As someone who doesn’t normally do this sort of thing, I think calling this a “Far Too Early” Mock draft is pretty fitting. There are so many factors that go into any draft that it’s quite literally impossible to predict with absolute certainty what ANY team will do with their picks, let alone what EVERY team will do. Still, they’re fun as hell, and nobody can really dispute that. It’s fun to speculate, even more fun to pretend that the cards will fall in your favor, but I’ll try to do what I normally do which is over-analyze every little detail to come up with my first Mock Draft of the season! So without further ado, here is Kents Korner’s Far Too Early Mock Draft 2014!
Pick 1, 10th Overall
The Detroit Lions select…Mike Evans, Wide Receiver out of Texas A&M!
Ht: 6’5″ Wt: 225 lbs
Expected 40 time: 4.50-4.60
69 Receptions, 1,394 Yards, 12 TDs
Prior to the Bowl Season, this would fall into the “Too good to be true” category. Since that time, we’ve seen a lot of guys rise and fall, and Mike Evans has kinda been one of those guys watching people move around him. What will likely bring his stock back up to where it should be, at least in the general public’s eye, are reports like the recent metrics released by Greg Peshek on Rotoworld. Things like these illustrate what I’ve already been seeing on film, which is a receiver that can get downfield despite a supposed lack of speed (More than a quarter of his targets were beyond 20 yards), a receiver that catches everything (Only a 4.29% drop rate, the lowest of the top WRs), and a player that despite being a big guy is still able to make the moves in space he needs to while picking up yards after the catch (Explained in detail in the link). Evans started the season my 5th overall player and ends it at #2 behind only Jadeveon Clowney. So why does he fall to us? The electrifying nature of fellow WR prospect Sammy Watkins will likely make him the first receiver picked up in the draft; teams needing help on the ends will likely take Clowney, Barr, or on the other side of the ball Matthews and Robinson; and of course the annual “Run of the QBs” should push Evans to the Lions at 10th overall. The Lions, needing a receiver to compliment Calvin Johnson, jump at the chance to add the strongest receiver in this class and, I believe, the best and most balanced receiver in this class.
Pick 2, 42nd Overall
The Detroit Lions select…Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, Tight End out of Washington!
Ht: 6’6″ Wt: 276 lbs
Expected 40 time: 4.70-4.680
36 Receptions, 450 Yards, 8 TDs
With all due respect to my colleague at DetroitLionsDraft.com (And B/R fame), Jeff Risdon, I don’t think Jace Amaro falls to the Lions in the 2nd round. It would be nice, amazing really, especially after the Lions first pick, but I don’t see it happening (I will NOT cry if it does). The Lions consolation prize is Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, who I DO see falling this far. Starting the season as the top ranked Tight End, ASJ started to fall after a lackluster season at Washington, not all of which was his fault. Additional flags surfaced when he faced a suspension, and questions about his consistency started to creep up. Anyone watching him on tape can see how soft his hands are and how he can high point the ball, but they’ll also see a guy who runs some pretty sloppy routes at times. You’ll probably see a lot of folks claim ASJ is a great blocker, no doubt due to his size and some team stats, but individually on tape, he looks a lot smaller than he is when he takes on blocks and it’s frustrating to me. In this scenario, I’m assuming Brandon Pettigrew is left to fend for himself in free agency and the Lions seamlessly shift to a similarly talented, but healthy and with better hands, Tight end. I tend to agree with Joe Marino over at BuffaloBillsDraft.com that ASJ falls to the early 2nd round, and it’s there the Lions snatch him up. Some may question my pick of a Tight End in the second round, and I struggled with the pick, but it tends to balance itself out because…
Pick 3, 74th Overall
The Detroit Lions select…Kenny Ladler, Safety out of Vanderbilt!
Ht: 6’0″ Wt: 205 lbs
Expected 40 time: 4.50-4.60
89 Tackles, 5 Interceptions
I have Ladler ranked a little higher than most do, as he’s often ranked in the mid 3rd to early 4th making this selection about a half round early. However, you can bet you’ll see him on my yearly Sleepers’ list, as he’s a player I’ve been keeping an eye on for a good while now. Similar in application (Though not quite talent) as Saints 1st round pick Kenny Vaccarro, Ladler is a Center Field type much in the way the Lions tried to use Louis Delmas in 2013. Despite probably running a combine 40 that won’t really wow anyone, he has the speed and range to cover a lot of ground quickly, and takes pretty good angles to converge on the ball. Better in coverage than he is in run support, the biggest problem that will stand out to most (And the biggest reason he’s a 3-4 round guy) is his tackling technique which is suspect. Still, technique is teachable, instincts are not. The Lions are looking to put an excellent defensive staff together, especially in terms of their secondary (Though they haven’t hired a secondary coach, DC Teryl Austin has a TON of experience in this area, Head Coach Caldwell started his career in that area, and they’re still adding at least one more guy). This is a very high upside pick, but Ladler will likely have the year to sit behind long time starter Louis Delmas and while Delmas remained healthy in 2013, it’s likely that streak will break eventually and give Ladler game time experience.
Pick 4, 127th Overall
The Detroit Lions select…Chris Boswell, Kicker out of Rice!
14/21 FGs, 66.7%. LNG 56 yards
WHAT! A KICKER! Yes, a Kicker. You might notice by the position that this means the Lions traded down, and that’s entirely because I’m a cheater and want more picks (And it’s something likely to happen). The Lions need a Kicker, badly, and the recent successes of players like Blair Walsh and Justin Tucker make a Kicker have a bit more value than most years. I’ve covered Boswell in detail before, so I won’t bore you with more, but try to look past his simple 2013 stats and take a bigger picture approach to his career and what he brings to the table. Try and remember that the Great Jason Hanson only kicked a CAREER 65% in college, and still went in the second round. The Lions fill a need with one of the best Kickers in this draft class. Oh, there’s also stuff like this. Seriously watch that video.
Pick 5, 159th Overall
The Detroit Lions select…Max Bullough, Linebacker out of Michigan State!
Ht: 6’3″ Wt: 265 lbs
Expected 40 time: 4.70-4.80
80 Tackles, 1.5 Sacks
I’m going to start this explanation by simply saying that everyone loves a comeback story. Bullough is one of the most beloved players in MSU history, and rightly so. His play on the field and leadership over one of the Nations’ best defenses is lauded at every turn, and rightfully so. Still, his draft stock was rated in the low 4th round range at its most generous due to a lack of noticeable speed or burst and underwhelming level of power when taking on blockers. Not content to let his draft stock slide on its own, Bullough was suspended for the most important game of his college football career, the 2013 Rose Bowl, for a violation of team rules. Worse still, he showed up for the East-West Shrine Game practice at 265 lbs., about 20 lbs over his playing weight of 245. There is a very real possibility that Bullough doesn’t get drafted AT ALL. So why am I picking him here in the late 5th round? It’s below where he was originally projected, but this pick fills a couple of different purposes. For one, the Lions could use the LB depth. With Travis Lewis doing everything he can to force himself out the door, Ashlee Palmer showing he can’t start in any capacity, and Rocky McIntosh netting as many penalties as tackles on special teams, the team could use some LB depth. Additionally, and this will sound shallow, coach Jim Caldwell needs to do some PR and this is a low risk pickup that will do just that with minimal effort on Caldwell’s part. Simultaneously showing that he values local talent while also showing he’s willing to take a risk on someone with character flags, Caldwell takes a risk that is much bigger on paper than in reality. Mayhew does most of the work, but how Caldwell deals with Bullough in Training Camp could do a lot to endear him to the fan base. Outside of the somewhat political view, Bullough isn’t a bad pick at this spot, and his intangibles mean he has a genuine shot to take over one of the LB spots if Tulloch or Starter3 goes down with injury.
Pick 6, 170th Overall
The Detroit Lions select…Nevin Lawson, Cornerback out of Utah State!
Ht: 5’10″ Wt: 186 lbs
Expected 40 time: 4.40-4.50
52 Tackles, 4 Interceptions, 1 TD
This will probably disappoint many of you, who hope that the Lions pick up a CB early in the draft and even then hope for a guy over 6′ and sub 4.3 (Because magic). Still, we’re talking about the 6th round here and there are two kinds of players you pick up this late: Special Teamers and Long Term Developmental prospects. Lawson falls a little bit in both of those categories. Undersized but with a frame that could bulk up a little, we’re looking at a player that lacks the power to really cause havoc at the line of scrimmage. We’re also talking about a player that has a lot of upside in the long term, and while I’d like to be talking about a future shut down corner I’m really talking about an upgrade at Gunner. Jeremy Ross is doing a fine job, as is Don Carey who was recently locked up, but the Lions have an opportunity to develop a player underneath the same system since they retained John Bonamego. Ross has cemented himself as the returner (Though we’ll see some competition this offseason), meaning one of those gunner spots can open up in a hurry. I’d prefer the Lions to take someone they really want to develop in the Gunner position, and I feel Lawson fits that bill easily.
Pick 7, 202nd Overall
The Detroit Lions select…Garrison Smith, Defensive Tackle out of Georgia!
Ht: 6’3″ Wt: 300 lbs
Expected 40 time: 5.0-5.05
63 Tackles, 6 Sacks
This is a need I would have liked to fill earlier in the draft, but was unable to simply due to the players that were available at the time. It’s an underrated need, but the Lions even under a new coach are going to rotate their Defensive Tackles fairly often, and the lack of depth after CJ Mosley is deafening. The Lions will likely still look to Free Agency to fill the depth at this position, but you can do a lot worse than someone like Smith.
So there you have it for my first Mock Draft. The Lions fill needs at several positions, but a couple of those were vacated by having to move on from FAs or wait out the life of a contract. Beyond that, it’s depth outside of Special Teams, but a good starter draft for a Coach in his first year, providing no reasons to not improve on at least one side of the ball and putting the team to at least remain steady on the other side.