Sep 7, 2013; Athens, GA, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (7) rushes the passer against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Georgia defeated South Carolina 41-30. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
The Detroit Lions front office hasn’t ruled out the possibility of trading up or moving back in the 2014 NFL Draft. In fact, Martin Mayhew even suggested that there may be only five elite players in the draft. With the Lions potentially positioning themselves for one of the “elite” elite prospects, these are the five players that they should target on draft day.
Jadeveon Clowney – Clowney is likely number one on everyone’s big board and would serve as a great value and need pick for the Lions. Defensive end Jason Jones is coming off a major knee injury and Devin Taylor hasn’t proven himself in a starting role yet. The Lions are looking for a “flamethrower” at linebacker that can rush the passer and what better player than Clowney, who is athletic enough to play a linebacker in special packages.
What it would take to draft Clowney: The number one overall pick. There’s a slight chance Clowney could fall as far as the third overall pick, but either way Clowney is almost assuredly out of the Lions reach.
Sammy Watkins – If Clowney is number one on the Lions board, Watkins should be considered 1A. Watkins and the Lions would be a perfect match and it appears that both sides fill the same way. With Watkins lined up opposite of Calvin Johnson there wouldn’t be a defense that could double cover Johnson. Then factor in the damage Golden Tate could do in the slot with other options like Reggie Bush out of the backfield and Brandon Pettigrew at tight end, and the Lions suddenly enter the discussion of best offense in the NFL.
What it would take to draft Watkins: Mock drafts have Watkins going as early as number two to the Rams and as late as seventh to the Buccaneers. My gut feeling is that if the Lions decide that Watkins is their guy that they go all in and make a deal with the Rams for the second overall pick, which would cost them at least this year’s first and second round pick.
Khalil Mack– Speaking of flamethrowers, Mack is the most versatile defensive player in the draft and unlike Clowney, a proven player in drop back situations. Mack fits the Lions’ 4-3 system a little better and the need for outside linebacker is certainly high on their list.
What is would take to draft Mack: There are varying opinions on where Mack could go. I think Tampa Bay might be a dark horse team to trade up for Mack, despite their obvious need at wide receiver. There are also some that think Mack is deserving of going number one overall. The Bottom line is Mack is all over the board in the top ten and a trade up to number four or five would likely be enough to land the linebacker.
Mike Evans – Another big question mark in the 2014 NFL draft is where Mike Evans will go. Originally thought to be on the board when the Lions pick at ten, Evans is gaining steam for teams like the Rams and Bucs, because of his elite size and because of the division the two teams play in. Although Evans might not be one of the five elite players in this draft class, the growing need for bigger wide receivers and the fact that their aren’t many that can play like Evans makes him a complete wild card in the top ten. For the Lions, he would be a great one on one player opposite of Calvin Johnson.
What it would take to draft Evans – With the Rams, Bucs, and Bills targeting players like Sammy Watkins, Mike Evans, Eric Ebron, or Khalil Mack, Evans could certainly be the odd man out by the time the Lions are on the clock.
Greg Robinson – Tackle may not be a huge need for the Lions, but the reality is that two NFC North rivals in the Bears and Packers are revamping their pass rush. Current left tackle Riley Reiff is solid, but questions have been raised as to whether he can hold up consistently against the suddenly improved NFC North defenses. Drafting Robinson, who could be one of the best left tackles ever, would give the Lions flexibility to move Reiff to guard to counter the revamped NFC North defenses.
What it would take to land Robinson: The only way Robinson falls is if St. Louis decides they like someone else, in which case the Lions could make a move to into the top six.