Detroit Lions 2012 Draft Options: Draft Best Player Available or Team Needs?

Seattle Lion FanAnalyst IIFebruary 6, 2012

Let's Hope the Lions Brain Trust Stays on Track!
Let's Hope the Lions Brain Trust Stays on Track!Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Super Bowl XLVI is over, and once again, the New York Giants have beaten the New England Patriots in dramatic fashion by the score of 21-17.

Congratulations to the Giants and my apologies to the on to more important things:  the 2012 NFL Draft and the Detroit Lions.

I have written a few articles regarding the Lions' draft strategy.  My beliefs have always been to draft for positional needs with the caveat of getting the best player available for that position.  And I will admit that I have eaten my share of crow since the Lions have been rather successful in recent drafts by taking the best play player available.  But for so long, the Lions needed upgrading everywhere; how could they go wrong?

At this point in the Lions' road to success, I’m not sure if "best player available" is the correct strategy. 

The Lions took huge strides towards becoming a viable threat to other NFL teams.  But they need to get to that next level—the level where they aren’t just a threat—where they become a probability to get to the Super Bowl.

So that brings us to the 2012 NFL Draft.  In my assessment, the Lions needs, in the following order, are:

Left tackle, cornerback, strong safety, defensive end, center, linebacker and right tackle.

They also need to address depth at running back, quarterback and punter, but those can be addressed via free agency.

The examples below are not to be construed as a mock draft but more a discussion of theory.  It’s also because I took a lazy route since I have only researched the Lions and do not take into consideration any possible trades that could occur.

I will present in each round the best player available and what the Lions need.

Round 1, Pick 23

Best Player Available

Mark Barron, Strong Safety, Alabama—had a strong senior season with 66 tackles, five passes broken up, four tackles for loss and two interceptions.  Barron is a hard-hitting safety with great instincts.  He stays around the ball and makes clutch plays.  Alabama had a complex defensive scheme and Barron had no issues with it and would easily fit in a Gunther Cunningham defense.

Lions Need

Jonathon Martin, Left Tackle, Stanford—at 6’6” and 305 pounds, he dominated as a run-blocker and pass-blocker for the anointed number one pick in this year’s draft, Andrew Luck.  What better recommendation can you have to protect Matthew Stafford?

Choice:  Jonathon Martin—Jeff Backus, while playing every game and not getting injured, has never been considered an elite left tackle.  Martin gives you an NFL-ready, elite-status tackle and top flight protection of Stafford for the next ten years.

Round 2, Pick 54

Best Player Available

Andrew Datko, Right Offensive Tackle, Florida State—this is a boom or bust pick at best.  Datko has had shoulder injury issues and his latest surgery “didn’t take” according to Florida State’s head coach Jimbo Fischer.  If he can prove his shoulders are sound and get past the injury bug, he has the ability to play at a high level.  He shut down Clemson’s defensive end Andre Branch.  Perhaps too big a gamble in the second round.

Lions Need

Stephon Gilmore, Cornerback, South Carolina—a special player for South Carolina and a consistent source for big plays.  He’s been a starter since his freshman year and is an NFL-ready run defender at cornerback.

Choice:  Stephon Gilmore—c’mon, the Lions secondary, while much improved last year, still is the weakest link of the defense.  Gilmore can cover, tackle and will come up with the big plays.  With him and Houston or Wright along with Delmas, the secondary becomes stronger.

Third Round, Pick 86

Best Player Available

Marcus Forston, Defensive Tackle, Miami (FL)—playing in only three games before going down with a knee injury, Firston recorded five tackles.  If he can get back to his playing level of 2008 when he had 18 tackles with 4.5 for losses and three sacks, he would make the Lions front four even more devastating.  Issue is to make sure he can stay healthy.

Lions Need

Antonio Allen, Strong Safety, South Carolina—despite missing two games with a hamstring injury, he finished second on his team with 70 tackles, 10.5 of them for losses.

Choice:  Antonio Allen—as much as I would like to make the defensive line even stronger, I think by taking Gilmore and Allen, the Lions secondary would be Gilmore and Wright at the corners with Allen and Delmas as safeties.  Now you have a strong secondary in addition to a strong defensive line which can lead to more disruptions, sacks and turnovers.

 Fourth Round, Pick 117

Best Player Available

James Michael Johnson, Middle Linebacker, Nevada—a solid season for Jonson at Nevada with 87 tackles, 3.5 of them for losses to go along with one interception and one forced fumble.  No history of injuries and could become a decent linebacker in the NFL.

Lions Need

Jonathon Massaq, Defensive End, Troy—a great physical player at 6’2”, 286 lbs. with 4.7 speed.  He doesn’t shy away from contact with offensive lineman.  He recorded 13.5 sacks and 20.5 tackles for loss among his 76 tackles in 2011.  He’ll need to add some strength to play in the NFL, but having him tutored by Kyle Vanden Bosh for a year will only make him better.

Choice:  Toss up for this one.  Johnson would be a developmental linebacker and Massaq has a greater upside for success.  We have the middle of the line taken care of with Suh, Fairly, Williams and Fluellen.  And even if the Lions lose Williams, the middle is still strong.  I’d favor taking Massaq here since getting to the quarterback in this passing era is a high priority.

Fifth Round, Pick 142

Best Player Available

Josh Robinson, Cornerback, Central Florida—started all 12 games at cornerback and recorded 48 tackles, 34 of them solo, 15 passes broken up with two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown.  A solid cornerback with excellent tackling skills, he would fit in nicely with the Lions.

Lions Need

David Molk, Center, University of Michigan—he’s a fast and mobile blocker and does a great job of opening holes for the running game.  However, at 6’2” and 286 lbs., he needs at least 20 more pounds and some added strength to become an NFL-caliber center.

Choice:  David Molk—I waffled a bit on this one.  Not sure if the Lions need to go with another undersized center as they have with Dominic Railoa.  But if Molk can bulk up to at least 300 lbs. and keep his agility, he would be an upgrade over Railoa.

Sixth Round, Pick 173

Best Player Available

Cliff Harris, Cornerback, Oregon—not sure about this guy’s character.  He was suspended from the team after getting stopped for going 118 MPH with a suspended license.  He was later cited for possession of pot and kicked off the Oregon Beaver football team.  But for all his faults off the field, he is electric on it.  In 2011, he had six interceptions, 33 tackles and 17 defended passes.  As a punt returner, he brought four back for touchdowns.  Lions will need to feel confident that any and all discipline issues are in the past before taking a chance on him.

Lions Need

Chris Galippo, Middle Linebacker, USC—started every game at middle linebacker at USC and had a solid season with 70 tackles, eight of them for losses, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.  He could be a steal here as he’s developed a chip on his shoulder being projected to go in the lower rounds of the draft.

Choice:  Chris Galippo—Galippo could be the best linebacker the Lions draft since Chris Spielman.  He’s dedicated to the game and leaves it all on the field.  The one thing that players want to know is if you have their backs.  Harris strikes me as a bit of a selfish player.

Seventh Round, Pick 206

Best Player Available                                             

Evan Rodriguez, Fullback, Temple—not very impressive physically at 6’1” and 242 lbs.  However, he has great hands and can focus on making the tough catches in the passing game.  He struggles with blocking but could be a great check-down option in third down situations and offer Matthew Stafford yet another weapon to throw to.

Lions Need

Marcel Jones, Right Tackle, Nebraska—suffered a lot of injuries during his college career but still showed enough potential to be rated 19th out of 221 offensive tackles.  If he can stay healthy, he could take Gosder’s spot at right tackle.

Choice:  Evan Rodriguez—Gosder has played well enough, and if the Lions take Jonathon Martin in the first round, Backus can move over to the right side and we can trade Gosder.  I like the idea of offering a big target out of the backfield for Stafford and defenses can double cover so many receivers.  He could be the Lions key to extending drives.

So there you have it.  Again, this is by no means a definitive mock draft.  It’s merely a view point that drafting for need can work just as well as taking best player available.

Thanks for reading!