Defensive tackle offers Lions lots of options in draft

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

The Lions likely won't reveal the position they'll select in the first round of April's draft until they're on the clock, but they'll surely look to fill a long-term hole at defensive tackle early in the draft.

Caraun Reid, a fifth-round pick in 2014, is the only tackle currently on the roster for 2015, so even if the Lions re-sign All-Pro Ndamukong Suh and another free agent this offseason, they'll need to add depth for the future.

"I laugh with the whole Detroit thing," draft analyst Mike Mayock said during a nearly three-hour teleconference Monday. "Talk about rags to riches and back again. They barely had a defensive tackle on their roster going into free agency. It'll be intriguing to see what happens."

According to Mayock, this is a good year to need help on the interior of the defensive line.

"I see eight defensive tackles that I think are high-level players," he said. "Not that the rest aren't because there are a bunch of other good ones, but my point is I think there's a little bit of a drop-off."

USC's Leonard Williams, who can play inside or outside, is among the players vying to be the first overall pick, and Washington's Danny Shelton could be a top-10 pick, according to Mayock. With the Lions picking 23rd, they likely won't be in the market for Williams or Shelton.

Instead, Texas defensive tackle Malcom Brown is a player linked to the Lions in recent mock draft and someone Mayock said is a "first-round guy all day long." Brown is also married with two children, fitting the character mold the Lions targeted in the 2014 draft with coach Jim Caldwell.

Other potential first-round defensive tackles include Oregon's Arik Armstead, Oklahoma's Jordan Phillips, Florida State's Eddie Goldman and Iowa's Carl Davis. A product of Sterling Heights Stevenson, Davis helped his stock significantly at the Senior Bowl last month.

The eighth "high-level" tackle option is Michael Bennett from Ohio State, who projects as a likely second-round pick.

Behind that group, there are still other options at the position. Mayock mentioned Mario Edwards from Florida State and Tyeler Davison from Fresno State, who are more likely third- or fourth-round picks.

Again, there's no guarantee the Lions will target a defensive tackle in the first round as they have future holes to fill on the offensive line and at running back and receiver. But if they wait until later rounds to draft a defensive tackle, the defense will look much different than the past few years with Suh and Nick Fairley in the middle.

"You're used to these first-round super-freaky defensive tackles with Suh and Fairley," Mayock said. "It'll be interesting to see where you end up especially if you get into that second or third round."

On their guard

Another position the Lions likely will target at some point in the draft is offensive guard. In 2013, they took Larry Warford in the third round, and he's solidified himself as the right guard of the future. In 2014, they took Travis Swanson, who is likely the center of the future.

Perhaps, the Lions will use a third-round pick to find their long-term left guard.

One guy who could be an option is Duke guard Laken Tomlinson, who Mayock said is similar to Warford. Mayock said he thinks Tomlinson is a second-round pick, but some teams see him as a third-rounder.

"This is a big, square, tough guy, smart as can be, gets movement in the run game, surprisingly quick in short areas," Mayock said. "I think he really helped himself at the Senior Bowl. I think a lot of the doubters as far as his athleticism and his ability to pass block went, 'Ooh, he's blocking some of the best defensive linemen in the country.' So, I think he's a really good player."

Some other guard options for the Lions in the second round, according to Mayock, are South Carolina's A.J. Cann and Florida State's Tre' Jackson. Later options include Louisville's John Miller and Texas A&M's Jarvis Harrison, Mayock said.

In the running

The Lions should also address their need for a running back, and if they make Reggie Bush a salary-cap casualty, there could be some replacement options, Mayock said

"I think there are two of them in the second round that make a ton of sense, Ameer Abdullah from Nebraska and Duke Johnson from Miami," he said. "The knock on Abdullah — and it's significant — are fumbles.

Abdullah was highly productive, but had 23 fumbles and lost 16 during his four years with the Huskers.

"If you take that out the equation, he is the quintessential space player. He catches the football, real quick, make you miss. I think Duke Johnson from Miami is in the same mold."

Of course, there's no reason to think the Lions will look specifically for a speedster. Joique Bell will be 29 next season, Theo Riddick could handle receiving duties and the Lions could target a three-down guy in a draft loaded with running backs.