Mocking The Draft: Who Will Detroit Land?

Resident draft expert Josh Liskiewitz provides analysis and more in his inaugural mock draft.

Mocking the Draft 
Every week leading up to the draft I will publish a new, first round mock draft.  Each week’s mock will focus on a different scenario, beginning this week with a baseline projection.
 Josh Liskiewitz's Detroit Lions Top 25 list: 
Elite Prospects 
1.      Da’Quan Bowers, DE Clemson 
2.      Patrick Peterson, CB LSU 
3.      Cameron Jordan, DE California 
4.      AJ Green, WR Georgia 
5.      Von Miller, OLB Texas A&M 
Top 15 Caliber Prospects 
6.      Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado 
7.      Prince Amukamara, DB Nebraska 
8.      Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina 
10.    Nick Fairley, DT Auburn 
Late 1st Round Prospects 
11.     Jabaal Sheard, DE Pittsburgh 
12.     Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue 
13.     Julio Jones, WR Alabama 
14.     Corey Liuget, DT Illinois 
15.     Leonard Hankerson, WR Miami 
16.     Rodney Hudson, OL Florida State 
17.     Stefan Wisniewski, OC Penn State 
18.     Jerrel Jernigan, WR Troy 
19.     Tyron Smith, OT USC 
21.     Bruce Carter, OLB North Carolina 
22.     Nate Solder, OT Colorado 
Early 2nd Round Prospects 
23.     Danny Watkins, OG Baylor 
24.     Ras-I Dowling, DB Virginia 
Reshuffling for Detroit 
Now that we have established a general first round value board (updated 2/17/2011), the next step is to reset it based on Detroit’s philosophies and positional needs.  You will notice on the chart to the right that this causes considerable movement for some of the players on the initial list; in particular, you will notice that the two DT’s (Nick Fairley and Corey Liuget) and RB Ryan Williams each drop several spots, and two second-round graded players (Baylor OG Danny Watkins and Virginia DB Ras-I Dowling) move into the top 25.  
Fairley and Liuget drop because of Detroit’s depth at DT, and Williams drops in large part because of Jahvid Best being a first-round selection in last year’s draft.  Watkins and Dowling move up because of positional need, but both retain their second round grades.  This, of course, means that late first-round prospects on the overall value board that have been surpassed by second-round prospects are now also considered second-round values (the same applies for elite and top 15 prospects). 
Finally, My First Mock Draft
Each week’s mock, while having a different theme, will incorporate my Lions draft board when it comes time for Detroit’s pick.  This week’s mock is very generic – in other words, my most educated guess as of today, without introducing the possibility of trades.
1. Carolina Panthers
Nick Fairley, DT Auburn (6-4 311)
Carolina has some youth and depth at DE with Greg Hardy, Everette Brown Tyler Brayton (Charles Johnson is about to enter free agency), so their decision is between the top DT in the draft and Georgia WR A.J. Green.  This time they opt for Fairley.
2. Denver Broncos
Da’Quan Bowers, DE Clemson (6-4 280)
It looks like Denver will switch to a 4-3 defense, but Bowers should be the pick here regardless of scheme.  In their new system he would be a dominant run stopper at LDE, as well as a dangerous pass rusher from any of the four defensive line positions.
3. Buffalo Bills
Von Miller, OLB Texas A&M (6-2 5/8 237)
The Bills missed badly in 2009 by taking Penn State OLB Aaron Maybin 11th overall, but make up for their mistake here by taking the explosive and versatile Miller.  Like Bowers, Miller will be a playmaker no matter what defense the Bills settle on.
4. Cincinnati Bengals
A.J. Green, WR Georgia (6-4 207)
Some will speculate that Cincinnati will bypass the numerous off the field concerns of Auburn QB Cam Newton and pull the trigger on the potential franchise signal caller, but owner Mike Brown has shown in the past that he is not likely to concede to current QB Carson Palmer’s desire to be traded.  The Bengals are more likely to let WRs Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco move on, which makes picking the best WR prospect since Calvin Johnson a no-brainer.
5. Arizona Cardinals
Robert Quinn, OLB North Carolina (6-5 270)
Being a disciple of legendary Pittsburgh coach Dick LeBeau, new Cardinals’ defensive coordinator Ray Horton understands the importance of loading up on 3-4 OLBs that specialize in rushing the passer.  O’Brien Schofield looks primed for a breakout sophomore season now that he is completely healthy, and Quinn has the elite skill set both as a pass rusher and run stuffer to more than compliment on the other side.  This duo could form one of the more feared pass rushing duos in the league.
6. Cleveland Browns
Patrick Peterson, CB LSU (6-1 210)
At this point it appears that the Browns will not resign Eric Wright, so taking a CB in the first round for the second year in a row makes sense.  While Cleveland really wanted the top WR in the draft in Green, Peterson is hardly a consolation prize.
7. San Francisco 49ers
Jabaal Sheard, OLB Pittsburgh (6-2 5/8 260)
The 49ers were hoping for either Quinn or Peterson, but Sheard fits what they’re looking for in a 3-4 OLB.  Sheard is a high motor, physical defender who has a very high ceiling.  His ability to rush the quarterback makes him an instant upgrade for San Francisco.
8. Tennessee Titans
Blaine Gabbert, QB Missouri (6-4 ½ 235)
It's time for the Titans to start anew after their decision to cut ties with QB Vince Young (as well as long time head coach Jeff Fisher), so they opt for the top QB in this year’s class.  Gabbert is known as an accurate passer who makes sound decisions.
9. Dallas Cowboys
Cameron Jordan, DE California (6-4 1/8 287)
The Cowboys have several needs to fill on both sides of the ball, and could also go for a defensive back or offensive tackle.  This time they opt for the top player left on the board, Jordan, who is a perfect fit in their 3-4 defense.  
10. Washington Redskins
Jake Locker, QB Washington (6-2 ¼ 228)
While I have Locker graded as a late third-round value, he fits the Mike Shanahan prototype for the position – big and athletic with a rocket arm.  While he has all the physical tools and intangibles teams want in their starting QB, his inaccurate passing raises legitimate concerns as to whether or not he can ever become an effective starting QB in the NFL.  
11. Houston Texans
Prince Amukamara, DB Nebraska (6-1 205)
Houston had the worst passing defense in the league last year, and 2010 rookie CB Kareem Jackson was a disappointment as a rookie.  Amukamara is further advanced in his game now than Jackson is even after his rookie campaign, although Amukamara may eventually prove to be a better fit at safety than corner.  
12. Minnesota Vikings
Cam Newton, QB Auburn (6-5 250)
Someone is going to gamble on Newton in the first round, and in this mock it’s Minnesota.  No one is questioning is physical talent and potential, but his numerous off the field issues could cause some teams to drop him off their boards completely.  While his athleticism, size, and arm strength are certainly enticing, I would not want my team to spend a high pick on any player with his academic and legal history, especially a quarterback.
13. Detroit Lions
Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado (6-2 3/8 205)
Smith is the top player left on Detroit’s board, and an excellent value as he is their No. 6 overall prospect and graded out as a top 15 caliber prospect.  As long as Detroit is able to resign CB Chris Houston, the Lions will all of a sudden have the makings of one of the better young secondaries in the league.
14. St. Louis Rams
Julio Jones, WR Alabama (6-4 211)
The Rams breathe a sigh of relief as their man falls into their lap at No. 14.  At this stage in the first round St. Louis knows that Green will be off the board, but are more than happy to take the next best option at WR.  Second year QB Sam Bradford needs help from the skill positions, thus Jones is an obvious choice here.
15. Miami Dolphins
Ryan Williams, RB Virginia Tech (5-10 210)
Ronnie Brown can’t stay healthy and Ricky Williams is ancient in RB years.  While Ryan Williams had his own injury struggles this past season at Virginia Tech, but he has an awesome combination of power, speed, and elusiveness.  If he can maintain long term health at the next level he will be one of the top backs in the game.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars
Ryan Kerrigan, DE Purdue (6-3 7/8 255)
The Jaguars finally hit on a DE in 2010 fifth-round pick Austen Lane, but still don’t have a consistent pass rusher off the edge.  Kerrigan has a great first step and an outstanding motor.  His playing style is very reminiscent of Detroit’s Kyle Vandenbosch.
17. New England Patriots (from Oakland)
Corey Liuget, DL Illinois (6-2 300)
The Patriots take the best player left on the board, and Liuget could be one of the top 5 players on their board period.  He has the size, quickness, and toughness they love at defensive end, and will be yet another highly productive rookie for New England.
18. San Diego Chargers
Marcell Dareus, DL Alabama (6-2 ½ 305)
While Dareus isn’t flashy he consistently beats his man at the point of attack.  He is a natural fit at DE in San Diego’s 3-4 defense.
19. New York Giants
Stefan Wisniewski, OC Penn State (6-3 306)
The Giants need to begin re-tooling their offensive line, in particular on the interior.  I have Rodney Hudson of Florida State rated higher, but the Giants opt for Wisniewski because of his size.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Anthony Castonzo, OT Boston College (6-7 1/8 305)
The Bucs would love to take a DE that can rush the passer at this spot, but offensive tackle is a need too and Castonzo is to great a value to pass up at this point.  He will be able to start on day one at either tackle spot.
21. Kansas City Chiefs
Leonard Hankerson, WR Miami (6-1 5/8 205)
The Chiefs could also be looking for a pass rusher, but Hankerson also fills a need and is excellent value at this point in the first round.  He showed throughout Senior Bowl week that he has the full skill-set needed to be a productive No. 1 receiver in the NFL.
22. Philadelphia Eagles
Tyron Smith, OT USC (6-4 ¾ 285)
The Eagles are in a great spot here to sit back and take the best offensive lineman left on the board when their name is called.  Smith is an impressive young talent, and could eventually become the best tackle of the 2011 class.
23. Indianapolis Colts
Nate Solder, OT Colorado (6-8 ¼ 314)
Colts general manager Bill Polian admitted this past season that he probably should have taken Indiana tackle Rodger Saffold with his first pick in 2010 instead of DE Jerry Hughes from TCU, who was a non-factor as a rookie.  Polian won’t make the same mistake twice this year.
24. New Orleans Saints
Mikel LeShoure, RB Illinois (6-0 230)
While it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Saints take a RB with this pick, some may be caught off guard by the selection of LeShoure over Alabama’s Mark Ingram.  LeShoure gets the nod because he has better burst and quickness thru the hole.
25. Seattle Seahawks
Adrian Clayborn, DE Iowa (6-3 287)
Seattle may consider drafting a QB with this pick (especially if Cam Newton is still on the board), but Clayborn will be hard to pass up at this point.  He is an ideal 5-technique for their 3-4 scheme, but needs to prove he can bring it every snap.
26. Baltimore Ravens
Jerrel Jernigan, WR Troy (5-9 ¼ 190)
Baltimore couldn’t take advantage of Pittsburgh’s average secondary in the playoffs in large part because they lacked a vertical threat.  Jernigan immediately fills that need, and could have a DeSean Jackson-like impact in the NFL.
27. Atlanta Falcons
Aldon Smith, DE Missouri (6-4 258)
While I would not be surprised to see Atlanta draft an apprentice to TE Tony Gonzalez, Smith has considerable potential as a pass rusher.  Atlanta is a great place for Smith, as he will be afforded the time to hone his craft behind veteran stud John Abraham.
28. New England Patriots
JJ Watt, DE Wisconsin (6-6 294)
The Pats would have loved to take Aldon Smith here, but they have no qualms about taking a second DE that is a perfect fit for their defense.  New England puts a premium on big, high motor defensive linemen, so they will be thrilled with their two first round picks.
29. New York Jets
Cameron Heyward, DE Ohio State (6-5 285)
The run on defensive ends continues with Heyward headed to the Jets.  While he lacks the burst to be a threat rushing the passer in a 4-3 defense, he is a perfect 5-technique end in New York’s 3-4 scheme.
30. Chicago Bears
Drake Nevis, DT LSU (6-0 ½ 289
Nevis had an outstanding senior season at LSU and is a perfect 3-technique in Chicago’s defense.  He is a consistently disruptive pass rusher who plays better than you would expect against the run considering his size.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers
James Brewer, OT Indiana (6-6 ¼ 323)
The Steelers love bigger, stronger linemen, which is why they choose Brewer over Mississippi State’s Derek Sherrod.  Brewer has the ability to start at either tackle position, but must prove he can stay healthy at the next level.
32. Green Bay Packers
Rodney Hudson, OL Florida State (6-2 ¼ 291)
While the Packers could certainly take a RB like Ingram or Oregon State’s Jacquizz Rodgers here, Hudson is the best player left on the board.  He is capable of playing all three interior line positions, and you could expect him to start very early in his career with Green Bay at either left guard or center.


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