Assessing the Lions' draft needs
Got asked an interesting question on my last blog post that I figured I'd answer fully here: What are the Lions' top five draft needs as of today?
This isn't a how-to-draft guide with the Lions having five of the first 82 picks, just what their top needs are as we sit here in the middle of the second wave of free agency. Which direction they go should start to clear up in the coming weeks. Matt Stafford and Aaron Curry have pro days upcoming and both probably will have private workouts with the Lions. Beyond that, there's still a chance the Lions can add a starter or two in free agency, though those ranks have thinned considerably.
1. Quarterback The Lions have to decide if Stafford (or Mark Sanchez) is a franchise-caliber quarterback. You don't overdraft either because they're quarterbacks, but if the answer on one is yes then that's your No. 1 pick. Regardless, the biggest predictor of success in the NFL is solid play and stability under center, and the Lions don't have that now. Daunte Culpepper is a one-year (at best) solution, and the front office doesn't seem to have much faith in Drew Stanton though he's never seen the field. Regardless, this is the Lions' biggest need.
2. Middle linebacker If the season started today your starting linebackers would be Ernie Sims, Jordan Dizon and Alex Lewis. Not exactly a fearsome bunch. Rush end is a more important position, but the middle linebacker is the quarterback of the defense and the Lions haven't been above average there in some time.
3. Strong-side linebacker See above. With the Tampa 2 defense, we've been conditioned to think of the SAM linebacker as the least essential position in the front seven. Truth is, while it's not as singularly important as end or cover corner, a playmaker on the outside can do a lot of things for a defense. Taking into account who the Lions have on their current roster and the potential draft picks available (both Curry and further down the line), this is a position of desperate need.
4. Offensive guard Even with the signing of guard/tackle Daniel Loper on Friday, the Lions have serious questions on an offensive front that allowed 52 sacks last year. Loper can start at left guard or play a swing position. Jeff Backus can move from tackle to guard if the Lions draft his replacement. I think the best move is to draft an interior lineman at 33, keeping Backus at tackle for another season and using Loper as an all-purpose reserve with the re-signed Damion Cook as a seventh lineman.
5. Cornerback The Lions addressed this position already this offseason, signing Eric King and Phillip Buchanon and trading for Anthony Henry, but Henry can also play safety and let's not forget Detroit's returning defensive backs had no interceptions last year. More importantly, King, Buchanon and Travis Fisher are the only corners signed beyond this year (each is under contract through 2010), and Fisher will turn 30 in September. The Lions need a young playmaker to anchor their secondary.
Just missing the cut were defensive end and defensive tackle, where the Lions could use upgrades but at least have a capable current rotation, and tight end, where neither Michael Gaines nor Casey FitzSimmons is the type of multi-dimensional threat you'd prefer.
Labels: Aaron Curry, Alex Lewis, Daniel Loper, Daunte Culpepper, Detroit Lions, Drew Stanton, Eric King, Ernie Sims, Jeff Backus, Jordon Dizon, Mark Sanchez, Matt Stafford, Phillip Buchanon, Travis Fisher