The NFL Scouting Combine is fast approaching, and every year the results from those few days in Indianapolis send shivers up and down NFL draft boards. Also affected are the multiple Mock Drafts from experts (and not-so-experts) around the country. College workouts and individual pro days will further shake up draft prognostications as we get closer to the big day in April.
For now, though, more and more draft pundits are guessing that one particular player will be selected by the Lions with the 13th pick of Round One: Outside Linebacker Akeem Ayers from UCLA. Most of these experts agree on four things:
1. The Lions would love to take cornerbacks Patrick Petersen or Prince Amukamara with this pick;
2. Neither of them will be available;
3. No other cornerbacks merit the 13th pick of the draft; and
4. The Lions also need help at linebacker.
The experts guessing that the Lions will take Ayers include the folks at Football’s Future (www.footballsfuture.com) who say that Ayers has size and abilities coaches want in an outside linebacker. Scott Wright from Draft Countdown (www.nfldraftcountdown.com) says that Ayers “is a well-rounded player who can be a factor against the run, in coverage, and as a pass rusher.” Rob Rang from CBS Sports (www.cbssports.com) opines that the Lions need someone to play behind superstar Ndamukong Suh and that Ayers is “an athletic phenom in the mold of Julian Peterson.” Other prognosticators who predict the Lions taking Ayers in round one include Peter Schrager from Fox Sports (msn.foxsports.com), Scott Bischoff of the SideLion Report (sidelionreport.com), and our friends over at Vikings Gab (www.vikingsgab.com) who even said that the Lions were definitely a team on the rise…thanks guys! That had to be hard to say!
Something else most of the above experts agree upon is that Ayers would be a bit of a reach with the thirteenth pick. They are figuring that though Ayers will not be the best pick available when the Lions go to the podium, he will nonetheless be the best pick that fills a Lions need. This also speaks volumes about the fact that the Lions frankly have far fewer needs this year than in years past.
Although Ayers may be getting lots of votes among draftniks, there are plenty of voices who predict that the Lions will go in a different direction with their first pick. Nate Solder, a tight end turned offensive tackle from Colorado has been getting a great deal of buzz in NFL circles lately, and folks at the Great Blue North Report (www.gbhreport.com), Draft Insiders (www.draftinsiders.com) and Expert Mock Draft (www.expertmockdraft.com) all think the Lions will grab him at pick thirteen.
Other guesses of note:
Our Lads (www.ourlads.com): JJ Watt, DE/DT, Wisconsin
Draft Breakdown (draftbreakdown.com): Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
Chad Reuter of CBS Sports (www.cbssports.com): Brandon Harris, CB, Miami (Fla.)
Draft Tek (www.drafttek.com): Jimmy Smith, CB, Colorado
As results from the Combine and Pro Days come in, the draft boards in the NFL war rooms will change rapidly. Free agent moves will also play a large role in determining team needs and draft speculation. For now, though, we can only look ahead and guess. Based on recent Lions drafts, however, there is one thing for sure: Detroit fans have a reason to be much more confident that the Lions brass will make good decisions in April, regardless of whose names are called.