What to Watch: Lions Draft Weekend

As the Detroit Lions burn the midnight oil by evaluating and reassessing their draft board (along with finalizing a deal with Georgia QB Matthew Stafford), we let fans know the five things to watch for during Saturday's NFL draft.

Don't expect Mayhew to sit still
If there was anything Martin Mayhew learned from Matt Millen (that was worthwhile, anyway) it's the ability maximize draft board value. The Lions have five selections in the first three rounds, but that doesn't mean the team is content. After the No. 1 pick is settled, Mayhew and counterpart Shack Harris will work the phone lines, attempting to deal back into the top 15, or at least accumulate more picks.  The Lions don't have selections in the fourth or fifth round, something that hasn't gone unnoticed in Allen Park.

The Lions have the luxury of having two picks in the first round, but would like to add an additional second-rounder, if possible. You cannot overestimate the number of holes the team has to fill.

In total, the Lions have eight picks in the 2009 NFL draft. Expect them to add at least one more to that total, and for the franchise to "jump" around a bit.

Two of First Three Picks Could Be Defense


Peria Jerry is a load in the middle, and could be in Detroit's cross-hairs at the 20th pick.
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One of the big arguments from Aaron Curry supporters has been the desperate need for defensive help. Detroit posted the worst defense in the league in 2008 by a wide margin, and while Curry likely won't be in the mix, expect more than half of the team's picks to be defensive.

Word out of Allen Park is that the Lions want a linebacker and defensive tackle package, and they want them early. Why? Because Detroit understands that a talented middle linebacker is essentially meaningless without a competent defensive line. While this might necessitate a trade (Detroit still has several needs), they like Missouri DT Evander "Ziggy" Hood and OSU linebacker James Laurinaitis. Detroit could feasibly nab Laurinaitis at No. 20, and if he's still around, Hood at 33.

Another potential scenario is drafting Ole Miss DT Peria Jerry at No. 20, and picking up Laurinaitis or even Cincinnati OLB/DE Connor Barwin in the second round.

The combo would instantly revitalize the Lions defense, handing them two starters from the 2009 draft. Along with the cornerback position, and the addition of Julian Peterson and Grady Jackson, the Lions would have six new defensive starters.

Receiver (Very) Unlikely
What makes the No. 20 overall pick intriguing is the lack of drop-off in value. What does that mean? Well, the Lions traded an unproductive Roy Williams to the Cowboys to acquire the pick, but have shored up the WR position via free-agency by adding Bryant Johnson, Ronald Curry, and Kansas City's third-round pick from a year ago, Will Franklin. This also means Detroit isn't likely to spend a pick on a wide receiver, which would mark just the second time in the last seven years that they've taken a fliar on the position.

Interestingly, the only receiver Detroit expressed real interest in during post-combine chatter was Georgia's Mohamed Massaquoi. While reuniting Stafford with his favorite collegiate target sounds intriguing, it isn't likely, unless Massaquoi drops into the sixth round.

Safety Before Cornerback
One need that has flown under the radar is in the defensive backfield.

Although the new coaching staff is happy with Daniel Bullocks, who returned last year from a career-threatening injury, a top-flight safety is warranted. The Lions will attempt to trade back into the second-round to nab a player like Western Michigan's Louis Delmas or Oregon's Patrick Chung, but both could be off the board before Detroit has a chance.


Western Michigan product Louis Delmas would bring leadership and playmaking ability to Detroit's deep secondary.
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Middle-round talent that could fall into their hands include Wake Forest's Chip Vaughn, Texas Tech's Darcel McBath and Clemson's Chris Clemons.

If the Lions elect to draft a cornerback rather than a safety, expect the team to move CB Anthony Henry to free safety. Henry, another acquisition from Dallas (Jon Kitna), can play both positions.

Offensive Tackle and/or OG Will Be Addressed -- Eventually
While initial draft talk had Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe atop Detroit's big board, the team's needs on the defensive side of the football outweigh the offensive complications.

During the team's recent minicamp, Lions coach Jim Schwartz seemed content with veteran OT Jeff Backus. And while Backus isn't getting any younger, the bulk of Detroit's offensive line problems start with the revolving door at left guard. Starter Edwin Mulitalo wasn't brought back for this year, and although Damion Cook (who subbed for an injured Mulitalo last year) will return, he will be competing for the reserve role again. Simply put, Backus hasn't received the help at LG that he has needed for years.

The Lions may very well consider Arizona's Eben Britton (LT) or Louisville's versatile Eric Wood (C, OG) at 33. If they choose to spend a mid-round selection, Oklahoma OG Duke Robinson or LSU OG Herman Johnson could fall to the top of the third round.

The 2010 draft is also loaded with offensive tackle talent, which means they could get their guy next year.

 


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