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Thursday, April 17, 2014
Analyzing Kiper Mock 4.0: Lions

By Michael C. Wright

Detroit’s potential dalliance with trading up for Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins might scream splash, but practicality might be the better approach for the Lions in the upcoming draft, as they need to upgrade on defense.

The Lions hold the 10th overall selection and will have plenty of strong defensive prospects capable of contributing immediately available in addition to several solid options for the offense in the later rounds. Mel Kiper’s fourth 2014 NFL mock draft  (this one covering two rounds) is out Thursday, and his picks appear to fall right in line with what ultimately might be best for the Lions.

Although it’s rumored that Detroit could be interested in trading up for Watkins, Kiper projects the club to take Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix with the 10th pick, a move that could immediately upgrade a secondary badly in need of a touch-up while enhancing the work already done by the front office in landing veteran James Ihedigbo in free agency. Kiper expects Detroit to bolster the secondary even further in the second round by taking cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste of Nebraska with the 45th overall pick.

Here’s Kiper’s take on the 10th pick: “The addition of James Ihedigbo in free agency doesn't diminish Detroit's need for more help at safety. Getting the top free safety in the draft, a guy who will distinguish himself with his ability to cover with great range fills a pretty big personnel void for Detroit, and this isn't much of a leap in terms of where Clinton-Dix's name is stacked on most draft boards. I do think Detroit could consider a corner here; I just see Clinton-Dix as a better player and a likelier early impact for a team that should feel like it can be in the playoff picture if they can be better in coverage. The depth at CB in this draft means the Lions can add one later.”

Kiper’s prediction mirrors what colleague Todd McShay projected in his latest mock draft . While corner is also an option for the Lions -- not to mention a need -- and the class is deep, McShay believes none of the prospects are worthy of top-10 consideration. At the same time, McShay also thinks the 10th pick might be too early for a safety to come off the board.

McShay wrote that “between [Clinton-Dix] and free-agent signee James Ihedigbo at strong safety, the Lions could quickly turn around the safety position, which was a glaring weakness last season.”

There’s a high probability for that happening if Detroit goes in that direction and would represent the smart play by the organization, as NFL Nation colleague Michael Rothstein smartly explains why trading up for Watkins would be a dicey proposition.

Rothstein writes that for the Lions to become contenders, they need to add difference-makers on defense as opposed to more weapons for quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Detroit could be moving that direction with the selections of Clinton-Dix and Jean-Baptiste.

In Jean-Baptiste, Detroit would grab a corner with imposing safety size (nearly 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds) and plenty of explosion (41.5-inch vertical leap at the NFL combine), which could help the Lions gain some lockdown ability on the outside to complement the new safeties.

Jean-Baptiste ran a 4.61-second 40-yard dash at the combine, which triggered concerns about his speed. But at his pro day, Jean-Baptiste reportedly ran a 4.46, which is plenty fast for any cornerback, let alone one with his impressive size.