5 2014 NFL Draft Prospects Guaranteed to Interest the Detroit Lions
When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell steps to the podium in May and utters "With the 10th pick in the 2014 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions select...," what names might we hear to complete his announcement?
Right now, it could be any number of names. After all, we are very early in the draft process.
Add in the lack of a current head coach or new staff, and it's hard to forecast the name Goodell will pronounce.
The scouting staff and management remain in place, however, and they have been working diligently in breaking down potential Lions. Here are five players sure to enter the conversation for the 10th overall pick for Detroit, in no particular order:
Alabama Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
If the Lions opt to part ways with safety Louis Delmas, safety goes from minor depth need to pressing urgency.
Recently, I explored the potential of Delmas departing, as worries about his durability and his expensive contract could push him off the Lions roster.
Should that happen, Alabama safety Ha'Sean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix becomes a major possibility at the No. 10 spot.
As William Caulton of Bleacher Report notes in his informative feature on Ha Ha, most draft pundits have him rated the top safety in this draft class.
Bolstering his stock is that this is not perceived to be a very strong year for safeties. The paucity of talent at the top will likely bubble Clinton-Dix up higher than his overall rankings might indicate.
His propensity for making plays on the ball in the air will certainly grab Detroit's attention. Even though he didn't produce striking numbers as a senior, Clinton-Dix displayed enough ball-hawking ability to project as a playmaking safety right off the bat.
Clemson Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins
The presumptive fan-favorite pick is certainly dynamic Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins.
After his scorching performance against Ohio State in the Orange Bowl, it's easy to see why. Watkins displayed electrifying ability to create immediately after the catch, something the Lions wideouts not named Calvin Johnson have struggled with for years.
Watkins is the top wideout and fifth overall draft prospect, according to CBS Sports. Landing such a highly rated talent with the 10th pick would represent great value.
That's important, because yet another prominent draft pick spent on yet another wide receiver in Detroit is sure to rankle some feathers.
Watkins looks like the complete package of size, speed, quickness and hands. Detroit has a major void opposite Calvin Johnson, and Watkins would make a very attractive candidate to fill that void.
North Carolina Tight End Eric Ebron
This is another "if/then" draft scenario: If the Lions opt to let Brandon Pettigrew depart via free agency, then the Lions are in need of a premium replacement at tight end.
As Dan Hope of Bleacher Report noted, Ebron is the biggest playmaker at tight end in this draft. Hope continues:
Over the middle is where Ebron is most effective, however, because of the problems he can cause safeties and linebackers who try to cover him. He has explosive speed and acceleration for his size, is good at leaping to high-point catches and has the moves to make defenders miss in the open field.
With Joseph Fauria's emergence as a red-zone option and improved blocking late in the season, having a speedy tight end to stretch the seam and flex out from the formation would help. That's a very appealing prospect to help provide more dynamic receiving options for Matthew Stafford.
Buffalo Linebacker Khalil Mack
It might not seem like linebacker is a major need in Detroit, but sometimes teams defy conventional wisdom. Selecting Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack could make one of those strokes of unconventional brilliance.
Mack dominated the MAC with his power, speed and versatility. Listed at 6'3" and 248 pounds, he has the ideal build to serve as a new weapon for the Detroit defense.
I've been fortunate enough to scout Mack in person, witnessing his tour de force performance against Kent State. In that game, he terrorized the quarterback but also proved he could drop and run in coverage, picking off a pass.
He's the top outside linebacker prospect at Detroit Lions Draft, thanks to his all-around play. Whereas many top pass-rushers are one-dimensional, Mack has the ability to play as a linebacker in the base 4-3 as well as blitzing off the edge on passing downs.
USC Wide Receiver Marqise Lee
If Sammy Watkins is already off the board—and he very well might be—the most appealing option at wideout becomes Marqise Lee from USC.
Recently, I listed Lee as my ideal first-round pick for Detroit, and the Trojan will attract that sort of attention from the Lions brass in May.
What stands out is his polish as a route-runner. His crisp footwork and exceptional body control in and out of breaks are NFL-ready and would given the Lions a badly needed second option in the passing game.
The biggest issue is his knee injury, which marred his final season at Southern Cal. Detroit will have some sensitivity to that, after recent picks Jahvid Best and Ryan Broyles have flopped due to injury issues that predated their Lions tenures.
As long as his knee checks out, Lee would bring a major shot in the arm to the offense.