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My Final Board for the Lions’ 13th Pick

With the 2011 NFL Draft just a day away here is my final board for the Lions’ 13th 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.

In my initial board, I had Prince Amukamara at the top, but after going back and really assessing positional value at 13 as well as the positional value of where the Lions hope to be drafting in the future, I had to reshuffle my board.  There simply is too much value in the left tackle and defensive end positions to be ignored if the proper players are available. 

  1. 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.  Smith is widely viewed as a lock for the Cowboys’ pick, but I think they prefer Anthony Costanzo if they are going to go offensive line.  The Cowboys have a young left tackle in Doug Free and Smith isn’t a prototypical NFL right tackle for the long term.  I don’t really expect the Cowboys to go offensive line in the first round because they are looking for a right tackle and they rarely go in the top 10.
  2. 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.  I have been on the Smith bandwagon since I did my initial work on him in February.  Nothing I have seen in my reevaluations tempers that enthusiasm.  Smith reminds me of Cliff Avril, but with a bigger frame and a little more developed at this stage.  The buzz is really picking up on Smith going to Washington, Houston or Minnesota but I think he’s a much better fit in the 4-3 than 3-4, so I think Minnesota is the biggest threat to take him ahead of the Lions.
  3. 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 as a kid 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.  I think the real decisions on this guy come with football character, how hard will he work to get back to where he was and can he adapt to the pro game where speed rushes and elite talent don’t go as far as in college?  Personally, I think he could have the highest ceiling of any player in the draft and with the leadership the Lions have in that defensive line group he will have no choice but work his tail off and learn the pro game.
  4. 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.  I think he’s a safer pick than Quinn, but I see Quinn as the type of player you get a shot at because of his suspension last year.  You don’t get a shot at a talent like him outside of the top 10 often.  Costanzo is a good well rounded offensive tackle, but I don’t see him as a Joe Thomas-type once in a blue moon talent.  I think in a stronger offensive line class Costanzo would be available in the 20’s.  Don’t get me wrong, I like him a lot, but the three players I have ahead of him are rare talents in my mind.
  5. 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.  There’s a lot of negativity surrounding him the last couple of weeks, which makes me believe he doesn’t get to the Lions.  People were in love with him during the season and up to the Combine, then all of the sudden during “smokescreen season” people doubt his abilities.  He’s a highly intelligent player that comes from a pro style college defense and was coached by one of the better defensive minds in the NCAA.  He has good size, great speed, good ball skills and rare athleticism that comes from his background as a running back.  He’s also a great locker room guy.
  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. 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.
  8. 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.

Players I Removed from Consideration

JJ Watt, DE Wisconsin- I think he’s a good player, but I’m not sure he can be an elite pass rusher which would reduce his value.  Defensive ends that play the run well and are decent pass rushers don’t provide great value at 13.

Cameron Jordan, DE Cal- See JJ Watt.

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