The Detroit Lions have plenty of holes, but which is most glaring?
Offensive tackle absolutely has to be considered the most pressing need. Not only did they lose right tackle Gosder Cherilus to the Colts in free agency, but longtime left tackle Jeff Backus, who made 188 starts for the Lions over the last decade, chose to finally retire.
This officially leaves the Lions in a quandary. You’d think they would have at least one of the tackle spots figured out, considering they spent their first-round pick last year on tackle Riley Reiff, but there are those within the franchise that question his ability to play the edge at the NFL level, and may be best suited inside at guard.
Assuming Reiff moves inside to right guard (where the Lions have another hole since they cut Stephen Peterman), the Lions will be left with Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard manning the edge. Yikes.
Considering they’re about to pay franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford a sum of money that compares to the GDP of countries like Hungary or New Zealand, they better put some guys on the line that will keep him from getting destroyed by the likes of Jared Allen (Minnesota Vikings) or Clay Matthews (Green Bay Packers), who they face twice a year.
So, if either Luke Joeckel (Texas A&M) or Eric Fisher (Central Michigan) is still around at No. 5 (and there’s a very real chance neither will be), they have to pull the trigger immediately. They could slightly reach for Oklahoma tackle Lane Johnson, who may have the most upside of any tackle in the draft, but the Lions might think that’s too high for him.
If they don’t opt for a tackle with their first pick, they’ll take a look at guys like Kyle Long (Oregon), Terron Armstrong (Arkansas-Pine Bluff) or Dallas Thomas (Tennessee) with their early second-round pick.
If both Joeckel and Fisher are gone at five, and they don’t feel comfortable taking Johnson with that pick, they should focus on cornerback, arguably their most pressing need on the field last year. The secondary isn’t in as bad of shape as it could be, considering they’ve re-signed safety Louis Delmas and corner Chris Houston, in addition to signing safety Glover Quin away from the Houston Texans.
Still, the Lions haven’t had a true shutdown corner in, well, maybe ever. Considering they’re facing Aaron Rodgers (Packers) and Jay Cutler (Chicago Bears) twice a year in a pass-oriented league, you can never have enough athletes in the secondary.
Dee Milliner (Alabama) should still be available at five, and would start from day one in Detroit’s secondary. Milliner is the only corner on the board worthy of such a lofty pick though, so if he’s gone at this point, they won’t reach for another, preferably addressing it in either the second or third rounds. Darius Slay (Mississippi State), Jordan Poyer (Oregon State) or Logan Ryan (Rutgers) would make a lot of sense in the early second.
Last but not least, we arrive to defensive ends. The only reason I rank this position behind tackle and corner is because of the interior of Detroit’s defensive line. Sure, the Lions are losing two very solid ends from last year in Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril, but they still have arguably the most talented pair of defensive tackles in the league in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
Considering both of them can stop the run and apply pressure from the inside, they’ll force an awful lot of one-on-one battles on the edge.
Still, since this is a pass-oriented league, you can never have enough pass rushers, and at this point, the Lions don’t have a guy they can truly depend on to rush the edge. If the Lions do take an end at No. 5, it could be Ziggy Ansah (BYU) or Dion Jordan (Oregon), two freak athletes who haven’t yet scratched the surface of their immense potential.
Both are long and fast, but both are very, very raw. Barkevious Mingo from LSU could also be an option here, but is also somewhat raw.
General Manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz will need a good draft in order to improve upon last years record. If not, a total cleaning of house could be in order. Again.