As the NFL playoffs kick off this weekend, the Detroit Lions already have turned their attention to free agency and the 2013 NFL Draft.
So, for the first time this year, we trot out a few predictions for the Lions’ draft — this post covers Rounds 1, 2 and 3.
Round 1, No. 5 overall: Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
The Lions should have their choice of intriguing, talented prospects at No. 5 — including, potentially, Manti T’eo, Damontre Moore, Jarvis Jones and others. They cannot continue to put off addressing the secondary, though, a mistake from last year’s draft that cost them in 2013.
Milliner has just one as a starter under his belt, but he broke up 18 passes this season and was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award. He’s an aggressive corner, one who likes to play tight bump-and-run coverage, which is a skill set the Lions desperately could use.
Based on what’s currently on the Lions’ roster, Milliner could be a starter from Day One, whether or not the Lions retain Chris Houston.
Round 2, No. 36 overall: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson
I know, I know … receivers.
This also might be too low for Williams — but that’s part of why I’m slotting him here, since the Lions love to ride the “best player available” strategy, and Hopkins would be a solid add in Round 2.
Maybe Nate Burleson comes back from his broken leg, the Lions keep him around, and he thrives in 2013; maybe Titus Young screws his head on straight and taps into his talent. Can the Lions afford to wait and wonder in either case, especially when they may not have much cap space to add a big-time talent to complement Calvin Johnson?
Hopkins is a reliable pass-catcher and he has the ability to stretch the field. With teams committing two, three and even four defenders to Johnson, the Lions badly need someone who can take advantage of one-on-one matchups. Hopkins fits the bill — and he’s used to being in a No. 2 WR spot, playing alongside Sammy Watkins at Clemson.
Round 3, No. 65 overall: Arthur Brown, OLB, Kansas State
Brown nearly entered the draft last year before returning to Kansas State for his final season. Detroit needs linebacker depth, and that’s especially true with Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy up for free agency. The Lions will be fortunate to keep one, let alone both, so the door will be open for someone to step in and start.
Brown is a great tackler with terrific instincts and slots out as a 4-3 OLB — perfect for Detroit. He may not possess ideal size, but the Lions would sacrifice measurables for ability here.