Continuing our roundtable look at the draft prior to free agency, Ash give us his view of how things might pan out for the Lions in April…
Mock Draft – Round One: Eli Apple, CB Ohio State
The Lions have Darius Slay on one side of the field, and a bunch of guys that are either untested, or have shown more aptitude for the inside corner position. Apple doesn’t have a great number of games under his belt at the college level, and other than being on Ohio State’s roster and thus being in games that were being watched, was not really on a lot of online draft gurus’ radars prior to surprising most, and declaring himself eligible for the draft. He’s my pick as the under-classman that helped himself most at the Combine. When you actually watch him play he’s one of those rare corners who is at his absolute best in press man coverage. It’s his physicality at the line of scrimmage that sets him apart from the field in my opinion; he disrupts his receiver’s pattern at the line, and at the college level that’s a rare trait. Prospects 10-40 in this draft are pretty much interchangeable based on scheme fit, and I think Apple has moved himself toward the front of that pack this week, with his size and speed combination matching what he put on tape. This kid is going to need to be coached up, but his huge jump between years one and two as a starter for the Buckeyes leads me to believe that he can be.
Mock Draft – Round Two: Darian Thompson, Safety Boise State
The Lions’ safety spot is nearly as bare as defensive tackle. James Ihedigbo and Isa Abdul-Quddus are both free agents, leaving a gaping void beside Glover Quinn. Thompson had a terrible day at the Combine, reportedly because he was battling a stomach flu, which would explain why he came in lighter than at the senior bowl. He is a ball hawk, and a big hitter, and I would be surprised based on his tape if he didn’t recover his stock significantly at the Boise State pro day. At 6’2″ and 215lbs (208lbs at the Combine) Thompson looked comfortable in the the strong and free safety positions, showing no fear in and around the box, while also having the athletic ability to cover a slot receiver or tight end tight to the line. In the three games I watched, Thompson was a versatile and disruptive player in the secondary for Boise State though he did struggle in deep coverage at times. He is definitely a turnover machine, something the Lions desperately missed last season.
Mock Draft – Round Three (Compensatory for Suh): Javon Hargrave DT, South Carolina State
A guy can only play against the competition he has in front of him, and Javon Hargrave did exactly what you would expect a legitimate NFL prospect to do playing for SC State. He threw guys around, and blew past them like they were not even there. In another year his athletic profile might have pushed him higher, but because this year is insanely deep at the defensive tackle position, he is going to be one of those guys that we all look back at a few years from now out of context and ask how he could have been there at the end of round three. He’s strong, athletic, and proved that he has incredible potential at the Combine with a sub 5 second 40-yard dash, 29 reps at the bench, and a 34.5 inch vertical leap at 309lbs. In any other year that would likely have catapulted him in to the second round or even higher but the plethora of talent at the defensive tackle spot will likely keep the small school kid down, which is great for the Lions. Particularly if Haloti Ngata has been retained as is expected.
Mock Draft – Round Four: Johnathan Williams RB, Arkansas
I think Johnathan Williams would have made it in to the top three running backs in this class were it not for his injury. At least one site has moved him to the third round in their rankings recently, but with how devalued the position has become I don’t think a guy that didn’t play a down as a senior gets taken before day three. I’m not one to throw around comparisons to the Lions’ all time greats, but I will say that his running style will look familiar to anyone who ever saw a running back wear number 20 in a Lions jersey. I cannot stress enough, that I am not saying he is anywhere near the talent of Barry, just that his running style shares some traits with the legend, freezing defenders with a hip juke, or shoulder shake, and never going down to an arm tackle; his balance is incredible. If he comes back as the same player he was when he went down, the Lions could be getting a bargain.
Mock Draft – Round Five: Matt Ioannidis, DT Temple
This is another DT that in any other year would never drop this far, but this is not any other year. The Lions have an almost completely empty cupboard at the defensive tackle spot in an off-season where there are probably 25 NFL-caliber defensive tackles available. Ioannidis isn’t an elite athlete, but he is a good enough one. His motor is unquestionable, this is a man you want on your team. He isn’t a guy that’s going to run around double teams, he’s going to push through them, make the other team work for the block. He showed surprising quickness off the line at the senior bowl, but his timed drills at the Combine confirmed that his power is his best attribute. he also possesses a trait that I love in a defensive tackle, the ability to affect a pass at the line of scrimmage; he had five pass break ups in 2015.
Mock Draft – Round Five: Dak Prescott QB, Mississippi State
The Lions desperately need to upgrade their quarterback depth. In week five we got a preview of what the team would look like with Dan Orlovsky under center, and I for one did not like what I saw from Safety Dan. I think they need a developmental Quarterback, and the guy who has set himself apart from the pack in that regard is Dak Prescott.The issue with this player is that there are two Dak Prescotts, the first being the Dak Prescott that extends plays with his feet before he sets his feet and throws. That guy puts the ball where his receivers can catch it in stride, and gets it there in a hurry. But then there is the other Dak Prescott, the guy who throws off his back foot, and across his body in to coverage once in a while. There is a reason that he’s going to be there in round four and his duality is that reason, but with competent coaching, I believe that Prescott could be a very good back up option for the Lions in a year or two.
Mock Draft – Round Five (Compensatory pick for Fairley): Harlan Miller CB, SE Louisiana
Another small school guy that I was watching closely at the Combine. He reminds me of Dominique Rogers-Cromartie the year he came out. He’s a skinny guy that looks really fast and long on tape, but timed poorly at the Combine. That either means he failed to properly train, or that his tape is tainted by the level of competition. Given that he looked pretty good at the Senior Bowl, I find it difficult to completely ignore the tape. He probably doesn’t give you much more than a returner as a rookie, and definitely needs coaching, but he could very well be a player. In round five a special teams contributor who could work his way in to the line up is what you get.
Mock Draft – Round Six: David Morgan III, TE Texas-San Antonio
Morgan is one of the best blocking tight ends in College football and has good hands, but lacks the burst to be a great receiver. The Lions need to increase the versatility of the players at their tight end position, and Morgan can help the team in short yardage areas, where the ability to run quickly in a straight line matters less. To quote Greg Olsen at the Combine before he had actually heard the time (5.03), “you need to forget this guy’s 40 time.” Morgan is a guy that will play all your core special teams.
Mock Draft – Round Six: Avery Young, OL Auburn
He’s a big, big man, with solid run blocking skill, but likely needs to move inside at the NFL level. In any case, he looks like one of those guys that the Patriots have loved historically, the ones that can back up almost the entire offensive line. Versatility is a key quality for a late round lineman to have, as they don’t contribute on special teams, and their spot on the roster is little more than an “Oh crap” button.
Mock Draft – Round Seven: Ugonna Awuruonye, DE Campbell
He has the long, athletic build that the Lions defensive ends seem to fit perpetually. This is exactly the kind of guy that the practice squad was made for, his tape is that of a guy that’s playing people that are not even close to his level of athletic ability. It’s the seventh round, you’re not getting a contributor very often this far in; I’ve always thought that teams should take athletes and try to turn them in to football players. You can’t make a guy three inches taller, you can teach a guy to play football better. I would also just like to forward my apologies to Mike for picking a prospect that doesn’t have a single picture by Getty Images, although he did find some tape of his here.