Most of the focus on draft talk for the last several months has been on the first round where the Lions have the 10th overall pick.
With 10 days remaining until the draft, let’s take a look at other possibilities in rounds two through seven.
The Lions have a total of eight picks with three in the fourth round (due to two compensatory picks) and none in the fifth round because of the lousy trade for wide receiver Mike Thomas at the end of the 2012 season.
Here are my top five sleeper picks for the Lions:
— Guard/tackle Joel Bitonio of Nevada in the second round if he drops that far. The Lions return their offensive line from last season, but left guard Rob Sims can’t play forever (can he?) so they’ll be looking to replace him down the road. Bitonio (6-foot-4, 302 pounds) played left tackle at Nevada, but is likely to move to guard in the NFL. Matched up well against top opponents including UCLA’s Anthony Barr.
_ Cornerback Phillip Gaines from Rice was a four-year starter and two-time captain. He’s another possibility for second round. He’s got size (6-foot), athleticism and experience in man and zone coverage. In the CBSSports.com on Gaines, it say, “Alert and rarely falls asleep at the wheel.” Mel Kiper has mentioned him a few times as a possibility for the Lions.
— Wide receiver John Brown of Pittsburg State (in photo) would be solid pick in fourth or fifth round. While he doesn’t have the size (he’s 5-foot-10, 179 pounds) he’s one of the speediest players at the draft. Brown ran a 4.34 at the Combine. He was a multiple threat as a receiver and returner for the Gorillas. He had five career touchdown returns, along with 34 receiving touchdowns and six rushing at the Division-II powerhouse in Kansas.
— Wide receiver Matt Hazel from Coastal Carolina in the sixth or seventh round could be a good pick. The 6-foot-1 receiver has good hands, not great speed (4.50 40 at the Combine) but good acceleration and long strides. Played inside and outside for the Chanticleers. Would need to spend time in weight room to bulk up from 198 pounds.
— Safety Alden Darby from Arizona State could also go in sixth or seventh round. If he’d been invited to the Combine he might have risen on some draft boards. He’s 5-10 and 190 pounds. He played corner and safety for the Sun Devils and was also a factor on punt and kickoff units.