By Kevin Major @KevinMajor_Rant on April 22, 2014
The Detroit Lions finished last season with a disappointing 7-9 record, resulting in the firing of head coach Jim Schwartz. Detroit replaced him with Jim Caldwell, who Lions fans hope can get the team back to the playoffs. In order to do so, Caldwell and GM Martin Mayhew will need to improve the Lions roster through the 2014 NFL Draft. Here is a seven-round mock of what the Lions could do in the draft.
One of Detroit's most glaring weaknesses is at cornerback. Last season, the Lions ranked 25th in passing yards allowed per game. To improve their secondary, the Lions should draft Justin Gilbert. Gilbert is the top cornerback in the class. He is a tall, rangy player with great ball skills and athleticism. Not only would Gilbert contribute to Detroit's defense from day one, but he could also be used as a returner on special teams.
The Lions have invested several high draft picks into their defensive line over the last few seasons. Still, Detroit has a hole at defensive end opposite Ziggy Ansah. Scott Crichton is a player who Detroit could draft to address this need. Crichton is a raw, yet talented prospect who shows good burst off the line. He also has a nose for the ball, forcing 10 fumbles during his career at Oregon State.
Drafting Bruce Ellington in the third round would add another weapon to a receiving corps that already features Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate. Ellington would fit in as Detroit's slot receiver and utilize his excellent quickness and cutting ability to shred defenses. Like Gilbert, Ellington also has the ability to be a special teams difference-maker.
Glover Quinn and James Ihedigbo are the projected starters at safety for the Lions. Detroit would be wise to add a safety with strong coverage skills to rotate in during obvious passing situations. Ed Reynolds had a fantastic junior season at Stanford, snagging six interceptions, three of which he ran back for touchdowns. Reynolds' big-play ability would be a welcome addition to Detroit's secondary.
Longtime center Dominic Raiola is likely to retire after this upcoming season. Detroit should use one of their fourth-round picks to bring in his replacement. Bryan Stork is a big-bodied, intelligent center who can be groomed as Raiola's replacement. A year under Raiola's tutelage would help prepare Stork for full-time action come the following season. If needed, Stork can also provide depth at guard.
Jordan Zumwalt is a player who can provide depth to Detroit's linebacker unit. At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, Zumwalt has the size to be an effective NFL linebacker. He played all three linebacker spots at UCLA, but will most likely wind up as an outside backer in a 4-3 scheme. Zumwalt is a big hitter who plays with great energy. He can make an immediate impact on special teams in his rookie season.
In the later rounds of the draft, Detroit should focus on adding depth to their offensive line. Jon Halapio started 43 games at Florida, primarily at right guard. Halapio projects as a backup interior lineman who has the potential to develop into a starter down the road.
The Lions parted ways with David Akers this offseason, leaving them in need of a kicker. Cairo Santos had an excellent junior season at Tulane, but was inconsistent as a senior. Still, Santos will likely find himself on an NFL roster due to his great leg strength. Santos regularly demonstrated the ability to hit field goals over 50 yards and force touchbacks on kickoffs. He could compete to be Detroit's starting kicker in 2014.
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