Mayhew can’t gamble on projects

Martin Mayhew drafted like a general manager who had some job security last year.

It will be much different for him when he’s making decisions this time for the NFL Draft in two months.

Instead of settling for help down the road, the Detroit Lions need to find rookies who can contribute immediately. Otherwise, Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz might not be around a year from now.

That’s how quickly security can disappear in professional sports.

A year ago, the Lions were coming off a 10-victory playoff season and bringing back 21 of 22 starters. Mayhew seemed to be looking more into the future by taking Riley Reiff, an offensive tackle, with the 23rd pick overall and then Ryan Broyles, a receiver coming off knee surgery, in the second round.

The Lions had more pressing needs for 2012 on defense, especially in the secondary, while their entire starting offensive line and three top receivers were coming back.

Mayhew, obviously, misjudged some of his team’s talent, a mistake he can’t afford to make again. Coming off a 4-12 disaster, Mayhew and Schwartz appear to be on the hot seat.

With that in mind, they seemingly can’t afford to take any chances or projects. There’s no more drafting for the future.

It’s got to be an absolute sure-thing with that No. 5 pick overall.

The problem with this approach is that this draft class features some players with jaw-dropping athleticism who project as possible, if not probable, elite players in a couple years.

Monday’s workouts at the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis featured a couple of these extraordinary athletes in Oregon’s Dion Jordan and BYU’s Ziggy Ansah. Both are considered defensive end/outside linebacker hybrids.

But Jordan, measured at 6-foot-6, 248 pounds, is too small to play defensive end against the run in the NFL. He needs to put on as much as 20 pounds, which won’t happen in his first year because he has to undergo shoulder surgery for a torn labrum and will be unable to get into the weight room for a while.

Jordan ran the 40-yard dash in 4.6 seconds, and the NFL Network analysts marveled at his athleticism and potential.

“Dion Jordan is a freak,” said Willie McGinest, a former NFL linebacker.

Mike Mayock, a former New York Giants defensive back, said that Jordan has “so much upside.”

Some scouts see a “raw” Aldon Smith when they watch Jordan.

Smith was used primarily as a situational pass rusher as a rookie by the San Francisco 49ers in 2011. He then became a full-time starter at linebacker last season. He has 33 ½ sacks in his first two years in the NFL.

Ansah, meanwhile, ran the 40 in 4.63 seconds — remarkable for a guy who is 6-5, 271 pounds. Ansah, who grew up in Africa, only started to play football in 2010.

“He fascinates me,” said former Lions coach Steve Mariucci, now working with the NFL Network.

Ansah is viewed as a “raw” Jason Pierre-Paul, a defensive end who had 16 1/2 sacks for the New York Giants in 2011.

Like Jordan, the question is how long will it take Ansah to live up to those expectations and excel in the NFL under the circumstances?

“Sometimes you’ve got to wait,” Mariucci said. “Good things come to those who wait.”

It doesn’t appear that Mayhew can wait, which is part of the problem with being on the hot seat. There’s a tendency to turn down the long-term rewards because of the short-term risk.
• Mayock called Michigan State defensive end William Gholston “a little bit of an enigma.”

“He’s got all the ability in the world, but why was he only honorable mention Big Ten this past year?” Mayock asked. “He’s loaded with ability and he should be a base 4-3 end for somebody. He should play in the NFL at a high level.”

Gholston, who is 6-6, 281 pounds, was timed in 4.96 seconds in the 40 and finished with 23 reps in the 225-pound bench-press.

Now he has to convince NFL teams that his effort will match his talent.
• Sharrif Floyd, a defensive tackle from Florida, arguably could be the most talented player in the draft.

Hall of Famer Warren Sapp, a former D-tackle, was raving about Floyd after watching his workout.

“Oh my goodness,” Sapp said.

Floyd, who is 6-3, 297 pounds, ran the 40 in 4.92 seconds.

“You just don’t find men that size that can move like this young man,” Sapp said. “He is a special talent.”

The Lions, of course, already have two quality, young defensive tackles in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.

Is two company and three a crowd?

In the Lions’ case, the answer seems to be yes because they need the full-time starter to try to plug one of those many holes.
• Texas’ A&M’s Damontre Moore is rated as one of the top defensive ends, making him a potential target for the Lions.

Moore, however, showed poor strength with only 12 reps in the bench-press.

“Totally unacceptable,” Mayock said.