Despite turning in a very uplifting season in 2011, the Detroit Lions face a very contrary off-season that could have a direct effect on what they do in the 2012 NFL Draft—so why not a little full 7-round Detroit Lions mock draft to help sort things out, eh?
The major issue for Detroit is their lack of salary cap space combined with the bevy of players who are free agents this year. This tricky combination will make navigating the off-season rather difficult, and it could also force Detroit to draft "for the future...again" if certain players are unable to be retained.
Let's take a look at what the Lions face, and what sort of mock draft I have for everyone today. For more mock drafts, check out the rest of my analysis on the NFC North: Green Bay / Chicago / Minnesota
Round 1: Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama
6'2", 192 pounds
The Lions have several choices to make in regard to just exactly who they will draft in the first round, but I believe if Dre Kirkpatrick is still available, the Lions will pull the trigger.
The Lions dealt with a ton of injuries in the secondary last season and to add to that issue, top corner Eric Wright is still without a contract while fellow corner Chris Houston is only good for one more year.
The move makes sense for Detroit despite other glaring needs. The Lions need a physical corner with good size and speed for one, but more importantly, they need a corner who is just as good out of man, as he is in zone.
Kirkpatrick fits the bill, but again, it's all a matter of whether or not he'll even be available. If he is not, the Lions could shift gears and select a DE such as Andre Branch from Clemson.
Round 2: Zebrie Sanders, OT, Florida
6"4", 260 pounds
Obviously we are assuming the Lions do in fact grab one of the top corners in the draft first. This move would certainly prompt them to quickly grab a much needed OT, before missing out on what is projected as top talent.
Detroit recently dumped a bit of money into their O-Line, but there are a few other holes they really need to patch up, particularly with Jeff Backus who really struggled in pass protection last year. The other issue of course, is the Lions have to draft not only for depth but for the future NOW.
Zebrie Sanders would certainly help this team in a variety of ways.
The Lions are figured to introduce a little more power running in an effort to ease the pressure on QB Matthew Stafford, but they will also need a quality pass-blocking tackle. Sanders has built a reputation for being both.
Sanders is an exceptionally strong individual who didn't struggle often against pass-rushers, and he is even better as a power blocker, and even BETTER as a run blocking tackle on the move—three dominate aspects the Lions could wind up being interested in.
If the Lions wind up targeting a DE first, however, expect them to target a corner second; perhaps Leonard Johnson from Iowa State.
Round 3: Billy Winn, DE, Boise State
6'3", 300 pounds
The second and third pick for the Lions will rely heavily on whether or not Detroit can re-sign LE Cliff Avril —it isn't a matter of whether they want to, rather, a matter of can they.
The problem is, the Lions already have a shrunken cap thanks to the boat load of money they've already spent, and the growing notion is Avril may have to accept less money in order to return unless the Lions come up with some clever book-keeping maneuvers.
Either way, the Lions still need to consider grabbing a quality end for the future, and Billy Winn seems like the perfect prospect.
Boise State was the second ranked defense in the country in 2011 and a lot of that had to do with Winn's presence on the line, and ability as a pass rusher and run defender.
Winn offers the ability to play out of the three-technique and five-technique, while also offering above average speed and agility—and that's WITH being 300 pounds.
The Lions could easily justify taking a player with this much talent and potential in the third round.
Round 4: Bernard Pierce, RB, Temple
6'0", 218 pounds
I really don't see any other avenue for Detroit other than a RB, especially if Bernard Pierce is still lingering around in the fourth.
Jahvid Best is way to risky of a long-term option with his injured past, and his current "recovery" from a concussion is going rather slow. 21 year old backup Mikel Leshoure is recovering from a torn Achilles tendon and is unproven as a pro back.
In other words the Lions need a reliable, power-style back FOR SEVERAL REASONS.
Pierce literally came out of nowhere in his freshman year and after only playing nine games, the boy rushed for 1,361 yards (236 carries) which averaged out to 5.8 YPC while also rushing for 16 touchdowns.
Pierce has the prototypical size and speed to be a true power back in a system that needs one—ya know, like Detroit—and is the type of player who possesses the right collection of skill-sets to be an immediate impact no matter where he goes.
Round 5: Duke Ihenacho, SS, San Jose State
6'1", 210 pounds
The Lions had their fair share of poison last season with Louis Delmas' injuries, and Amari Spievey's disappointing play—Spievey being the worst of the two by far.
The Lions could consider grabbing a developmental short safety here which would not only add depth to their already thin roster, but also provide a little potential insurance.
Ihenacho is an under-the-radar safety who could wind up being that very developmental player the Lions may be in the market for, and given his coverage ability and tackling skills, there is enough potential to suggest he could wind up being starting material one day as well.
If anything, he would certainly be a bargain pick in the fifth round, especially for a team that doesn't possess the cap space to sign a fee-agent SS.
Round 6: Ryan Broyles, WR, Oklahoma
5'10", 188 pounds
The Lions will certainly be fishing for a receiver in the 2012 NFL Draft, but I have a sneaky suspicion they will be setting their sights on a slot-type receiver, rather than a traditional outside man.
The Lions already have their WR 2 in Titus Young and the slot position is currently manned by Nate Burleson who is expected to remain the slot receiver in 2012—so why a slot-type receiver?
Well to be honest it would be the perfect time to bring in a young player and have him learn from some highly productive guys within the Lion system now, in an effort to prepare for the future—it makes perfect sense.
Broyles is that prospect. Broyles is already an NFL-type slot receiver who is a crisp route runner with explosive speed off the line and enough elusiveness to consider him near NFL ready.
The only knock on Broyles is a minor offense in his freshman year and a slight fracture in his shoulder-blade in 2009. These issues could cause his stock to fall, but as a sixth round selection, he would still be an incredible steal.
Round 7: Quinten Saulsberry, C, Mississippi State
6'3", 302 pounds
Right now the Lions really only have one center in Dominic Raiola who is signed through 2013, but the man isn't getting any younger and the organization could be thinking about his future replacement.
Saulsberry has all the makings of a great student that could one day take over for the aging Raiola.
Saulsberry is highly aggressive and plays with a mean streak. His footwork is exceptional as is his movement off the snap—rare for a 300 pound center coming out of college.
Interestingly enough, it's his mean side and overall size that most scouts feel are his weaknesses—traits that are very similar to the guy currently playing center right now in Detroit.
Have a player in mind that you feel would make a better selection? Leave you idea below and get the debate going.