Detroit Lions: Jaylen Watkins

Some needs have been taken care of. Others, somewhat startlingly, remain on Detroit’s board. This is how the final day of the 2014 NFL draft will begin for the Lions.

With a few answers, a lot of questions and, as of now, four picks remaining. In those four picks -- two of which can’t be traded -- the Lions will likely have to find a developmental quarterback and potentially some depth at linebacker and the defensive line. Maybe another wide receiver.

Oh, and if you missed it, the Lions still have addressed zero needs in the secondary, a position of constant flux in Detroit.

Entering Saturday's four rounds, the Lions have picks Nos. 133 and 136 in the fourth round, pick 146 in the fifth round and No. 189 in the sixth round. It wouldn’t be shocking, though, to see Detroit trade either a player or a pick either this year or next to acquire at least one more selection.

Either that, or they’ll just have to have faith that they can unearth undrafted free-agent contributors like they did with LaAdrian Waddle and Joseph Fauria last season.

Here, though, are 10 players Detroit may target during the final day of the draft. Not the order of their board, just players that could get a heavy look at some point.

1. Aaron Murray, QB, Georgia: The Lions will likely take a developmental quarterback and Murray is a potential choice. Of course, if Tom Savage or A.J. McCarron are still around when they pick at the end of the fourth round, they could look to one of those players, too.

2. Pierre Desir, CB, Lindenwood: As mentioned Friday, he has the height Teryl Austin wants at the position. That he is still around on the third day might have more to do with the competition he played in his career than his actual talent level.

3. Bashaud Breeland, CB, Clemson: Another player on our Friday list, he is a physical corner who likely won’t last until Detroit’s pick, but should get picked up quick if he is.

4. Brock Vereen, S, Minnesota: He has versatility in that he could play safety, nickel and corner if need be. He's very good against the run, which means he could allow Glover Quin to play deep if he were able to beat out James Ihedigbo for the job. Smart player and good instincts.

5. Kelcy Quarles, DT, South Carolina: He's better against the run than the pass and would be a developmental pick.

6. Aaron Lynch, DE, South Florida: He would be a major chance pick, but if he worked out -- and if he doesn’t get drafted, he should be an immediate priority free agent call because of his talent -- he could be a late-round gem. He is extremely talented and if he can deal with some issues with homesickness, he could be a steal.

7. Yawin Smallwood, LB, Connecticut: Classic production-type player that could be a late-round find. He’s not going to wow you in any area, but he is a fundamentally strong football player who is not afraid of contact and is good against the run.

8. Jaylen Watkins, DB, Florida: The Lions did extensive research on his half-brother, Sammy, but they could end up with Jaylen. He can play both corner and safety if need be, and like Vereen above, is going to just be an average player who won’t be a huge difference-maker but won’t hurt you too much, either. If the Lions have some confidence in their secondary, they could take Watkins as a plug-in player at either spot.

9. Martavis Bryant, WR, Clemson: It would be doubtful he’d still be there at the end of the fourth round, but he is one receiver that could be worth taking at that point. His size/speed combination would be of great value at that point and could turn the Lions’ pass-catching operation into a group Matthew Stafford could almost never aim too high on with a ball.

10. Lamin Barrow, LB, LSU: Instinctual player who can handle the run and play every down. If the the Lions were to ever consider making the move to a 3-4 defense or a true hybrid-capability defense, they need to find at least one more linebacker since they might have a lot of those pieces on the defensive line already. He also has special-teams experience, which is a late-round key for Detroit. Watch this name.

Others to watch (draft or free agents): Zach Mettenberger, QB, LSU; Logan Thomas, QB, Virginia Tech; McCarron; Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin; Devin Street, WR, Pittsburgh; Jeremy Gallon, WR, Michigan; Bennie Fowler, WR, Michigan State; Matt Patchan, OT, Boston College; Conor Boffeli, OG, Iowa; Gabe Ikard, C, Oklahoma; Caraun Reid, DT, Princeton; Anthony Johnson, DT, LSU: Larry Webster, DE, Bloomsburg; Michael Sam, DE, Missouri; Cassius Marsh, DE, UCLA; Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State; Denicos Allen, LB, Michigan State; Avery Williamson, LB, Kentucky; Prince Shembo, LB, Notre Dame; Devon Kennard, LB, USC; Walt Aikens, CB, Liberty; Ty Zimmerman, S, Kansas State; Lonnie Ballentine, S, Memphis; Nate Freese, K, Boston College.
The NFL draft is less than 12 hours away, which means soon enough the Detroit Lions will have to reveal whether all of their Sammy Watkins attention and visits from Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack had substance or were designed to throw everyone off.

But the draft will be more than just one round for the Lions, who will need to use the three days in May to build depth on a roster that is big on stars but small on those players beyond the big names that can turn the Lions into a playoff team.

Every day up until the first day of the draft, we’ll look at a different position grouping and see what Detroit has and what the team could end up looking for during the 2014 draft.

Today concludes with safeties.

Other previews

Players Lost: Louis Delmas (signed with Miami)

Players Signed: Isa Abdul-Quddus (from New Orleans); James Ihedigbo (from Baltimore); Nate Ness.

Players on the roster: Glover Quin; Don Carey; DeJon Gomes; Ihedigbo; Abdul-Quddus; Ness.

Draft priority: High

Potential Rounds: Any

Players who have visited or the Lions have met with: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama; Deone Bucannon, Washington State; Jaylen Watkins, Florida (per Detroit Free Press).

Analysis: Much like cornerback, safety is a definitive need for Detroit in this draft. The Lions tried to assist themselves at the position in free agency by signing Ihedigbo and Abdul-Quddus. The problem there is Abdul-Quddus is more of a four-unit special teams player and Ihedigbo appears to be more of a stop-gap option for the Lions than the safety of the future.

This is a position group Detroit needs to upgrade and it is a somewhat tough class to do it in unless the Lions make a move early. That’s part of the reason why I had the Lions taking Clinton-Dix in the first round of the NFL Nation mock draft earlier this week and why he could very well be the team’s choice Thursday night.

Clinton-Dix
In letting go of Delmas, the team signified it wanted to find a more reliable playmaker than Delmas. Too often, Delmas would miss on plays and his injured knees were a concern. The Lions let him go and he signed with Miami, but it also all but guaranteed the team would look to safety early in the draft.

If Detroit is going to really go after winning now, it needs to improve its defensive backfield with a top pick or two. In doing so, it should also improve the front seven, which would then have that extra half-second they so often seemed to need last season to sack quarterbacks.

Depending how the board falls Thursday -- and really, other than a trade, that will dictate all of the Lions’ decisions -- Clinton-Dix could be taken by Detroit or left on the board for someone else. That’s part of the fun of the draft, truly no one can accurately predict what is going to happen.

Of all reasonable options, I’d take: Clinton-Dix in the first round if the board falls even as close to expected. I know Bill Polian disagreed with me on "SportsCenter" on Wednesday, but the Alabama safety does not feel like a stretch at No. 10 and would fill an immediate need. Drafting Clinton-Dix could also move Ihedigbo into a more flexible role. Of course, the Lions haven't drafted a safety in the first round since Bennie Blades in 1988.

If the Lions passed on Clinton-Dix in the first round, a player to watch in later rounds could be Northern Illinois’ Jimmie Ward in the second round; Minnesota’s Brock Vereen in the third or fourth round and Wisconsin’s Dez Southward in the fourth or fifth round.

Possible targets: Clinton-Dix; Calvin Pryor, Louisville; Bucannon; Ward; Craig Loston, LSU; Vereen; Southward; Dion Bailey, USC.
The NFL draft is a day away, which means soon enough the Detroit Lions will have to reveal whether all of their Sammy Watkins attention and visits from Jadeveon Clowney and Khalil Mack had substance or were designed to throw everyone off.

But the draft will be more than just one round for the Lions, who will need to use the three days in May to build depth on a roster that is big on stars but small on those players beyond the big names that can turn the Lions into a playoff team.

Every day up until the first day of the draft, we’ll look at a different position grouping and see what Detroit has and what the team could end up looking for during the 2014 draft.

Today continues with the cornerbacks.

Other previews

Players Lost: None.

Players Signed: Rashean Mathis (re-signed); Cassius Vaughn (signed from Indianapolis); Aaron Hester

Players on the roster: Chris Houston; Darius Slay; Bill Bentley; Jonte Green; Chris Greenwood; Akwasi Owusu-Ansah; Mathis; Hester; Vaughn.

Draft priority: High

Potential Rounds: Any

Players who have visited or the Lions have met with: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma State; Kyle Fuller, Virginia Tech; Bradley Roby, Ohio State.

Analysis: Since the end of last season, cornerback has been an obvious and major need for the Lions. That has not changed and, if anything, has heightened in the past few weeks as Houston continues to heal slowly from a toe injury.

That both Martin Mayhew and Jim Caldwell have expressed concern about Houston getting back to his 2012 form could be telling that the Lions believe they need to make a move on a cornerback, be it in the first, second or third round.

Add to that something else Mayhew said Monday – that by the third season, a cornerback is either going to get it or he won’t. Bentley, Green and Greenwood are all entering their third seasons. Slay is moving into Year 2. Owusu-Ansah will be in his fourth season in the league, but third with any experience. Between the five of them, the Lions have to hope they can find two good cornerbacks.

They re-signed Mathis as an insurance policy if the same thing happens in 2014 that happened in 2013, but the Lions would probably like to have him as a strong depth and fill-in performer instead of as their No. 1 corner, which he was in 2013.

Then there’s Houston, whom the Lions could be stuck with no matter what in 2014 because of the potential salary-cap hit if he were cut. But he is also in a play-or-be-cut season this year as well since the Lions are in a win-now mode anyway.

All of this means expect Detroit to once again take a cornerback fairly early in the draft, although the first round could be a stretch at No. 10. If the Lions trade down, though, or trade back up into the first round – cornerback could be a targeted possibility.

Of all reasonable options, I’d take: The ideal option in my head would be for the Lions to trade back to eventually take Fuller. But Fuller is probably too much of a reach at No. 10 to reasonably pull off. So if the Lions pick at No. 10 or trade up, watch for Stanley Jean-Baptiste from Nebraska in the second round.

Jean-Baptiste has the height defensive coordinator Teryl Austin covets – he wants corners over 6-feet – and has the experience playing big-time college football. He would be a good addition for the Lions, who have to deal with receivers Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery, Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson in the division, among others.

Possible targets: Gilbert; Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State; Fuller; Roby; Jean-Baptiste; Keith McGill, Utah; Phillip Gaines, Rice; Aaron Colvin, Oklahoma; Jaylen Watkins, Florida; Ross Cockrell, Duke; Dontae Johnson, North Carolina State.
Good morning and ROOOAAARRR!!!!!

The NFL combine has officially concluded and the entire NFL world gets a year break from descending on Indianapolis -- unless their team plays the Colts in 2014. So as the focus for teams transitions from scouting rookies to evaluating and planning for the March 11 start of free agency, here's a quick look at how the last group of players did during their combine workouts.

For the Detroit Lions, this is of massive importance since they will be looking for both cornerbacks and safeties during free agency and the draft as they try to upgrade the back end of their defense. This has been a consistent issue for them throughout most of the last decade, something that has not been solved no matter who has been drafted or signed.

Here are some key numbers from this year's rookie class (all from NFL.com).

40-yard dash: Top performer: Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State) 4.37 seconds. Others of note: Bradley Roby (Ohio State) 4.39; Jaylen Watkins (Florida) 4.41; Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech) 4.49; Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State) 4.51; Keith McGill (Utah) 4.51; Lamarcus Joyner (Florida State) 4.55; Loucheiz Purifoy (Florida) 4.61; Marcus Roberson (Florida) 4.61

Vertical jump: Top performer: Stanley Jean-Baptiste (Nebraska) 41.5 inches. Others of note: McGill 39.0; Roby 38.5; Fuller 38.5; Joyner 37.5; Roberson 37.5; Purifoy 35.5; Gilbert 35.5.

Broad jump: Top performer: Pierre Desir (Lindenwood) 11-feet, 1-inch. Others of note: McGill 10-9; Fuller 10-8; Gilbert 10-6; Joyner 10-4; Roby 10-4.

3-cone drill: Top performer: Daniel Sorensen (BYU) 6.47 seconds. Others of note: Roberson 6.84; Fuller 6.90; Gilbert 6.92.

20-yard shuttle: Top performer: Sorensen 3.95. Others of note: Roby 4.04; Roberson 4.08; Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama) 4.16; McGill 4.18; Fuller 4.19.

60-yard shuttle: Top performer: Sorensen 10.80. Others of note: Clinton-Dix 11.63.

And now, a look around the Interwebs in search of Lions news:
Good morning and ROOOOAAARRR!!!!

Players at one position of need for the Detroit Lions worked out Sunday, including some impressive performances from wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans, and players at two other obvious needs will be trying to show off Tuesday.

Defensive backs will work out in the final day of the combine and the Lions have needs at both cornerback and safety, two positions the team could target in the first round in May.

So who should you watch? The familiar names are out there, like safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama) and Calvin Pryor (Louisville) along with cornerbacks Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State), Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State), Bradley Roby (Ohio State) and Marcus Roberson (Florida).

A trio of other names to definitely watch will be Jaylen Watkins (Florida), Lamarcus Joyner (Florida State) and Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech). All could be options for Detroit at some point.

The defensive backs completed the bench press Monday and, from NFL.com, here are how those players did: Watkins 22 reps; Gilbert 20; Pryor 18; Roby 17; Dennard 15; Joyner 14; Fuller 12 and Roberson 8.

And now, a look at Lions news from around the Interwebs:

Exploring Detroit's backup quarterback options. Meet the free agents -- defensive tackle Andre Fluellen. The Lions should focus on cornerback, not receiver, in the first round from colleague KC Joyner.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press breaks down who might be available at No. 10 when Detroit drafts.

Cornerbacks could be too tempting to pass on, writes Josh Katzenstein of the Detroit News.

Mike Evans makes sense for the Lions, writes Kyle Meinke of MLive.

 

 

 

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