I recently particpated in a three-round fan mock over at The Huddle, a fantasy football website I've frequented for ages. The mock started several weeks ago, and picks were selected by either a diehard fan of that team, or a committee of such fans. Things were VERY interesting, to say the least. It's becoming apparent that the Lions are going to have a good solid look at many outstanding propsects with each of these five picks:
1.1 - What else is left for me to say about Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry? He's the most extraordinarily gifted player in this draft class. He's a freak of size, speed, strength, and agility. He's an extremely intelligent young man, with impeccable character. He's a born leader and motivator. He would step in and be the heart and soul of a defense that hasn't had any of either for a decade. I know it's increasingly looking like that won't be good enough to avoid the Lions rolling the dice on yet another quarterback, but damn it, it was my pick and I made it my way.
surprise risers: 1.11, Michael Johnson to Bills; 1.12, Peria Jerry to Broncos
surprise fallers: 1.15, Matt Stafford to Texans
1.20 - An embarassment of riches? More like an avalanche! With one of the big three QBs yet undrafted, one of top four LTs still there, and Aaron Curry still the only LB taken, I had several players available to me that I'd figured would be long gone. I gleefully took Ole Miss OT Michael Oher. A player I've been following as a possible Lion-to-be for two years, Oher could step in and absolutely maul people at the LG spot, until either he supercedes Backus at LT, or Backus' contract becomes edible. Snagging a top-ten worthy franchise LT at the 1.20 spot would be an enormous coup. Still, if we could go into the draft knowing the USC MLB Rey Maualuga would be here at this spot, as he was for me in this one, I wouldn't feel so bad if the Lions took Stafford over Curry. I'd still feel bad, just not "reaching for the drain cleaner" bad (thanks, Neil!).
surprise risers: 1.29, Philip Loadholt to Giants
surprise fallers: 1.23, Rey Maualuga to Patriots (those jerks always get bargains like this!), 1.25, Aaron Maybin to Dolphins, 1.29
2.1 - As I'd hoped, the QB freeze-out continued, and Kansas State QB Josh Freeman--a player I've championed as a better medium- and long-term alternative to Matt Stafford and a possible pick at 1.20--slid all the way down to the first pick in the second round. If he makes it this far, he would represent excellent value, and the Lions would have a Young Culpepper for Linehan to start from scratch with. I hate Culpepper, but Freeman's natural gifts are absolutely undeniable.
surprise risers: 2.31, Herman Johnson (LSU OG) to Cardinals
surprise fallers: 2.27, Evander Hood to Panthers; 2.32, Duke Robinson to Steelers
3.1 - Unlike with the 2.1, I felt tugged in several different directions but wasn't really sold on any of them. I could go DT, WR, or DB. Ultimately, I took CB Coye Francies out of San
Diego Jose State [thanks to Anonymous for the correction!]. He's got good size at 6'-0" 185, decent speed (4.56), and has an long frame with room to grow. He's aggressive with bumping receivers at the line, and loves to tackle (the pic you see of him above his him upending Dwayne Jarrett at the goal line). He's hard-nosed, a hard worker, and should develop into a great complement to a pure athletic cover guy like Buchanon. Franices also had a 22.9 yard-per-return average as a kick returner. The big knock on Francies was a 2007 incident where he was charged with possessing a loaded firearm. The charges were dropped, but he was still dismissed from the Oregon State team. He then went to San Diego State to finish out his college career. Francies isn't jawdropping value here, but is definitely an okay pick. I feel strongly that the Lions will come away with a CB out of their first four with a CB, and Francies was the best CB who could tackle and return available.
surprise risers: none really
surprise fallers: 3.15, SenDerrick Marks (Auburn DT) to Broncos; 3.17, Fili Moala (USC DT)
3.20: It was wild to watch those two DTs fall (I've seen Marks projected as a high second-round guy) . . . I was hoping one would slide to me. Instead they both got snapped up right in front of me. Then I was left with a somewhat decimated board. I decided to go with the best player available, and that was UNC wideout Brandon Tate. An incredible athlete who's a monster returner, Tate is the all-time NCAA D-I record holder for career return yardage. Tate was used both from the WR and RB positions, but projects as a slot wideout in the NFL. He's amazing in space and after the catch, and would be a outstanding addition to the Lions' WR corps. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL and MCL just five games into his senior season, leaving most of his potential unfulfilled. Despite the short time on the field, his incredible contributions as a wideout, RB (he was leading the team in rushing when he was injured), and kick returner still garnered him Honorable Mention All-ACC honors. I think that depending on his knee, Tate might possibly be there for the Lions at 4.1, but they don't have the 4.1, or the 5.1 either for that matter. The 3.20 will be the last chance the Lions have to draft an impact player, so why not draft a guy who would have been a high-second, low-first if he'd finished out his senior year? I received many commendations for this selection.
This draft shows exactly how much talent the Lions will be adding to the roster. I feel strongly that these are the positions they'll be addressing with their magical First Five: LB, OL, QB, CB, and WR. They may well trade down to make it a magical First Six or First Seven, even. We can't assume that all these guys will start and succeed right away-or even ever. The odds say that three of these five talented players will never be significant contributors. But, this draft will provide a desperately needed influx of skill at several positions of desperate need . . . it can only be a good thing.