This may have been the best day yet.
That has nothing to do with who eventually got selected on Day 13 of the jaguars.com 2011 reader mock draft, and everything to do with the level and intensity of the discussion among the readers in reaching a decision.
It was, to say the least, impressive.
As has been the case much of this week, there really wasn't a clear-cut favorite with the Detroit Lions on the clock at No. 13 overall.
There were those who believed the Lions would go offensive line. There were those who thought it might be wide receiver. A whole lot more thought defensive end.
And of course, there were those talking trades.
Most notable was whatever the talk, the reasoning was darned sound. It is obvious the senior writer's predecessor taught this group of readers well, and that this is a well-educated bunch of drafters, because when discussing the Lions, what many discussed first wasn't who the Lions might take, but their philosophy behind the draft:
I.e., are the Lions a needs-drafting team or a best-available-player team?
They are, as a striking number of readers noted, a BAP team, and as those same readers also knew, that's key to having at least an outside chance at accomplishing the difficult-to-accomplish task of putting together a halfway accurate mock draft.
Anyway, enough praising the readers. Let's get down to some specifics.
With the Lions on the clock, the day started with what became a theme – that the injuries sustained by quarterback Matt Stafford his first two seasons made drafting a left tackle a priority for a Lions team that has shown significant signs of improvement.
Much of the day was spent discussing tackle, with Nate Solder of Colorado and Anthony Castonzo of Boston College getting a significant amount of discussion.
"The pick here is Nate Solder," Michael Grose wrote, adding, "He has the most upside of any offensive tackle in the draft. The Lions need to protect Stafford so they can keep him on the field."
Matt weighed in immediately, saying "I could definitely see a defensive end like (Cameron) Jordan (of California) here...but I could also see an offensive lineman. Because Stafford is a young and injury prone quarterback, I would bet they go for an offensive lineman over a defensive lineman. Besides, they have a young defense that showed a ton of improvement last year. They might just try to keep molding those guys instead of wasting a first-round pick already.
"My pick here is either Castonzo, Solder, or (Gabe) Carimi (of Wisconsin). All three guys are enormous. Just to pick one of these guys is tough, but I&39;ll go Carimi simply because the program at Wisconsin had a better year than Colorado or BC."
Thus, the tone was set. This wasn't a brutally tough day for the readers, because well more than half leaned toward offensive tackle as the Lions' direction, but the dissenters from that view dissented with solid reasoning.
"Offensive line is a need but the Lions are no longer needs pickers," Mandal wrote, adding, "It&39;s what made them go a historic 0-16 in 2008. They could trade down to where an offensive tackle fits a bit better, in which case Castonzo, Solder, Carimi, or (Derek) Sherrod (of Mississippi State) would be great picks. As it is though, they&39;re inviting defensive ends to come work out at their facility and obviously have some rated higher on their boards.
"Aldon Smith, J.J. Watt, and Cameron Jordan would be good fits. I&39;ll go with J.J. Watt as he would probably be the most versatile and the best compliment to Ndamukong Suh on the inside."
Pretty solid stuff, though the senior writer always cautions against reading too much into who teams invite in for pre-draft day visits. They can mean a little or a lot, and it's almost impossible to know which is the case for what team.
Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones got a lot of support at selection No. 13, and it's hard to see him lasting much longer, and the support for defensive ends was understandably pretty divided among players such as Watt, Kerrigan and Jordan.
In the end, the senior writer opted to go with left tackle for the Lions, figuring that although they're not really needs drafters the need-talent axis might wind up meeting pretty well at the No. 13 selection. Since Solder won the popular vote by a relatively comfortable margin, we stuck with it, though considering the quality of arguments against tackle, there likely will be some who disagree with pretty good reasons.
So, with the No. 13 overall selection in the jaguars.com 2011 reader mock draft, the Lions take Solder, making the mock thus far look like:
No. 1 | Carolina | Blaine Gabbert, QB, Missouri
No. 2 | Denver | Patrick Peterson, CB, Louisiana State
No. 3 | Buffalo | Von Miller, LB, Texas A&M
No. 4 | Cincinnati | Da'Quan Bowers, DE, Clemson
No. 5 | Arizona | Marcell Dareus, DT, Alabama
No. 6 | Cleveland | A.J. Green, WR, Georgia
No. 7 | San Francisco | Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina
No. 8 | Tennessee | Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn
No. 9 | Dallas | Tyron Smith, OT, Southern California
No. 10 | Washington | Cam Newton, QB, Auburn
No. 11 | Houston | Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska
No. 12 | Minnesota | Jake Locker, QB, Washington
No. 13 | Detroit | Nate Solder, OT, Colorado
Up next is St. Louis at No. 14. The senior writer will offer up Jones at this spot. Jones has been targeted by a lot of readers as the best available player for the last several days, so he may get a lot of support.
But if Day 14 is anything like Day 13, we'll get a lot of discussion, too.
Have at it.