Since my last Detroit Lions big board we’ve seen what the draft prospects could do at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis as well as some team needs get sorted out through free agency. How have the additions of Golden Tate and James Ihedigbo changed the Lions priorities with the 10th pick? Here’s a rundown of how I rank the best ten options for the Detroit Lions first-round pick.
1. Jadeveon Clowney, DE, South Carolina (Previous Rank: 1)
Clowney is still the best player in the 2014 draft, regardless of position. Barring a trade, Detroit doesn’t have a shot at him. His out-of-this-world athleticism and raw strength and power make him an elite prospect. Lining him up on an already talented Detroit front four would be downright scary.
2. Sammy Watkins, WR, Clemson (Previous Rank: 2)
Yes, the addition of Golden Tate makes wide receiver less of a need. With a deep wide receiver class in 2014, it would certainly make sense for Detroit to address the position later in the draft. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Watkins is an elite prospect. If the Lions front office decides Watkins is their guy (which very well could be, as evidenced by their heavy attendance at his Pro Day) a trade up could in the works. Watkins is that good.
3. Khalil Mack, OLB, Buffalo (Previous Rank: 3)
Mack is an elite playmaker on defense. He could potentially line up as a defensive end in a wide-9, but would excel as an edge rusher from the linebacker position. He disengages blockers well, and shows great speed, which would allow him to excel as a pass rusher on third downs. However, he’s shown the versatility and pursuit to be an effective run defender.
4. Greg Robinson, OT, Auburn (Previous Rank: 9)
Robinson has established himself as the best left tackle in this year’s class. Many analysts believe that in a worst-case scenario with Robinson, you’re looking at an All-Pro guard. That’s pretty hefty praise. Robinson could start at LT and push Riley Reiff to left guard, which could make veteran Rob Sims a candidate to be released. If Detroit found their center of the future later in the draft, you’d have your entire offensive line set for the foreseeable future, with Reiff being your oldest starter. If Robinson were somehow available at 10, the value would be too high to pass on.
5. Mike Evans, WR, Texas A&M (Previous Rank: 5)
As the pre-draft process has gone on, I’ve warmed up more and more to Mike Evans as a potential receiving threat opposite Calvin Johnson. Evans is a big-bodied receiver with surprising speed. He offers the versatility to play an almost Jimmy Graham-type role in Joe Lombardi’s offense. His large catch radius would offer a security blanket to Matthew Stafford, who would have a field day with Johnson, Tate, and Evans running routes.
6. Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina (Previous Rank: 4)
While Detroit did decide to bring Brandon Pettigrew back, Ebron is still an intriguing option at 10. He offers a vertical threat that no tight end on the Lions current roster does. He clocked a 4.60 40-yard dash and plays with the speed of a wide receiver. His versatility would make the wide receiver position less of a need in the second and third-rounds of the draft.
7. Jake Matthews, OT, Texas A&M (Previous Rank: 8)
Matthews has been described as having the highest floor in this draft. He projects as a day one starter at LT and would do so at a very high level. The only questions with Matthews are regarding his upside. There may not be much room to improve from where he’s at now, which is still pretty darn good. He’d start at LT and move Reiff to left guard, as described with Greg Robinson.
8. Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix, FS, Alabama (Previous Rank: 6)
The Lions signed James Ihedigbo, who by all accounts is a fantastic locker room guy and leader on the field, to a two-year deal. While Ihedigbo does have the ability to start, why not bring in the safety of the future and have him be mentored by Ihedigbo? Clinton-Dix would not be forced to learn on the job, though it’d be very tough to keep him off the field. He’d have time to learn the ins and outs of the pro game from two veterans before eventually starting opposite Glover Quin.
9. Anthony Barr, OLB, UCLA (Previous Rank: NR)
Barr has received more attention since Martin Mayhew attended his Pro Day on the first day of NFL free-agency. Barr is a converted running back and still struggles with play recognition and disengaging from blockers. What he does have, however, is tremendous upside. His natural athletic ability is off the charts, and you could actually see times during the season where had improved on specific parts of his game. He, like Ziggy Ansah a year ago, is still a work in progress, but could be very, very good when it’s all said and done.
10. Kony Ealy, DE, Missouri (Previous Rank: 7)
Ealy has steadily risen on draft boards since the end of the college football season. Ealy plays well at the line of scrimmage, and uses a variety of moves to disengage from blockers. He would fit in well along the defensive line in Detroit. However, I’d fully expect the Lions to make a trade down before selecting Ealy at 10. With the potential for multiple quarterbacks to be taken in the top 10, Ealy shouldn’t be in the conversation when the Lions are on the clock.
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