No clear cut option atop Lions draft board

The Detroit Lions will have options in the 2012 NFL draft, which kicks off on Thursday. Lions' insider Mike Mady reviews the most likely candidates to fall to the Lions at No. 23 overall.

The Detroit Lions will have options in the 2012 NFL draft, which kicks off on Thursday.

There is no consensus regarding which player – or even position – the Lions will select when they are on the clock with the No. 23 overall pick. 

They might not even keep the pick, opting to trade up or down depending on how the draft shapes up.

With that said, let’s take a look at what the Lions draft board might look like when they’re on the clock.

Stephon Gilmore, CB, South Carolina

Gilmore will be one of the most intriguing prospects to the Lions.  He has a legitimate shot at being available at the No. 23 position and offers many of the traits the Lions seek in the position.

With great size (over six feet and 190 pounds), athleticism and speed (4.4 40-yard dash) Gilmore offers skills that simply can’t be acquired through coaching.  In addition to his physical tools, he is a willing and capable tackler, which is a must-have for any cornerback the Lions would consider early in the draft. 

Of course, Gilmore isn’t a perfect prospect – otherwise he’d have no chance of lasting 22 picks in the draft.  He doesn’t have great ball skills and also has somewhat of a sloppy technique – both in tackling and in his back pedal.  

Gilmore had never played cornerback prior to joining South Carolina but has shown he is a coachable player.

If Gilmore is available at No. 23, it is likely he will be atop the Lions draft board. 

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama 

If Gilmore is option No. 1, Kirkpatrick might be No. 1b.  

Similar to Gilmore, Kirkpatrick possess the natural physical tools that many NFL teams covet.  

A great natural athlete, Kirkpatrick is also 6-foot-2, 192 pounds.

Kirkpatrick also is a very strong tackler – perhaps the best at the position in this year’s draft – which will make him attractive to the Lions.

His biggest strength is his zone-coverage ability.  He reads and reacts well, using great instincts to excel in these situations.  However, he isn’t an exceptionally strong man-to-man prospect, particularly when dealing with deep routes.  

He also had an arrest for Marijuana possession earlier this offseason – although the charge was later dropped.

The Lions have had a pre-draft visit with Kirkpatrick and should have a strong grasp on any potential character issues that exist.  If they are confident with his ability to remain trouble free off the field, there is a chance he could actually surpass Gilmore on the Lions draft board.

Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois

The Lions interest in another pass rusher is not a smoke screen.

Not only does the team place a tremendous amount of value in the defensive line, one of their starters (Kyle Vanden Bosch) is 34 and the other (Cliff Avril) is not secured long term.  Furthermore, Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson both have contracts that are set to expire within the next two seasons.

If the Lions aren’t able to secure either Gilmore or Kirkpatrick (assuming they are comfortable with Kirkpatrick’s off-the-field issues), expect them to look at available pass rushers. 

Mercilus could potentially be available and – fittingly enough – has a skill set that is similar to Avril’s.  

With solid speed, strength and a knack for forcing turnovers, Mercilus is a viable option if available at No. 23. 

The biggest concern surrounding Mercilus is his lack of production prior to a breakout campaign in 2011.  Some have tagged him as simply a one-year wonder and question his ability to replicate 2011’s success.  

Don’t expect the Lions to shy away.

The same concerns existed with Nick Fairley last season, however the Lions did not hesitate to pull the trigger when they selected him No. 13 overall.

Nick Perry, DE, USC

Another defensive end that may intrigue the Lions in the first round is Perry.

Perry is primarily a speed rusher, with good athleticism and agility.  He has decent strength but isn’t expected to be able to consistently beat offensive linemen on strength alone. 

He is a high-effort player and capable tackler – both of which would help him in the Lions scheme.  

The Lions like to rush with speed from the outside and quickly get to the quarterback – without blitzing – so Perry is certainly on their radar. 

Mike Adams, T, Ohio State

The Lions spent one of their pre-draft visits to bring in Adams.

That is a very understandable move.

At 6-foot-7, 323 pounds, Adams has the size and athleticism to be a franchise left tackle in the NFL.

However, despite his physical tools, he has displayed inconsistency on and off the field.

On the field, Adams can look lost at times, seemingly not understanding his role on the play.  Also, despite outstanding size, he doesn’t always demonstrate great upper body strength. 

Off the field, Adams was suspended on two separate occasions during his collegiate career. 

The Lions have an interest in Adams, and may take him with the pick if they believe he can be coached into an elite player.  His physical tools are too much to ignore, however – on their own – they may not be enough.  

Mark Barron, S, Alabama

Barron represents another potential direction for the Lions to go with their first-round selection.

The value of the safety position was demonstrated when Louis Delmas missed time at the end of last season and the Lions secondary turned anemic.

There seems to be no consensus on Barron’s final destination in the first round, with some having him off the board in the top-half and others in the later stages. 

If available, the Lions may consider Barron, who offers physicality, strong support in run defense and ability to defend against short and medium pass routes.

His value may be magnified to the Lions as they play in a division where prolific passing offenses are the norm. 

Deterring the Lions from Barron may be his suspect ability in deep coverage (especially considering the Lions defensive scheme often uses deep safety overage) and the fact that they may not have given up on last year’s starter Amari Spievey.

Summary / Expectation

The Lions will have multiple options in the first round and will have to make a decision on which route to travel.

I am of the belief that the Lions will go with either Gilmore or Kirkpatrick if available.  If both are off the board, I believe defensive end will be the selection, with Mercilus as the front runner.

Based on the offensive tackles available – and the fact that the Lions may be more interested in developing their internal young talent at the position - I don’t believe they will select one in the first round. The exception to this would be if there is a consensus that Adams will be able to develop into an elite player – which I’m not sure there is.

Linebacker and running back are both long shots at No. 23.

Of course, almost everything depends on how the draft falls.  If a player the Lions covet falls into the mid-teens, they will be aggressive in their efforts to trade up. 

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