Lions’ draft backup plan could include UCLA’s Akeem Ayers

The Detroit News

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew has always entered the draft with the thought of taking the best player available when it’s his time to hand in the draft card.

The best example of that was in 2008, when he picked tight end Brandon Pettigrew with the No. 20 overall pick when the Lions had pressing needs at other positions, specifically on the defensive side of the ball.


ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. released his “backup plans” for each team for April’s NFL draft Friday, and Kiper thinks the Lions could go a number of different ways with the No. 13 pick.

“Detroit really needs to get secondary help, but if (Prince) Amukamara is gone, they may feel like Colorado’s Jimmy Smith is a slight reach,” Kiper wrote. “But they need linebacking help too, and (Akeem) Ayers would fit. They could also consider a trade down to get better value with an offensive line pick.”

Character issues at question as Lions search for potential pick

NFL Combine

Chris McCosky / The Detroit News

Indianapolis — Would the Lions be interested in a self-proclaimed shut-down cornerback with the 13th overall pick in the draft? One who has great size (6-2 ¼, 211 pounds), good speed (ran a 4.37 in the 40-yard dash in Arizona last week), long reach (77 inches) and thrives on playing physical, press coverage?

One who was so respected in college that he was rarely thrown at? Even when he was matched against Georgia’s A.J. Green, one of the top receivers in the draft, he faced two passes and both were incomplete. One who was so respected that he was named first team All-Big 12 without intercepting a pass?


Of course they would.

Would they draft that same player if they learned he might have character issues; that he had minor brushes with the law and four positive drug tests early in his college career and questions about his work ethic? Would it be another red flag that he fired one agent and hired another before he has participated at the NFL scouting combine?

This is the dilemma when considering Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith. Physically, he is everything the Lions would want in a cornerback. But is he trustworthy for such a high pick?

“I know teams are going to ask me about that stuff and I am prepared to answer all their questions,” Smith said Sunday. “The sky is the limit for me as long as I do what I know I can do out there, especially in these combines. I think these interviews are going to make or break me.”

Smith will meet with 28 teams over the next two days. The Lions are expected to be among them. General manager Martin Mayhew, though not speaking directly about Smith, told reporters Friday that character issues weigh heavily in this process, but he prefers to make his own judgments.

“I learned a long time ago that you can’t judge a guy on a quote, on what a guy said or what you heard that he said,” Mayhew said. “If you don’t know the guy, you can’t judge him.”

In his media session Sunday, Smith was poised, extremely confident and forthright, often flashing an impish, Isiah Thomas-like grin.

“I’m a big, physical corner who loves to press,” he said. “I have great speed, great size and great ball skills. I am a shut-down corner.”

When asked if he also had great modesty, he flashed his Isiah grin and said, “Yeah, that’s in there somewhere.”

He didn’t hide from the character issues.

“I will tell the teams that I am a great person,” he said. “I was young when I got to college and I made some young mistakes. I grew as a person and as a football player.”

His brushes with the law came in his first three years at Colorado. They mostly involved alcohol. He was caught with a beer before his 18th birthday. He was also cited for being a minor in possession of alcohol his freshman year.

“I was a true freshman and it was the first day out of camp,” he said. “I walked outside (of a bar) with a red cup. It had nothing in it, but walking outside with a red cup is not OK in Boulder and I got popped. Just a lack of judgment.”

He was caught in a police raid on a campus bar in his junior year, when he hadn’t yet turned 21. There was also four positive drug tests.

“When I go before the teams I am just going to be honest,” he said. “I can only control what I can control. I went to college and made some mistakes when I was a young kid. I have definitely learned from them.”

The charges against his work ethic are baffling to him.

“I think I have a great work ethic,” he said. “I think my coaches would say the same thing about me. In the weight room (at Colorado) I hold most of the records for lifting weights and running. Every Friday we had competitive drills and I won every single Friday.”

He hired Colorado-based agent Peter Schaffer initially, but fired him and hired Drew Rosenhaus.

“I needed better representation,” he said. “It’s not that Peter Shaffer wasn’t a good agent, I just didn’t want him to represent me. I didn’t think he knew how to do what needed to be done for me. I don’t want to bash him, and I just needed to change.”

It would be a near-perfect scenario for the Lions if they could get an elite cornerback with the 13th pick. The consensus best corner in the draft is Louisiana State Patrick Peterson and he is expected to be one of the top three players off the board.

It could happen, though, that both Smith and Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara are available at 13, though most mock drafts presently have Amukamara going earlier. It would be a fascinating decision for the Lions to have to make.

Amukamara is shorter (6-0), though he is strong and plays just as physical at 206. He wouldn’t discuss his 40-yard dash time, but scouting reports call him quicker than he is fast — not a compliment.

His demeanor is completely different than Smith’s. At the podium Sunday, he was all business. When asked about those who doubt his speed, he said, “I think some people don’t know what they’re talking about and haven’t seen me on film,” he said. “I guess I will show them on Tuesday.”

He has been getting some tutoring from Lions tackle Ndamukong Suh, a former teammate at Nebraska — which explains his dead-serious approach.

“Yes, Suh has been giving me tips about this process,” Amukamara said. “He just told me to treat it as a business trip, which is what I’ve been doing. I am happy with that advice.”

Draft experts like’s Mike Mayock and ESPN’s Mel Kiper, Jr., believe that Peterson and Amukamara are far and away the top two cornerback prospects in this draft. They believe there is a big gap between those two and the next tier, which features Smith and Miami’s Brandon Harris.

But for the Lions, it could come down to Amukamara and Smith. Amukamara would be the safe pick. It’s on Smith now to prove he’s the right pick.

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ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. changes tune on Lions’ pick at No. 13

Tim Twentyman / The Detroit News

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has released his second mock draft — and he’s changed his mind on the Lions pick at No. 13.

He has Detroit selecting Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith, after originally going with UCLA linebacker Akeem Ayers.


“Smith is a late riser, a good player on a bad team and a guy who got less attention partly because quarterbacks wouldn’t put a ball near him this past season,” Kiper writes. “But the film is stacking up now, and it proves why NFL personnel are really high on him. The final test for Smith will be whether he grades out well in Indianapolis (combine). Based on what I know, he will, and he offers the Lions the cornerback help they need without having to sacrifice on value at this stage in the draft.”

Kiper still has Auburn tackle Nick Fairley going No. 1 overall to the Panthers.

The biggest riser on the board is Auburn quarterback Cam Newton. After predicting he’d be the 10th pick by the Redskins in his first mock draft, Kiper now is forecasting Newton to be off the board at No. 3 to the Bills.

Tim Twentyman: Top cornerbacks will be gone before Lions pick, Kiper says

Tim Twentyman: NFL Insider

Mel Kiper Jr., who has been ESPN’s point man on the NFL draft since 1984, has some bad news for Lions fans hoping to snag a cornerback in the first round.

Kiper said the Lions’ top four needs are cornerback, outside linebacker, offensive tackle and defensive end. But he thinks there’s little chance the Lions get a corner deserving of the No. 13 pick.

LSU’s Patrick Peterson and Nebraska’s Prince Amukamara are considered the top two corners in the draft. After Peterson and Amukamara, Kiper said the rest of the corners are more deserving of late-first round to second-round consideration.

Peterson is considered a top-five pick and Kiper doesn’t think there’s any way the Lions have a chance at Amukamara unless they move up.


“I just can’t see (Amukamara) getting past Dallas (at No. 9),” he said. “Surprises happen every draft, and you never say never, but right now, I have a tough time getting him down to Dallas. I thought he’d fit in good with a couple teams earlier; San Francisco (No. 7) could look corner. I do think at No. 13 that would be a stretch to try and get him.”

Kiper still thinks the Lions will take UCLA outside linebacker Akeem Ayers, which would certainly fill a need.

But Kiper also alluded to a possible wild-card selection.

“I have (offensive tackle) Nate Soder out of Colorado going one pick ahead of the Lions at No. 12,” Kiper said. “He’s had a nice week down at Mobile so far (Senior Bowl), which you knew he would.

“I think he has the most upside out of any lineman in the draft, be it offensive lineman or defensive lineman. He’s a former tight end. He’s a chiseled kid. He’s going to keep getting better and better because of limited experience on the offensive line.

“The history of tight end-turned-offensive tackles in the NFL over the last 35 years is pretty good. I think he would be an interesting guy. He’s the only one right now of the offensive tackles that I think has a chance to really jump up. I think Soder is going to be the hot guy because of the upside and the fact that he’s that diamond in the rough; he’s going to keep getting better and better.”

If the Lions pass on Ayers for Soder, or Amukamara drops, Kiper said there are good 4-3 outside linebackers available in the second, third and fourth rounds that will fit the Lions’ needs.

He named Bruce Carter (North Carolina), Lawrence Wilson (Connecticut), Mason Foster (Washington) and Ross Homan (Ohio State) as possibilities for the Lions later in the draft.

By the numbers

$83,000 — Payout for each player on the winning team in Super Bowl XVL

$42,000 — Payout for each player on the losing team

$15,000 — Payout for each player on the winning team in Super Bowl I (1967)

$7,500 — Payout for each player on the losing team

Air attack

Still don’t think the NFL is a passing league? A record 22 quarterbacks passed for 3,000 yards or more this season. The previous high was 19 in 2001 and 2009.

Philip Rivers, Chargers — 4,710

Peyton Manning, Colts — 4,700

Drew Brees, Saints — 4,620

Matt Schaub, Texans — 4,370

Eli Manning, Giants — 4,002

Carson Palmer, Bengals — 3,970

Aaron Rodgers, Packers — 3,922

Tom Brady, Patriots — 3,900

Matt Ryan, Falcons — 3,705

Kyle Orton, Broncos — 3,653

Joe Flacco, Ravens — 3,622

Sam Bradford, Rams — 3,512

Josh Freeman, Buccaneers — 3,451

Donovan McNabb, Redskins — 3,377

Chad Henne, Dolphins — 3,301

Mark Sanchez, Jets — 3,291

Jay Cutler, Bears — 3,274

Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers — 3,200

Matt Cassel, Chiefs — 3,116

Michael Vick, Eagles — 3,018

Matt Hasselbeck, Seahawks — 3,001

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bills — 3,000

He said it

“The entire senior leadership team stands with me in its commitment to resolving the CBA issues with the players union. While several other executives have also volunteered to make additional reductions to their compensation, I have asked them not to take that step at this time as we continue our negotiating efforts.”

— NFL commisioner Roger Goodell, who said he’ll cut his salary to $1 if there is a work stoppage after the collective bargaining agreement expires in March. Goodell makes $10 million per year.