By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – In the latest version of his NFL mock draft, ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. predicts the Detroit Lions will select wide receiver Mike Evans, even after giving free agent Golden Tate a five-year, $31 million deal.
Tate led the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks, a run-heavy team, with 898 receiving yards on 64 catches in 2013. The Lions signed Tate on the second day of free agency to complement superstar wide receiver Calvin Johnson, on whom defenses focus constantly, after releasing veteran Nate Burleson earlier in the offseason.
Kiper evidently feels that Tate will not be enough and that the Lions could still draft the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Evans, who finished his senior season at Texas A&M with 1,394 yards, 69 receptions and 12 touchdowns.
“After the Lions signed Golden Tate, the obvious reaction is to think they go another direction here,” Kiper explains in his mock draft. “I’ll counter and say that the Lions didn’t just need one wide receiver, they needed two, and I’d also say that while Tate is a nice addition, he doesn’t do much to ease the worry of what this offense looks like when Calvin Johnson isn’t healthy.
“The Lions shouldn’t be done at this position,” Kiper continued, “and I think Evans is too good to pass up here. Tate’s presence doesn’t mean this is no longer a need.”
The point about Johnson’s health might give Kiper’s view more credence than any other factor. Johnson had fluid drained from a knee periodically last season, rarely practiced and missed two games. Most still hold Johnson as the best in the league and one of the best ever, but after seven NFL seasons, injuries become more of a risk each year.
That said, Detroit has plenty of other areas in which it could upgrade, most notably the secondary. Kiper said in a national teleconference Thursday that the Lions could take cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard (Michigan State) or Justin Gilbert (Oklahoma State) if they rated those players highly enough. However, Kiper appeared to believe the Lions could strongly consider taking Evans even after signing Tate.
“Golden Tate’s, I think, more of a [No.] 3 than a [No.] 2,” Kiper said. “So if you have Calvin Johnson, Mike Evans and Golden Tate, you can attack and you’re going to score a lot of points with Matthew Stafford.
“Certainly, if Mike Evans is there, you have Calvin Johnson, Mike Evans and Golden Tate, you’ve got a big-time wide receiver corps that’s going to scare the daylights out of people,” Kiper added.