The Detroit Lions have very specific needs on both sides of the ball, but what makes the 2014 NFL Combine great is how it will shape the draft strategy, and how it sometimes shows that the most important positions to fill can be left for later rounds.
The Lions need a second and third receiver to spread the field along with Calvin Johnson, there’s no dancing around that fact. After getting rid of Nate Burleson, it’s just about as gaping of a hole as you can find on any given NFL team. In other words, the Lions must make a move of some kind to fill this gap. That being said, it doesn’t necessarily have to be filled by way of their first, or even second, pick in the draft.
The NFL Combine this year showed off a deep talent pool at the receiver position. There are big time guys out there, like Clemson‘s Sammy Watkins, but you could even skip back to the lower-end wideouts like Saginaw Valley State’s Jeff Janis, Janis killed at the combines with 4.42 speed, 20 bench-press reps, and great scores in the agility drills. On paper, his numbers rank him in the top five at his position, but he could easily slip past the first two rounds.
There are strong cornerbacks coming out that have big names like Oklahoma State‘s Justin Gilbert and Michigan State‘s Darqueze Dennard, the Jim Thorpe award winner as college football best defensive back in 2013. Both would be great for the Lions, but what about Rice cornerback Phillip Gaines? He’s a tall dude with big hands and he scorched the 40 yard dash with a 4.38. You won’t see him go in the top 10, or even 20 probably.
There’s even a strong pull for offensive linemen, with guys like Michigan‘s Taylor Lewan throwing down at the combines and solidifying himself as not only the possible top lineman in the draft, but a possible lottery pick. The Lions could always use a solid lineman.
With key positions like starting quarterback, No. 1 receiver, and running backs pretty much locked down, the Lions are looking at a pool of players coming out in 2014 that could greatly improve their team without too much of a headache.
Also, don’t forget about the salary cap move that gives the Lions some extra space. They could pick up a higher profile second receiver in free agency, then snag their third receiver in a later round, allowing them to pick up a solid corner or even a guy like Lewan.
The point is, the Lions are in great shape for their needs in the upcoming 2014 NFL draft, and it should play out well for them in the 2014 season.