The Detroit Lions will likely need to select a wide receiver at some point in the 2016 NFL Draft. How much of an imperative the wideout position becomes is dependent upon Calvin Johnson’s retirement status, currently in limbo.
If Johnson retires, and the general presumption is he will, that leaves Detroit with a real void. Golden Tate is a quality top option and one of the best playmakers in the league, but behind him are the likes of Corey Fuller, T.J. Jones and a smattering of guys on futures contracts. Lance Moore, an impending free agent, almost certainly will not be back.
The primary need is for a wideout with size, but that is not a be-all, end-all. Fuller just hasn’t emerged as the quality deep threat the team needs to stretch the field, so a blazer with long speed and the ability to catch the ball is also desirable. The bigger the better, of course…
The No. 16 pick is not optimal for taking a wideout. LaQuon Treadwell from Ole Miss is generally regarded as the top receiver. However,
- He’s likely to be off the board already
- He’s not in my top 20 overall players
In fact, I don’t have a single wideout in my top 20. Corey Coleman from Baylor checks in at No. 21, and he makes the most sense for Detroit in the field-stretching role. However, he’s undersized at an optimistically listed 5’11” and 185 pounds and comes from an offense where he ran primitive routes and never blocked (both by design).
Therefore, the target who is the most realistic and the best all-around fit is Josh Doctson from TCU. He’s a strong 6’2” weapon who can win from a variety of alignments. That is important in Detroit’s offense, as Tate also offers versatility to help create more favorable matchups.
No. 16 is too high for Doctson, no question. I highly doubt he falls to the second round slot, however. If new GM Bob Quinn can engineer a trade down into the 20s, Doctson becomes a much more viable option. He has the length, speed, strength with the ball in the air and football savvy to make Jim Bob Cooter’s offense run better.
Detroit picks 46th overall, 15th in the second round. And like the first round, the value at wideout here doesn’t really mesh well with the likely available talent.
If Coleman is still on the board he is absolutely my choice here. Despite his lack of stature, he’s hyper-aggressive with the ball in the air. Even though DBs knew he was going to simply try and run right past them, he almost always succeeded anyway.
With the First Pick
In this scenario we’ll presume Coleman is off the board. Doctson, too. Ohio State’s Michael Thomas is generally projected to be picked in the 30s as well, so he’s removed. Thomas would be a good fit.
That leaves a trio of options. Of Will Fuller from Notre Dame, Pharoh Cooper from South Carolina and Tyler Boyd from Pittsburgh, the best fit in Detroit is Boyd. All are accomplished route runners who create well after the catch. Boyd is the biggest at 6’2”, and he’s also the most accomplished. An instant starter at Pitt, he caught over 250 passes in his three seasons from substandard QBs and often without much help in taking coverage away from him.
Many think Boyd is a first-round talent, and that’s certainly possible. Yet I strongly believe he falls to the second, and I know many agree. My friend Jayson Braddock sheds some light as to why…
Consistency is a real issue, but the good Boyd is very good. I like his game now more than what Braxton Miller or Rashard Higgins, two other potential candidates here, have to offer Detroit in the first couple of years of their NFL careers. Fuller would fill the deep threat role nicely, but he’s slightly built and had serious issues with drops in his Irish career.
The Lions don’t technically have a third-round pick at this point, as Martin Mayhew traded it to move up and select Gabe Wright last year. While you cry that out, take solace that Detroit will get the first compensatory pick at the bottom of the round as a result of Ndamukong Suh taking his overpriced talents to Miami.
In this range, most prospects have one strong NFL attribute but enough holes to hold them back from going higher. The key is finding a player whose strengths fit the bill and whose weak points can be mediated.
The primary candidates here include
- De’Runnya Wilson, Mississippi State
- Roger Lewis, Bowling Green
- Paul McRoberts, Southeast Missouri State
- Keyarris Garrett, Tulsa
- Aaron Burbridge, Michigan State
The local Michigan crowd certainly knows Burbridge well. Of this group he has the most well-rounded game, but also the least potential to offer. Wilson has great size at 6’4” and soft hands, but he’s neither fast nor sudden and also has some off-field issues that likely preclude him from being picked by the Lions. Garrett is an all-or-nothing vertical threat not unlike Corey Fuller, albeit a bigger and more confident version. Lewis has top 50 overall talent and outstanding speed and agility, but he too has some off-field background that will be repulsive to many.
That leaves McRoberts, who showed real potential during Senior Bowl week. A 6’2” smooth operator with a strong frame, he proved he has sticky hands and excellent playing strength on routes over the middle. His long speed is decent, though he lacks burst off the line. He’s a converted basketball player and kept his crisp feet from the hardwood, and that helps him create space in tight quarters. That’s something Matthew Stafford can work with, a sure-handed, bigger target with the ability to get open over the middle but also enough speed to threaten deep.
Should any of those third-round names fall, they vault to the top of the “want” list. My suspicion is both Wilson and Garrett will still be there should Quinn take a shine. For the purposes here, however, we’ll look in a different direction.
My choice here is Geronimo Allison from Illinois. Perhaps it was spending two weeks watching him up close and personal, first at the Shrine Game and then the Senior Bowl, where he was an injury call-up after dominating the practice fields the prior week. Maybe it’s the tantalizing glimpses I saw in watching the ineptly coached Illini last fall. It might even be the pretty darn cool name.
Whatever it is, I’m bullish on Geronimo Allison. A JUCO transfer with a lanky 6’3” build, Allison caught everything thrown near him with strong, soft hands and was able to snatch and secure throws away from his body. He’s got good-not-great long speed but also the ability to change up his gears, an unusual trait for a taller receiver.
Allison would be the receiver flanking a flexed-out Eric Ebron or Tate at first. He has the game of a legit “Z” receiver, but not the body for it at this point. The upside is definitely there, and he proved in the postseason he responds quickly and favorably to better coaching.
Not to be confused with the more prominent player of the same name from Ohio State, Michael Thomas of Southern Mississippi would make a very strong Day Three pick for Detroit.
This Thomas has pretty generic size at 6’0” and 195 pounds. He played for a non-power team in C-USA and didn’t have much buzz after catching just 41 passes as a junior.
He wasn’t even on my radar until a Twitter follower tipped me off in October. I checked him out and immediately liked what I saw. This is a player who has outstanding body control while at top speed, and his top gear is pretty impressive…
Really, you could switch up Thomas and Allison in draft slots here and I wouldn’t object. Because both were limited by scheme, quarterback play and coaching in college, they’re equally undervalued as draft commodities.
And yes, I’m aware of the irony of Detroit spending a fifth-round pick on a receiver named Mike Thomas…
Rounds Six and Seven
It’s still too early to have much of a feel for draft slot ordination this deep in the well, so the prospects here are definitely viable in both rounds.
Pick your favorite two from the following list:
- Chris Moore, Cincinnati
- Cody Core, Ole Miss
- Canaan Severin, Virginia
- Ed Eagan, Northwestern State
- Jay Lee, Baylor
- Nelson Spruce, Colorado
- Quinshad Davis, North Carolina
- Chris Brown, Notre Dame
- Jamaal Jones, Montana
I’ll take Moore and Severin. Moore was a touchdown rainmaker for the Bearcats, but he also showed during Senior Bowl week he’s a more complete receiver than he was allowed to show in college. He’s 6’1”, 205 pounds, will run in the very low 4.4 range and posted ridiculous yardage. He caught just 70 passes in his final two years but netted over 1500 yards and 15 TDs with an above-average catch rate.
Severin is like Thomas and Allison in that he was stymied by a poorly coached collegiate team and inadequate QB play. He’s 6’2”, 208 pounds and drips with upside. He led the Cavaliers wideouts in receptions and yards by almost 200% in each of the last two years. Both are sleepers Lions fans should be aware of as the draft approaches.