Lions Draft 2016: Please Let This Work
First, a quick note on Quinn. I like him and I liked his press conference. That can probably be said of near any hire in professional sports history, but I am being serious. He seems like someone who will actually be involved with the team and front and center to answer questions when he is needed, unlike what this team has had in the past. He’s the first GM the Lions have had that came from outside the organization since 2000, so that’s already a good sign. Now that the Lions have a GM that might be competent, it’s time to talk draft.
After the the Lions beat the Packers at Lambeau Field for the first time in 24 years and advanced to a 2-7 record, I questioned if it was for the best, rightfully so.
Over the next seven weeks, Detroit looked great up until a disastrous Thursday night loss and a subsequent embarrassment in St. Louis, then hobbled into a 7-9 record. Great. So now what? Well since the Lions are too incompetent to realize that the season was over and play for draft position instead of try to give idiots like me hope, they have the 16th pick in the draft and have to look at the second or third best option instead an undisputed great choice. So lets get to it.
With the 16th pick in this particular draft, the Lions can go one of a few ways. It’s too early to speculate what every team will do in the draft, but there should definitely be some exciting names available.
1. Defensive Line
The Lions went from an NFL laughing stock to a playoff contender by loading up on the defensive line. With the departures of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley paired with a missed opportunity in Aaron Donald, the Lions may choose to return to that draft strategy. In that case I like Jonathan Allen (DE) or A’Shawn Robinson (DT) of Alabama. That Alabama front seven has been superb all year and both of these guys are big reasons why. Allen could be a a nice 1-2 punch with Ziggy Ansah on the other side emerging as a star in this league. On the other hand, if the Lions were to re-sign Haloti Ngata and draft Robinson, they could create a terrifying bull rush duo in the middle.
2. Offensive Line
The Lions offensive line was overwhelmingly mediocre in 2015 and boasted the worst rushing attack in the NFL and was 22nd in pass protection. Michael Ola is a big question at right tackle and the 2016 draft is a great opportunity to improve in this area. I like tackles Jack Conklin of Michigan State and Taylor Decker of Ohio State. Decker was the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year and Conklin is a hard-nosed competitor and looked pretty good against an NFL-esque opponent in Alabama.
For years, Lions fans have begged for an answer to the teams pitiful pass defense. After many failed attempts, the team seemed to have found a combination that stuck in 2014. However the team suffered a major setback in 2015 when they went from a top-10 defense against the pass to a bottom-5 one. Injuries have played a role in this, but now with Darius Slay looking like a solid corner, it’s time to beef up on the other side of the field. Mackenzie Alexander out of Clemson and Kendall Fuller from Virginia Tech could both fill that need. Both players are jumping to the draft before their senior seasons and Alexander is just a redshirt sophomore, but that isn’t to say they aren’t ready. Alexander was an All-ACC cornerback in 2015 and we’ll learn a lot about him on Monday as he’ll go man-to-man on Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. Fuller on the other hand could join his brother Corey in Detroit and would also be a strong pick. He is coming off a torn meniscus in 2015, which has me hesitant, but he was also a second-team All-American and All-ACC corner in 2014.
I would only go linebacker in the first round if the right guy was available. Stephen Tulloch, though try as he may, is the not the same guy he used to be. He’s sufficient on the run side, but is truly a liability in passing situations. The Lions need a guy who can cover the middle of the field well and give some help to DeAndre Levy when he returns. In this case, Darron Lee from Ohio State could be the answer. He transformed from a safety to a linebacker at OSU, so he already has the experience in the pass game, and can now play the rush like a linebacker. Even though he is another redshirt sophomore, I like him and think he’d fit well in Detroit.
5. Wide receiver
This one is painful to write for a multitude of reasons. All Lions fans remember the ridiculousness of drafting a WR in the first round of the draft three consecutive years. This was the rallying cry of all of those who asked for Matt Millen’s head and ultimately got it. This pick would solely depend on the future of Calvin Johnson. I don’t hate the idea of a free agency move to fill that void, as it worked out with Golden Tate, but the Lions are committed to Matt Stafford and I think a young guy growing up in this Lions offense could be a good thing. IF CJ were to retire or move elsewhere, I like Corey Coleman of Baylor. He was an early season Heisman hopeful and won this year’s Biletnikoff and has great big play capability and knows how to find the endzone with 20 TDs this season.