As I go through how to put together my mock draft this year, which I will reveal on NFL Network's pre-draft show on Thursday (1 p.m. ET), the puzzle I have is pinpointing what the Detroit Lions will do with the No. 2 overall pick.
There's no doubt in my mind that the St. Louis Rams will -- and should -- take QB Sam Bradford No. 1 (more on that later), but what do the Lions do at No. 2? It really is the early pivotal pick in this year's draft. I've outlined other pivotal top-10 picks below, but first the Lions â¦
If the Lions drafted OT Russell Okung at No. 2, they've got a chance to come back in the second round and grab a defensive tackle if they would like to, because interior defensive line is one of the deepest positions in the draft.
But if Detroit decides to go in the opposite direction and take Suh or McCoy at No. 2, the left tackles who will remain in the second round are highly unknown. There's only seven or eight guys who I consider to be quality left tackles in this draft, and they could all be gone by the time Detroit picks in the second round (No. 34 overall). Charles Brown from USC could be sitting there. And if they've got Suh or McCoy and Brown you'd be pretty happy.
So really the question is: The greater need vs. Suh and McCoy being better football players at their position than Okung is at his.
Should you take a player that's better? Usually I say yes, because I think you dilute the overall quality of your roster when you pick a guy that you acknowledge is not as good as a guy who's available because of need. In the final days leading up to the draft, that's the conundrum facing the Lions.
Ultimately, I'm leaning toward Detroit taking a defensive tackle. I think Suh and McCoy are too good, too elite to pass up. And I think Lions coach Jim Schwartz is going to feel the same way.
Okung is very similar to Cleveland's Joe Thomas when he was being evaluated before the Browns drafted the Wisconsin product two years ago with the No. 3 overall pick. I've said since Day 1 that McCoy and Suh are the two best players in this draft. I compare Suh to being like Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams, who has been selected first-team all-pro five times in seven seasons. I think that's the kind of player Suh can be.
McCoy is a quick three-technique, a little bit better pass rusher, and he's explosive. He's good against the run. I think he's better than when the Bears' Tommie Harris came out of Oklahoma in 2004.
As far as who I think Detroit will take at No.2? I'm leaning toward Suh.
You're talking about a guy who's just grown up over time. There are a lot of one-year wonders out there who get drafted high in the first round, but this is a guy who's got some really good years ahead of him.
No matter what, Bradford goes No. 1
If you need a quarterback and believe there's a franchise quarterback on the board when you draft, you have to take him, because, in my opinion, you can't win a Super Bowl in the NFL without one of those guys. And there's an awful lot of good ones in the league right now.
But it takes a special person to process and assimilate so much information like NFL quarterbacks are required to do. If one of them is there, I believe you have to take them and build your team around him.
With that said, I fully expect that Bradford will go No. 1.
If we throw the durability concerns out the window and look at him as a normal developmental quarterback, he's got all the tools to be elite -- starting with accuracy, which I think is underrated in the NFL. Bradford's got the arm strength necessary; he doesn't have an elite arm, but he's got plenty of arm strength. He's got great accuracy, he's a good leader, and he's a tough kid.
There are two things I really think Bradford is going to have to improve on, though. One is pocket awareness, which is typical with any quarterback coming out of a spread college offense. And, secondly, he's going to have to deal a little bit better with getting beat up, especially if he starts with a team that was 1-15 last year.
Bradford had trouble last year, hurt that shoulder twice. But it shouldn't be a problem. However, next year could be a long year for him behind that Rams offensive line.
Browns at No. 7 have choice to make
It's interesting, because I think QB Jimmy Clausen is more in play with the Browns' selection at No. 7 than I would have thought a couple of weeks ago. That's point No. 1. No. 2, it's probably too early for CB Joe Haden at that point. And if they don't take one of the free safeties -- Eric Berry or Earl Thomas -- where do they go?
They don't have a true No. 1 wide receiver, so Dez Bryant could be in play at No. 7 if they're willing to deal with his baggage. People like Bill Belichick and Bill Parcells, who I think Eric Mangini may pattern himself after, have not been averse to taking on-risk as long as they feel like they have a strong locker room. That's why Parcells brought in Brandon Marshall.
The Browns have five of the first 92 picks, so they've got to think big picture. And if they wanted to get out of No. 7, I think they'd move in a heartbeat if they could. Bryant and Clausen -- if they're not taking a safety -- are the two names that stick out for me. Running back C.J. Spiller could make sense, too, even though they already have Jerome Harrison.
Will Chiefs take safe route?
Because of the dollars involved in signing a top-10 pick, especially the top-five picks, there are certain general managers who are extremely risk-adverse. And the Chiefs' Scott Pioli is one of them. That doesn't make him good or bad. That's just the way he wants to build his team, through solid, conservative picks where he knows he's going to get X amount of snaps per game at 100 percent effort.
You start looking at No. 5 and what might be sitting there. If you're looking at, for instance, left tackle, Trent Williams is a better athlete than Bryan Bulaga. Williams tests better than Bulaga, and has better upside. But I'm not sure the Chiefs would take him over Bulaga if he was still there.
Bulaga is an Iowa kid who's been well coached by Kirk Ferentz, and at this point he could play right tackle. He's going to be a solid pro, bottom line.
Williams could be an all-pro, but he also, because of questions about work ethic and consistency, could fall short of that.
It could be an interesting problem for Pioli.