A week remains before the 2014 NFL Draft, and the football world is chomping at the bit. As if it wasn’t long enough already to wait until April 25, the draft has been pushed back to May 8 this year, leaving two extra weeks of buzz, anxiousness and reason to get tired of mock drafts and speculation. It is at this time that I call for the Lions to do something counter-intuitive with their first-round pick, the 10th selection in the draft.
I want them to draft Aaron Donald, the defensive tackle from the University of Pittsburgh. Before Detroit fans call for my head, let me say that I know this would be the third defensive tackle (and fourth defensive lineman) taken by the Lions with a first round pick in the last five years. I know this pick would not make everyone happy. But I do feel like it is the right one, so I will digress a second and give four reasons why.
First off, there are currently seven cornerbacks on the roster. This fact alone makes it difficult for me to think that Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard will be the pick. I don’t think they make the effort to bring all these guys back if they want to draft the first cornerback off the board. Especially in a deep draft for cornerbacks, it is hard to see much reason to go for Gilbert, whose physicality has been in question on multiple occasions, or Dennard, who might not have the top-end speed to be anything more than a simply “good” corner.
Alright, fair enough, maybe selecting a cornerback is not actually that likely. How about a safety? Well, the potential selection at safety, Alabama’s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, is one of the more polarizing prospects in the draft and there is no indication that the Lions are one of the teams that are high on him. Also, they should be comfortable rolling with Glover Quin at free safety and newly signed James Ihedigbo at strong safety for a couple more years. In fact, the greater need is at strong safety, not free safety like Clinton-Dix.
Third, with the Lions deciding not to excise Nick Fairley’s option and Ndamukong Suh’s contract situation still up in the air, I would be shocked if both players are still on the roster when the Lions start the 2015 season. At that point, DT goes from “not a position of need at all” to “most certainly a position of need.” And that is not to say that Donald would not play a lot in 2014, too. He would be a rotational player for sure, and with the Lions’ thin lineup at defensive end, would offer the opportunity to give Suh, Fairley and himself options to slot in at DE in certain situations.
Lastly, and probably most importantly, Donald is a beast. He is violent and disruptive at the point of attack, has ridiculous quickness (and ran a 4.65 40-yard dash), dominated in the Senior Bowl and would be a top five pick if he was just a couple inches taller. Bottom line? He’s an impact player that the Lions could seriously regret passing on just because it wasn’t their biggest need, especially if he ends up in the hands of the division rival Bears.
So the Donald selection, although it is counterintuitive, is looking more and more to me like a great addition for the Lions. I would certainly not throw a fit if the pick ended up being a defensive back (or a receiver like LSU’s Odell Beckham Jr.), but if the Lions select Donald I would be happy they also see all he can bring to them.