Finally, every Lions fan's favorite time of year is upon us: draft season. This offseason will be very different than past years for the Lions, however, as the franchise will have several important decisions to make once free agency comes in mid-March. What Detroit does in the market will obviously affect their approach to the draft, but with that in mind, the front office is most likely to focus on a handful of positions to upgrade with their first pick.
Here is an early list of potential first round targets for the Lions, who are scheduled to pick 23rd overall in the first round.
Best Case Scenario
David DeCastro, OG Stanford (6-5, 312)
Offensive guards are rarely selected early in the first round, and the Lions are no doubt hoping that DeCastro won’t be the exception to the rule. DeCastro is one of the most athletic guard prospects in the past five years and is equally adept blocking for the run and pass. It's hard to envision him getting past a team like the Jets that loves athletic pulling guards, but if he “falls” to No. 23 expect Detroit to run up to the podium with his name on their card. He would be a day one starter and upgrade over current RG Stephen Peterman.
Zach Brown, OLB North Carolina (6-2, 230)
Like what you’ve seen from Von Miller during his rookie year in Denver? Zach Brown could fill a similar role in Detroit should he still be on the board when the team's name is called. He is a superior, versatile athlete that can play sideline to sideline versus the run and pass and has the explosiveness and aggressiveness to be a dangerous pass rusher. For Detroit’s purposes he would likely play OLB on first and second down and put his hand down to get after the passer on third.
Most Realistic Targets
Alfonzo Dennard, CB Nebraska (5-10, 200)
One of the biggest questions last year about Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara (now a New York Giant) was why opposing teams were so willing to challenge a first-round caliber prospect. The answer, quite simply, was Alfonzo Dennard. Dennard may not have the size of Amukamara, but he’s a better athlete and the kind of aggressive man-to-man cover corner Detroit needs. The defensive backfield was woefully thin down the stretch for the Lions and Dennard brings the upgrade in talent the franchise desperately needs.
Peter Konz, OC Wisconsin (6-5, 315)
Konz doesn’t have the elite athleticism of Cleveland’s Alex Mack or the raw power of Pittsburgh’s Maurkice Pouncey, but he has an excellent combination of both and the smarts to match. While many Lions fans would be anxious to see Konz supplant long-time scapegoat Dominic Raiola, Detroit would more than likely start him out at RG in place of Peterman while Raiola plays out the remaining two years of his deal.
Chase Minnifield, CB Virginia (6-0, 185)
Minnifield may not have the press clippings of some of the other top corners in this draft class, but CBs over 6-0 with his level of athleticism are hard to come by and always move up draft boards the closer it gets to April. Minnifield would step into the nickel role right away for Detroit and would hopefully develop into an excellent complement to Chris Houston.
Vinny Curry, DE Marshall (6-4, 263)
Regardless of whether or not Detroit decides to resign Cliff Avril, don’t be surprised if Mayhew and company look to upgrade the pass rush once again with an explosive edge rusher. Curry may be raw in terms of his skill set, but he has the speed and burst off the edge that Detroit lacked down the stretch vs. Green Bay and New Orleans. Given the recent early success of Jason Pierre Paul in New York and Aldon Smith in San Francisco, the Lions may be more willing to gamble on a player like Curry.
Note: Heights and weights are not official
Josh Liskiewitz has been scouting prospects for the NFL draft for five years. He is a College Scout for GM Jr Scouting, LLC. www.russlande.com