This guest post has been provided by Braden Shackelford. He took me up on my offer to write a post in favor of the Lions drafting Stephon Gilmore in the first round. Thanks to Braden for some good discussion on twitter and for writing this post!
If you have been paying attention to any NFL mock drafts lately then you have seen one name that has slowly been climbing up the draft boards, Stephon Gilmore. While some experts (Peter King) predict Gilmore going #7 to the Jags, most analysts agree Gilmore is the #2 corner back in the draft and they predict he will go anywhere from picks 10-15. So what chance do they Lions have of snatching up Gilmore and why should they trade up for Gilmore when there is an outside chance that Dre Kirkpatrick will still be on the board?
For starters, did anyone watch the Lions play the Packers in week 17? The Lions had every reason to win that game. Improving to 11-5 would’ve gotten the Lions out of the wild card spot and more importantly, it would’ve postponed a match up with the red hot New Orleans Saints. Yet, the Lions still came out with the loss. That speaks volumes on what needs to be improved… the secondary.
The Lions last two losses were at Green Bay (a place they haven’t won in 20 years) and at the Saints (who have one of the most prolific QBs to play the game). These are teams the Lions could face in future playoff games and the Lions need to be able to stop these high octane offenses. Expectations are high for the Lions this year, that’s why they have four primetime games. If the Lions want to exceed expectations they need to get better, and they need to get better now. No better way to do that then to fix the sub-par secondary that is keeping the Lions defense from being a dominant force.
With that said, drafting a corner in the second and third round immediately eliminates the Lions chances of upgrading a serious position of need, and sets the Lions back one more year. This is not a good solution for a team that is ready to win now. That leaves the Lions with two realistic options to improve their defense now, Dre Kirkpatrick and Stephon Gilmore.
Dre Kirkpatrick has the size, (6’2, 186 lbs.) the credentials (national champion), and seems to fit the Lions defensive scheme well, however he was less than impressive at the combine and he has recently had an incident off the field with marijuana (although the charges were dropped). Yes, the Lions recently had players in trouble for marijuana, but that is not the reason I am vetoing Kirkpatrick.
The reason Kirkpatrick isn’t the right corner for the Lions is because what Stephon Gilmore brings to the table. Gilmore has good size much like Kirkpatrick, (6’1, 190 lbs.) however he is different from Kirkpatrick for a number of reasons. Gilmore was outstanding at the combine (ran a 4.4 in the 40 yard dash) and he received a lot of attention from scouts because of his athleticism. However, this is not why Gilmore is better suited for the Lions. The reason Gilmore should be the Lions first pick in this year’s draft is because of his work ethic. Gilmore is a student of the game and very intelligent. He has the personality that will fit perfectly in the Lions locker room and he lets his game do the talking. Gilmore has great instincts and is not afraid to make a game changing big hit. I see him as the next Charles Woodson, who he ironically models his game after. He needs a little refinement in his game, but because his work ethic and character is outstanding he will be the perfect cornerback to lead Gunther Cunningham’s secondary for years to come.
If the Lions want to be contenders this year they need to do whatever it takes to land Gilmore in this year’s draft.