
MarQuez North, WR, Tennessee
Trevor Davis, WR, Cal
Jatavis Brown, OLB, Akron
Stephen Weatherly, DE, Vanderbilt
Quinton Jefferson, DT, Maryland
Austin Blythe, OC, Iowa
Up Next: Overrated players who will not live up to the hype
Their NFL production will not match their draft selection.
Christian Hackenberg, QB, Penn State
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Derrick Henry, RB, Alabama
LaQuan Treadwell, WR, Ole Miss
Will Fuller, WR, Notre Dame
Michael Thomas, WR, Ohio State
Nick Martin, OC, Notre Dame
Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson
Artie Burns, CB, Miami
Vernon Hargreaves, CB, Florida
Su’a Cravens, OLB/SS, USC
Jeremy Cash, SS, Duke
Miles Killebrew, SS, Southern Utah