For Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz, the next two weeks will be crucial to the success of the team in the fall.
Once again, it is critical that the Lions draft well. That was clearly evident last season when five draftees became starters — quarterback Matthew Stafford, safety Louis Delmas, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, defensive tackle Sammie Hill and linebacker DeAndre Levy. Three of the draft picks — Derrick Williams, Aaron Brown and Zack Follett — also contributed and their roles could grow as they gain experience.
Yes, the Lions finished with just a pair of wins, but they would not have done that well without such a talented draft class. They know it. We know it. So onward and upward.
With scouting reports in hand, the Lions will meet the future starting Thursday at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. While all players won’t work out, most who have something to prove will. Also the GMs and coaches will have a chance to talk with the players and get a handle on their personalities which is huge. The Lions don’t want any surprises when they make a draft choice. If they can match the success they had last April, they will take another huge step forward in rebuilding the team.
When the Combine is complete, up creeps the first day of free agency on March 5. Because this year players must have six years experience to be unrestricted (usually it’s four years), the pool of free agents will be smaller and the players in that pool will be older. Don’t expect big signings from the Lions in free agency.
It’s another reason why they must draft well in April.
(Follow the news from the NFL Combine in this Lions Lowdown blog Thursday-Sunday from Indianapolis. Also follow me on Twitter @paulapasche.)