What happens with the top-4 selections in Thursday night’s first round of the NFL Draft could greatly affect what the Detroit Lions end up doing with the No. 5 pick overall.
Here’s a mini-mock draft to try to sort out what might — and should — happen with the Lions:
1) Kansas City: The Chiefs are likely locked in on one of the top two offensive tackles. The question is whether they’ll go with Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel or Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher. Jockel is considered more polished right now, partly because he played against tougher competition, but Fisher could have the greater upside.
2) Jacksonville: Some projections have Oregon’s Dion Jordan, an outside linebacker, going here. But the Jaguars are so woeful on the offensive line that it’s hard to imagine they’ll let that second top-rated tackle get away.
3) Oakland: There have been rumors that this pick could be traded, even to the Lions, but if the Raiders stand pat, they can add a disruptive presence on defense.
PICK: Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd. 4) Philadelphia: Not surprisingly, some projections have new coach Chip Kelly targeting Jordan, one of his former players at Oregon. The Eagles, however, have issues on the offensive line. The athleticism of Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson would be an ideal fit for Kelly’s up-tempo offense.
5) Detroit: The Lions might not get the opportunity to take an offensive tackle to replace retired Jeff Backus on the left side of the line. They could have to trade up or hope that Jacksonville or Philadelphia goes for Jordan.
The other options would be a much-needed pass rusher (BYU defensive end Ziggy Ansah or Jordan, who is considered too small to play defensive end at this point) or a cornerback (Alabama’s Dee Milliner).
All three of these positions are areas of need for a club coming off a 4-12 season. Plugging any of the holes should help improve this team.
However, if there’s one position that’s needed more than the rest, it is clearly defensive end.
The Lions might be able to piece together a decent offensive line with some combination of Riley Reiff, who can play either guard or tackle, tackles Corey Hilliard and Jason Fox, and guards Bill Nagy and Rodney Austin.
They definitely would be better up front with Joeckel, Fisher or even Johnson, but it might work with what they’ve got coming back.
The cornerback spot also would be stronger with Milliner, provided he’s recovered from shoulder surgery, but the Lions might be able to get by with Bill Bentley taking over that starting job.
Bentley was impressive in training camp and the preseason before suffering a shoulder injury that eventually shut him down early in his rookie season.
As for defensive end, no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t make an argument that they have the pieces in place right now to get the job done.
With the departure of Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, and with Lawrence Jackson still an unsigned free agent, the Lions have only three defensive ends on their current roster. None of them — free-agent addition Jason Jones, Willie Young or Ronnell Lewis — is the potential impact player needed in the NFL these days to wreak havoc on the quarterback.
The best chance to get that guy is in the first round of this draft. He’s less likely to be there in the second round, in a trade or with an unsigned free agent at this point.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew arguably need to win in 2013 to save their jobs. That’s probably not going to happen if they don’t have someone to rush the quarterback.
Yes, he’s raw with only a couple years of football experience. He’s also 6-foot-5, 271 pounds and ran the 40-yard dash in 4.63 seconds at the Scouting Combine.
Simplify the game for him. Put him out wide in the Lions’ defensive scheme and just let him attack the backfield so his freakish athleticism takes over.
At this point, he’s seems to be the best option the Lions have to fill a crucial, game-changing position.