By this time of year, even the casual NFL fan could name the top 10 or 15 players that will be selected in the first round. All you have to do is watch twenty minutes of Sportscenter every other day. But there are 750 players in the draft, and has history has occassionally proven, successful teams can be built through depth of the draft.
First and second round picks are glamorous, sure. But don’t forget to tune in on Saturday April, 28 when rounds 4-7 take place. I think there’s some real quality players not expected to be drafted very high that could fit in perfectly for the Detroit Lions.
Round 4: Ronnie Hillman, RB, San Diego State
This indeed could be a stretch for Hillman to drop this far in the fourth round, if he’s even still on the board come Saturday, but I think it would be a steal for the organization. Granted, SDSU plays in the Mountain West where there isn’t a ton of top-caliber competition, but this guy has speed, and the Lions have a need for speed.
Anyone else notice how Jahvid Best fit in almost perfectly to Scott Linehan’s offensive sceme? He is a downhill runner who is deadly catching the ball out of the backfield. I look at Hillman and see a very similar runner. He isn’t quite the pass-catching back that Best has been for the Lions, but his receiving numbers have improved from his freshman year (9 rec., 68 yds., 1 TD) to sophomore year (24 rec., 270 yds., 1 TD). They say he would ideally be a 3rd down back, but I don’t buy it. This pick has so much upside it should be illegal.
The best part is this: Hillman doesn’t have a history of concussions. I’m not quite ready to give up the current platoon of Jahvid Best and Mikel Leshoure, but I can see a guy like Ronnie Hillman making an immediate impact if neither are back to health. Don’t be suprised if the Lions try to concont a master trade plan that can help land them an earlier selection in the 4th round.
Round 5: Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa
Yes, it’s another offensive player- a wide receiver at that. The Lions franchise is no stranger to drafting receivers at will, but I would have a hard time turning this guy down. Similar to Hillman, it could be stretch to see him fall this far (different mock draft boards have him going as early as the 3rd and as late as the 6th), and, also similar to Hillman, he has a ton of upside. But, while Hillman has only completed his sophomore year, McNutt is a redshirted senior with captain experience.
Why another wide receiver, you ask? In 2011, Matt Stafford completed only 6 passes all year to any other receiver (not TEs or RBs) whose name is not Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson or Titus Young. McNutt would provide a big body at 6’3″, and a very dependable possession receiver to compliment the other weapons. Obviously he needs some polishing, but this would be a steal and could redeem the franchise for selection Derrick Williams a few years back. I do believe that if he happens to be available in the late stages, the Lions will trade up to nab a guy like McNutt in the late 4th or early 5th.
Round 6: If you recall, the Lions will be forced to forfeit this pick because of the tampering incident that occurred in the last offseason. Because they made the playoffs, they had to give up the 6th round pick, whereas had they not made the post-season, a 7th round pick would have been docked. For the sake of interest, let’s just say the Lions trade and pick up a 6th round selection.
Chris Galippo, ILB, University of Southern California
It’s difficult to make it in the league as a linebacker; it’s a very unforgiving position to play. Galippo may stand a realistic chance of finding a roster spot with an NFL team for the 2012 season, however. Depending how where the Lions take their free agent situation with Cliff Avril and Stephen Tulloch, he may find a home in Detroit. He’s not a flashy player, but he possess some skill elements that a defense with holes in it find desirable.
In all likelihood, he’ll be an impactful special teams player. But, if he is able to crack the LB rotation in the near future, he’ll compliment the defense very well. Galippo, at 6’2″ is primarily a run-stopper. Several scouts have mentioned his high football IQ and ability to sniff out a run in the backfield, which is exactly where the Lions need help. I like Galippo’s intangibles as well. There’s something about players that come out of USC who play in a very competitive PAC 12. It’s one of those schools where I feel that if you succeeded at, you’ve got a viable chance to play at the next level.
Round 7: Garth Gerhart, C, Arizona State
Seventh round? Good luck. At this point, there isn’t a lot of intel to go on for teams reaching late in the draft. In my experience, players drafted in the last two rounds stand a better chance of making an NFL squad if they fit a couple descriptions: those who are non-skill players, those who are proven veteran athletes, and those who are selected to fill a need. Garth Gerhart seems to fit these qualifications.
As an offensive lineman, a non-skill position, I feel Gerhart has a better shot than a wide receiver or running back who is drafted in the same round. He has 35 career starts on the O-line and was a captain at ASU, so he’s been to war. And finally, the Lions need depth on their offensive line. He’s no Pete Konz, but who know? No harm in giving it a go.
Of course, this is all speculation before the combine and pro days. Everything should shake up after that.