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My Initial Board for the Lions’ 13th Pick

The first round of the 2011 Draft is still three weeks away and with the labor hearing beginning tomorrow, a lot is up in the air right now.  I’m going to assume that the labor issues will not be resolved early enough for free agency to occur before the draft.

Three weeks is a lot of time and there are several variables that could alter my rankings, but here is my initial board for the Lions’ 13th overall pick.  I have built these rankings based on the Lions’ schemes, the front office’s approach to building the team and my opinion of the best available player that fits those criteria.

  1. Prince Amukamara, CB Nebraska– Amukamara is the only player that could be available that fills the best player available criteriaand satisfies an immediate need.  He is a high character player that fits the Lions’ style and the Lions get an inside look at Prince as a person from former teammate Ndamukong Suh.
  2. Tyron Smith, T USC – Smith offers immediate depth and fills a massive need for the future.  The Lions have immediate questions surrounding the right tackle position and future concerns about the left tackle position.  Smith potentially fills both needs as well as qualifies as one of the best players available at 13.  Smith has elite athleticism for a left tackle, but he has limited experience playing there as he was a right tackle in college.  There have been some negative comments coming out about him recently, but I  view those as smoke screens from teams hoping he’ll slide to them.  Heck, the Lions might even be the source of some of those comments.
  3. Aldon Smith, DE Mizzou – There are three premier value positions in the NFL, quarterback, left tackle and pass rusher.  The Lions presently have all three filled, but other than quarterback none are filled long term.  Aldon Smith is young, but extremely talented and he would benefit from being a rotational end while learning from Kyle Vanden Bosch for a year or two.  The Lions’ defense will always live and die by the pass rush, so they can’t wait until KVB retires to find his replacement.  Smith will have a role in the present as the Lions heavily rotate defensive lineman so he’d probably see 15 snaps a game and be the primary backup defensive end.
  4. Robert Quinn, DE North Carolina – Quinn is a huge risk reward prospect and if I were the one responsible for pulling the trigger on drafting him I would have some reservations.  He has a minor medical concern with a benign brain tumor and he has some physical concerns after missing a year of football.  However, had he not missed the season due to suspension he most likely would have been the 1st overall pick.  Quinn has all the physical tools of the elite edge rushers in the league and absolutely dominated games in 2009.  The kid has some risks, but the upside on him is sky high.
  5. Anthony Costanzo, T Boston College – Costanzo is the most technically sound and well seasoned tackle prospect in the draft.  He lacks the elite athleticism of Tyron Smith but he’s a proven commodity at left tackle and right tackle.  I’ve seen some comparisons to Jake Long, but I think Long was a little nastier and a better run blocker at this stage.  Costanzo is probably the cleanest prospect on my board when you combine the coaching he received in college, the body of work in college and smoothest transition into the pros.
  6. Ryan Kerrigan DE, Purdue – Kerrigan appears to be a KVB clone as far as motor, relentlessness and leadership.  He had excellent college production as a three year starter, he was an academic All American and a team captain as well.  He’s a great athlete but he lacks the elite athleticism and upside of Aldon Smith and Quinn.  While he lacks the upside he is a far more proven player and fits the football character of this team.
  7. Trade Down – After Kerrigan the value or fit of the players available drops off to the point that they could be considered reaches.  The best case scenarios for trading down will be defensive ends, wide receivers or potentially Mark Ingram.  I’d put fairly slim odds on the Lions trading down because I think one of the six players above will be there and all of them fit the Lions’ mold.  the Lions aren’t in the position they were in years past where they had needs everywhere and needed to maximize their picks, they have decent depth they need to add front line type players now.
  8. JJ Watt, DE Wisconsin – Watt is another high motor defensive end with all the football character that coaches love.  He is a powerful pass rusher with a variety of moves and sneaky athleticism for a guy his size.  He started his career at tight end which shows how athletic he is.  Watt played in a similar style defense at Wisconsin and was extremely productive.  The downside with Watt is he’s not an elite pass rusher from the edge so he’d most likely have to kick inside to tackle on obvious passing downs. 
  9. Nate Solder, T Colorado– Solder is another player whose career started at tight end before moving to the line.  Solder is boom or bust type prospect who has all the tools to be an elite player but hasn’t put it all together on the field yet.  Solder’s issues are mostly technical and can be improved with pro level coaching, but he will take more time to develop than some of the other tackles and with the labor situation most likely eating up a lot of offseason work he may be limited in 2011 as far as getting him on the field.
  10. Cameron Jordan, DE Cal – Jordan is another high motor type with a long frame that had a productive college career.  he’s a bit of a tricky projection because he primarily played in a 3-4 defense but also played in some other multiple fronts.  He doesn’t appear to be an elite pass rushing threat from the edge but can kick inside to defensive tackle on passing downs and be disruptive from the interior.

There are a couple of other names that I have seen connected with the Lions in mock drafts or draft discussions, but I don’t believe they are in the running at pick 13.

  1. Akeem Ayers, LB UCLA – Ayers is a big reach at 13 and he’s a projection player as well.  he was more of a pass rusher in college than a drop back linebacker and the Lions wouldn’t be asking him to rush the passer the bulk of the time.  I think the Lions will look linebacker at some point in the draft, but they will not reach for one.  If/when free agency happens, there are a lot of linebackers available that fit what the Lions are looking for and the Lions are far more likely to fall back on free agency than reach in the draft.  This is especially true this year when the bulk of the OLB prospects are 3-4 type pass rushers rather than traditional 4-3 type linebackers.
  2. Mark Ingram, RB Alabama – The Lions are looking for a complementary back, drafting a back at 13 is not complementary, that’s starter territory.
  3. Jimmy Smith, CB Colorado – Smith would be very much in play at 13 if it wasn’t for his character concerns.  I am hesitant to really delve into the character issues because anything I hear is second hand or further removed, but I’m not positive the Lions have removed Smith from the board.  If the Lions trade down Jimmy Smith could come into play, or if he’s there in the second round he could be an option too.  Smith has character concerns but the Lions have a really strong group of veteran leaders that could help keep Smith on the right path.  I’ll throw one disclaimer out there on Smith.  If his character issues are limited to off the field issues, I’d bet he hasn’t been removed from the Lions’ board.  If the character issues are football character issues like work ethic, love of the game or something of that nature he’s not on their board. 

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