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Thursday, February 6, 2014
Kiper/McShay mock draft reax: Lions

By Michael Rothstein

One is going offense. One defense.

There is not one major need for the Detroit Lions in this May's draft, there are two -- and each of our draft analysts has hit on one of those needs in their second mock drafts of the year. No matter the order, wide receiver and cornerback are the spots the Lions are likely going to focus on with their first two picks.

Mel Kiper Jr. went with defense Insider, selecting Oklahoma State's Justin Gilbert for Detroit with the No. 10 pick.

Gilbert, at 6-foot, possesses the size quotient that new Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has traditionally shown he likes in his cornerbacks. Gilbert is also considered the best cornerback in the draft, just a hair ahead of Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard.

"Gilbert has some competition to be the first corner taken, but I expect him to put up some pretty impressive numbers at the combine," Kiper Jr. wrote. "He should prove to be a pretty big draw in a league where big corners who can battle at the catch point, but also have elite speed and quickness are coveted. Detroit should get some development at corner on the current roster, but also could face some turnover. They need to place a bet on another young corner or two."

Kiper Jr.'s counterpart, Todd McShay, stuck with offense Insider and went with a player who is more of a project, but an intriguing talent, in Mike Evans from Texas A&M.

Evans fits the mold of what new Lions head coach Jim Caldwell likes at receiver, and is someone who can line up on the outside opposite Calvin Johnson. It would also give Detroit three tall red-zone threats for quarterback Matthew Stafford with Johnson, 6-foot-7 Joseph Fauria at tight end, and Evans, who is 6-4.

Unlike Gilbert, who is likely to be the first cornerback taken, Evans would be a stunning pick as the first receiver taken. If Clemson's Sammy Watkins fell to Detroit, the Lions would likely send rugby star Carlin Isles -- he's the fastest man in rugby and on the Detroit roster right now -- zooming to the podium to make the selection.

But Watkins will likely be gone, so Detroit could go with Evans, who is great when the ball is in the air.

"Evans still has some developing to do as a route runner, and yes, he has some immaturity issues and a tendency to get overly emotional," McShay wrote. "But he is an absolute pitbull on the field, and there is no reciever in this draft who is more dangerous when the ball is in the air. Both the tape and the advanced metrics support the case that he is the most proven down-the-field pass-catcher in the 2014 class. The Lions need a difference-maker opposite Calvin Johnson, and Johnson's leadership and experience could be just what Evans needs to avoid early career pitfalls."

A lot of things will start to have more direction in a couple of weeks, when the NFL has its annual combine in Indianapolis later this month.