I’m not going to go into the Lions’ less than glorious record of drafting Wide Recievers early in the draft. Frankly, it’s a moot point, every team has hits and misses and the Lions just ended up with more than their fair share of misses. As the 2013 season comes closer to its end, the Lions draft position becomes a lot clearer and we can start paying closer attention to draft prospects at positions of need. The Lions biggest needs remain the same as they were to start the season with only a couple of omissions: OT and LB. Now, the Lions DO need a Linebacker, and I’ll go into greater detail with that at another time, but not with their first round pick as they already have DeAndre Levy playing at an All Pro level and the ever vigilant Stephen Tulloch rebounding after a rough 2012. So that leaves Wide Receiver and Cornerback as their most pressing needs, with Center an obvious need also that maybe isn’t quite as pressing. Keep in mind that many of the players I will be covering have NOT yet declared for the draft, so there’s still the chance they return. After record setting numbers of underclassmen declaring last season, I’d think that it gets topped this season, however. Today, we’re going to take a look at the Detroit Lions best draft options at Wide Receiver, and hopefully just get a little name recognition out there!
Look, I know the Lions have been bad for a really long time. It’s hard for fans to understand, then, that the best guys at any given position of need will almost definitely not be available when the Lions are picking later in the first round. So it is with a heavy heart that I let you all know that the Lions will not be drafting Mike Evans out of Texas A&M. The Megatron sized receiver is a beast and the most perfect fit you could have for their offense, he’s just not going to be available that late in the first. You can probably rule out Sammy Watkins as well. The athletic Clemson product is a nightmare for opposing Defensive Coordinators, and while I think he’s just as good as everybody else thinks, I don’t have faith Scott Linehan would know what to do with him. He’s also likely going to be gone. One guy that may just fall to the Lions is Marquise Lee from USC, but his profile is big enough that I don’t feel the early drops this season would drop his draft stock enough to keep some WR needy team from picking him up or even trading up to get him. So those three guys are likely gone. Moving on.
Projected in the late 1st, early 2nd round, Robinson should be available when the Lions are on the clock and it wouldn’t be a reach to pick him up then. The single season record holder in receptions for the Nittany Lions, Robinson is your typical NFL mold receiver, big and physical with good speed. Catching roughly 64% of his targets, Robinson has been a reliable target on a team that tends to use their receivers as an augmentation of the running game. He is a good downfield blocker, something the Lions have prized in their receivers this season since acquiring Reggie Bush. His route running is unrefined, easily on the low end of his skill set, but he uses his height and length very well and gets good separation with excellent body control. He is likely to declare for the draft, and he’s a guy that could raise his draft stock if he pulls in a lower than 4.5 combine 40 time, which is a big concern for him as a prospect. Ball control is another issue he will have to address during the combine drills, and he’ll be one that I’m watching very closely.
Another player with prototypical size, he’s been on my radar all season and actually started as my 3rd ranked receiver behind Evans and Watkins. Also projected in the late 1st to early 2nd round, Matthews might see the biggest jump or drop out of all the guys I’m looking at. Matthews isn’t the special athlete that Watkins is, nor does he have the insane body control that Robinson has, but he has a good mesh of all the skills you want out of a wide out. One of the better route runners in this class, Matthews probably has the least wow factor being more of a chain mover than a play maker. The good thing is the Lions already have their play maker and just need someone to do their job, work the field. One of the highest character prospects to come out of this draft, Jordan Matthews is a player you love to root for. He’s by all accounts a hard worker and a team leader who can play all three positions for a receiver. He doesn’t have the downfield blocking ability the Lions have been seeking, but it’s a skill that can be developed. His bloodlines are about as good as you can ever get (Jerry Rice is his cousin), for those that pay attention to that sort of thing. Though not considered as physical as he should be for his size, Matthews has taken some pretty big hits in his career and gets up every time. He’s tough.
One name that has been thrown around a lot for the Lions in the second round is Odell Beckham Jr. A big part of LSU’s passing game, ODB (Oh yeah, he’s being called ODB from now on) doesn’t fit the same mold as the last two guys. Not a very physical receiver, he doesn’t have the elite speed you’d want from a smaller receiver. What he does have is a shiftiness to his game, often referred to as a slippery receiver, reminiscent of players like Jeremy Maclin or Steve Smith. His jump cut is beautiful and this guy can break ankles. Because of his ability to break tackles, he gets a lot of those “Wow” plays where a defender is left on the turf and there is nothing but open field for him to run through. ODB sees the whole field as a receiver, and could fit in the role the Lions were hoping for Ryan Broyles to fill, though he can play outside as well as in the slot. More quick than fast, he can also return punts though I don’t think his speed is good enough to be a full time kick returner as well. He isn’t a good blocker, or even a marginal one for that matter, but in the cases where downfield blocking were required it is likely he would be the one with the ball rather than the one creating space. He doesn’t drop a lot of passes, and despite being a shifty guy that uses his body to fake out defenders, he doesn’t turn upfield without the ball secured very often.
No, those stats are not a typo, nor are they career stats. Cooks is kind of a monster. His 40 time is probably about right, though I’d bet he runs quite a bit better at the combine, but he is also living proof of how meaningless that stat can be at times. Easily one of the biggest (Smallest) mutants from this season’s draft class, Cooks is in a whole different universe than some of the guys he’s up against. So why is he rated as a 2nd round prospect? Well, he’s little. Aaaaand that’s it. Cooks has it all. Route Running? Probably one of the best in this class. Speed? Damn good. Hands? Like glue. Change of direction? The guy has cheat codes on. Athleticism? He could donate his body to science. Stanford Head Coach, when asked about Brandin Cooks, had only one thing to say…”Wow.” If you can’t tell, I like him as a prospect. However, much like Sammy Watkins, I just can’t see Scott Linehan finding ways to use him in this offense. He’s clearly a dangerous weapon, but I’m not sure he’s as suited to this offense as he would be many others.
the Lions’ present receiving corps consists of a 6’5″ receiver, a 6’6″ receiver, a 6’5″ tight end, and a 6’8″ tight end. You know what it could use? Another 6’6″ receiver! Coleman brings size in spades, and while he’s likely to be available for the Lions in the second round, it’s possible he jumps up draft boards. While he’s listed at 6’5″, many sites also have him at 6’6″ and his combine weigh in will be interesting. Your typical red zone target, Coleman’s lack of long speed means he’ll have to be carefully utilized by the Offensive Coordinator to keep him engaged in the offense for most of the field. He has sure hands, and rarely loses concentration even in traffic. His stats for this season are reflective of how often he’s utilized, however, and it’s a big reason he won’t gain much first round consideration. The only thing I really don’t like about Coleman is he is an “almost” player. He’s ALMOST ready to break out, he’s ALMOST on the brink of something big. We rarely get to see something truly special. It’s this trait that really turned me off to Alshon Jeffery, however, and clearly there are ways to use that to your advantage. Having someone like Calvin Johnson on the other side truly helps. His route running has been barely touched at Rutgers, and there will be growing pains in the NFL.