Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 1, 2013

James Cook: Who will Lions take at No. 5?


— The great debate on sports message boards throughout the state has been divisive, bitter and stark.

Hopefully this isn’t, but let’s tackle it anyway.

Who will the Detroit Lions draft in the first round?

It’s the question that’s been argued repeatedly across keyboards all over Michigan.

Do the Lions go with a left tackle to protect franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford? Do they snag a young defensive end to put pressure on opposing QBs? Or does Detroit aim for the cornerback to play opposite Chris Houston and give the Lions perhaps their best secondary since the days of Wayne Fontes?

Those are the top three options.

You’ve got any of two — or even three — tackle options. Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson.

At corner, it’s pretty much down to one — Alabama’s Dee Milliner — that has enough value to take at No. 5 overall.

At defensive end, there’s Oregon’s Dion Jordan, who will likely be gone. He’s more of a tweener end/linebacker and doesn’t fit perfectly into Detroit’s 4-3 defense. That leaves Ezekiel Ansah as the top pure end worthy of a top-five pick.

There’s a lot of valid points in defending your preference.

In the end, it may come down to which position of need could be addressed in later rounds. In this draft, that tactic points you toward offensive tackle.

End and corner can be had in the second and third rounds. Players like Damontre Moore, Alex Okafor and Margus Hunt could be there in the second. Hunt is the most intriguing of those options. The 6-foot-7 Southern Methodist star runs a 4.6 40-yard dash at 277 pounds and blocked 17 kicks in college.

You then risk that a solid corner like Darius Slay or Jamar Taylor slips to the third round — which isn’t exceptionally likely — but one position will have to wait unless Detroit trades down or makes a surprise free agent signing. There’s always Tyrann Mathieu, but he’s not even the best corner from his school in this draft (that distinction goes to Tharold Simon) and could slip to the fourth. The Lions also have three young corners they drafted last year competing to start opposite Houston, so at least there’s competition at that spot.

That can’t be said for defensive end, where Willie Young, newly-signed free agent Jason Jones and second-year player Ronnell Lewis are the only players under contract after letting Cliff Avril walk, not re-signing Lawrence Jackson as of yet and releasing Kyle Vanden Bosch.

That’s why the fairly small crop of plug-and-play left tackles comes into play. That would allow the Lions to put last year’s No. 1 pick — Riley Reiff — at right tackle as the team tries to replace both starting bookends from last season.

Left tackle, it is.