This is Step #4 of a six-step plan to make the Lions a perennial playoff contender and if all is going well, the Lions have accomplished the following:
- General manager Martin Mayhem and head coach Jim Schwartz have been advised that the Lions must finish at least 9-7 in 2013 or their contracts will be terminated at the end of the year. (Step #1)
- Negotiations are under way or have been completed to sign quarterback Matthew Stafford to a long-term contract and the Lions have traded defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (see article on Suh going to the Saints). (Step #2)
- The Lions have informed free agents Cliff Avril and Louis Delmas that they are free to pursue contracts with other teams. (Step #3)
Successful completion of Steps #2 and #3 frees up salary cap money and also secures a couple of extra picks in the 2013 NFL draft. Now the Lions can invest in draft-worthy players and medium to low-cost free agents.
Get it right or say goodbye
The selection of a team's first pick in the NFL draft is where a lot of general managers and head coaches crash and burn. I can remember way back in 1989 when the Green Bay Packers picked Michigan State offensive tackle Tony Mandarich ahead of Oklahoma State running back Barry Sanders. Or how about the shrewd San Diego Chargers who selected quarterback Ryan Leaf in 1998?
Having given the "win or else" objective to Mayhew and Schwartz, they absolutely have to nail the Lions' first selection in the 2013 NFL Draft. Using the No. 5 pick to choose Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o had a lot of momentum going into the BCS championship game and then it all came to a grinding halt. (I tiptoed around the situation on New Year’s Eve by writing that Step #4 for the Lions is to “select the best linebacker or pass rusher with your first pick in the 2013 NFL draft.")
The Lions need a linebacker, because the two starters on the outside - DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant - are free agents and one or both may not be back for the 2013 season. Unfortunately, Te’o had a subpar performance against Alabama and fell dramatically in the mock draft charts. And since the Lions need a “game breaker” (thank you, Martin Mayhew), their attention has shifted (we can hope) to an aggressive pass rusher and run stopper.
Here are some favorites based on a review of popular mock draft sites on the Internet:
Defensive End Damontre Moore, Texas A & M
Damontre Moore has been consistently listed as one of the top five players in the 2013 NFL draft by mock draft web sites, so there is a possibility he might not be available when the Lions get to the No. 5 pick overall. Mel Kiper of ESPN has listed Moore as No. 2 on his draft board, but WalterFootball.com believes Moore will still be available for selection by the Lions at No. 5.
Moore recorded 12.5 sacks and 80 tackles for Texas A&M in 2012 and would be the best candidate to replace departing defensive end Cliff Avril. He is a 6’4”, 248-pound end with great speed and moves well laterally.
Defensive End/Outside Linebacker Barkevious Mingo, LSU
Is Barkevious Mingo a defensive end or an outside linebacker? Scouts Inc. has Mingo slightly ahead of Georgia’s Jarvis Jones at outside linebacker, while other mock draft experts consider him more of a pass-rushing defensive end.
Mingo is 6’4” and 240 pounds. CBSSports.com describes him as “a long-armed, explosive athlete who plays with surprising power despite his lack of ideal weight.”
Defensive End Bjoern Werner, Florida State
Bjoern Werner is the biggest of the three pass rushing prospects. He is 6’4”, but weighs 256 pounds and is very strong in defending against the run. Mingo and Moore are more likely to get pushed around by opposing linemen, while Werner is able to stand his ground and battle back at the point of attack.
NFLDRAFTSCOUT.com has him listed as the No. 2 overall player on the 2013 NFL draft board. Speculation on the web has him going anywhere from the No. 2 pick to the No. 9 pick overall.
“Outside of the Box” Possibilities
“Outside of the Box” picks will depend on how effectively the Lions have followed the six-step plan and some big-time “If” statements.
If the Lions have traded away Ndamukong Suh to free up cap money and the NFL draft is as unpredictable as ever, then defensive tackle Star Lotulelei may be available to select with the No. 5 pick. Lotulelei is considered the best defensive tackle in the draft, though some may question why make this move early in the draft when the Lions could attempt to re-sign Sammie Lee Hill and/or Corey Williams.
The other possibility is addressing the Lions’ apparent weaknesses in the secondary. Alabama’s Dee Milliner is considered the best cornerback in the draft, but he’s been projected by many mock draft web sites as a No. 7 pick overall. It would be a bit of a stretch for Detroit to go after a starter in the secondary instead of addressing their needs on the defensive line and at linebacker.
With the No. 5 pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select
I predict it will be Bjoern Werner. He is the strongest of a great group of defensive ends in this year's draft. His ability to stuff the run and rush the passer suits the Lions' needs.
If we traded Suh and have the No. 15 pick, the Lions will select
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o has fallen in the mock drafts to a point that he should be available for selection in the middle of the 1st round. Speculation is Te'o would play middle linebacker for the Lions and Stephen Tulloch would start as one of the outside linebackers.
Other possibilities include:
- Cornerback Dee Milliner, Alabama - if he is still available at No. 15
- Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, Missouri - Suh's replacement
- Defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State - Suh's replacement
- Safety Kenny Vaccaro, Texas - Delmas' replacement
Essentially, Step #4 replaces veterans and their costly contracts with rookies that are signed to more manageable contracts. It requires cutting ties with popular players like Suh, Avril and Delmas and relying on the growing youth movement in the NFL.
Next Article - Step #5: Draft defense first and offensive line second.