Detroit Lions 7-round Mock: Focus is on Defense Early and Often
With Martin Mayhew and his staff carrying over some of the draft strategy from the previous regime, er circus, of Matt Millen and friends, the irony shouldn’t be lost that the Lions actually may need another wide receiver with the injuries to 2011 second round pick, Ryan Broyles, steady veteran Nate Burleson’s broken leg, and 2010 second round pick Titus Young immaturity.
Let’s pretend Burleson’s right leg fully heals and he makes good on his word that he wants to retire in Detroit, albeit at a pay cut. Furthermore, assume Broyles is fully healed and jumps right back in and continues developing his rapport with Matthew Stafford. What happens with Titus Young is anyone’s guess. Despite what appeared to be the former Boise State standout seemingly pouting his way out of town, it’s still possible the team takes him back.
If those things happen, and even if Burleson and Young don’t return, its obvious Mayhew must do what he’s never done before—spend his first two picks on the defensive side of the ball.
If I had my druthers, this is how things will play out over the three-day bonanza in late April, known as the NFL draft.
1st round – Manti Te’o, LB, Notre Dame
Forget for a moment all the talk about the leadership and character makeup this Hawaiian will bring to the Lions locker room and huddle. Never mind the unbelievable resolve he showed in East Lansing when he man-handled the Spartans after the passing of both his grandmother and girlfriend within 24 hours only days earlier. Manti Te’o is the best defensive player in this draft. Period.
He has the chance to do for this defense what Chris Spielman did, and then some. Singing the praises of everything Te’o does well could easily fill a couple pages here. To put it rather succinctly, he doesn’t miss tackles. He adds a certain level of intimidation in the middle of the field and he’s very effective on blitzes but just as capable dropping back in coverage.
Te’o is an every-down high impact player. If he’s there at No. 5 overall, the only thing that could screw this up is if Mayhew tries to get cute and stick to his “best player available” theory if he somehow believes the BPA is someone other than Te’o. Outside of quarterback, wide receiver, and defensive tackle, it would be hard to argue against Mayhew’s normal BPA strategy because the Lions simply lack the talent at so many positions. However, if Te’o is there he simply can’t be passed up.
For all the naysayers, especially those quick to jump off the Te’o bandwagon after a pretty average showing against Alabama in the National Championship game, ‘Good Riddance’, I say to you! Even though he still came up with 10 tackles, Te’o missed more tackles in this game than he did all season.
Who knows, maybe everything takes a fortuitous turn in the Lions favor, and the hype slows down come early spring and Mayhew can add that elusive fourth rounder by moving back a few spots by swapping picks with the Buffalo Bills or New York Jets, 8th and 9th overall, respectively.