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Team needs: Detroit Lions

Detroit Lions v Tennessee Titans Getty Images

After drafting in the 20s with their fellow playoff teams last year, the Lions are back in the draft territory where we’re more accustomed to seeing them: Detroit, coming off a 4-12 season, owns the fifth overall pick. But while the Lions’ draft position has changed, their team needs look a lot like they looked a year ago: This team still needs help on the offensive line and the secondary.

Offensive line: The Lions have lost three of last year’s starters this offseason: Left tackle Jeff Backus retired, right tackle Gosder Cherilus signed with the Colts, and right guard Stephen Peterman was a cap casualty. The Lions haven’t signed any starters to replace those three departures, so they’ll surely try to get at least one starting offensive lineman in the draft.

Fortunately for Detroit, this is a good year to have a Top 5 pick if you need to rebuild your offensive line. Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M played very well against high-quality competition while protecting Ryan Tannehill and Johnny Manziel as the Aggies’ starting left tackle, and he could definitely step in and start right away as the man to protect Matthew Stafford’s blind side this year. Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher didn’t play against the same kind of competition that Joeckel did, but some draft analysts think Fisher is an even better left tackle than Joeckel. And Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson, though less experienced at the position and perhaps in more need of seasoning in the NFL, may have the most upside of any of the tackles in this year’s draft.

Finally, although No. 5 overall would seem to be awfully high to take a guard, Alabama’s Chance Warmack is so good that it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the Lions to consider taking him with their first-round pick. It’s unlikely that the Lions will go for a guard instead of a left tackle at No. 5, but it’s very likely that the Lions will get a starter on their offensive line in the first round of the draft.

Cornerback: Detroit’s secondary was its downfall in 2011, and the Lions weren’t able to fix that troublesome secondary in 2012. This year they took a good step toward improving the pass defense by signing safety Glover Quin from the Texans, and they took two good steps toward not getting any worse by re-signing starting safety Louis Delmas and starting cornerback Chris Houston. But they’d like to add a starting cornerback in the draft.

There was a great deal of talk early in the offseason about the Lions being infatuated with Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, to the point where some people were saying you could pencil in Milliner to Detroit in February. But more recently the Lions’ interest in Milliner has appeared to wane, either because they want to focus on the offensive line or because they may think another cornerback, like Desmond Trufant of Washington or Xavier Rhodes of Florida State, is the best in the class. (Or maybe because the Lions have done a good job of putting out smokescreens.)

In any event, cornerback is a position the Lions need to improve. Last year they drafted cornerbacks in the third, fifth and sixth rounds. This year it will be a major surprise if they don’t draft at least one cornerback, and probably earlier in the draft than they did last year.

Defensive end: Both of last year’s starting defensive ends, Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, are gone. A good pass rusher like BYU’s Ezekiel Ansah or Oregon’s Dion Jordan could be tempting at No. 5. However, a defensive end will probably not be as tempting as one of the cornerbacks or offensive tackles at No. 5, and the Lions are more likely to address their need at defensive end later in the draft. If a player like Florida State’s Bjoern Werner is still around with the Lions’ second-round pick, No. 36 overall, he could make a lot of sense there.

Wide receiver: It sounds crazy that a team with the NFL’s best receiver in Calvin Johnson would need help at this position even after trying to get that help with moves like signing free agent Nate Burleson, using second-round picks in back-to-back years on Titus Young and Ryan Broyles, and pulling off a mid-season trade last year to acquire Mike Thomas. But Young is already gone after demonstrating that he lacked the mental makeup to be a team player in Detroit, Burleson is aging and coming off a broken leg, Broyles is coming off a torn ACL, and Thomas has never proven that he can be a consistent playmaker. So while the Lions won’t draft a receiver at No. 5 overall, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see them try to address the position later in the draft. A receiver like USC’s Robert Woods or Baylor’s Terrance Williams could tempt the Lions.

For the Lions, this draft will go a long way toward determining whether they can put the kind of team around Stafford and Johnson that can make them consistent contenders for years to come, or whether that 2011 playoff appearance was a fluke, and they’ll need to go back to the drawing board. If this draft doesn’t bring in some players who can start immediately and help the Lions improve significantly from last year’s 4-12 record, then the Lions may clean house, and a year from now G.M. Martin Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz may no longer be in the Lions’ war room.

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37 Responses to “Team needs: Detroit Lions”
  1. megatronn81 says: Apr 10, 2013 10:01 AM

    I’m stuck between Ziggy Andah and Eric Fisher. Both those guys would do wonders for our team

    I wouldn’t be mad if we drafted Milliner, but I wouldn’t be thrilled either. Remember we drafted 3 corners last year, so taking another in the first round would sort of be like giving up on them. Not to mention that corner is extremely deep in this years draft, we could snag a David Amerson type guy in the 3rd round.

    We need another wide receiver opposite calvin as well

    In an ideal world, we trade down to the jets at 9, pick up an additional second round pick, take a Ziggy ansah/Eric fisher/lane Johnson/chance Warmack at 9 and then use our second round picks to get that needed wide receiver and the other to address de/cb

  2. therealpittbull says: Apr 10, 2013 10:03 AM

    How about better coaching? This team has had talented athletes for a while, with top picks being selected annually. At some point, the GM and Coaching staff are responsible for developing the skill sets and character to win. Every area of this team has been improved. Go after a tough disciplined coach that could turn around a once proud franchise.

  3. fievel03 says: Apr 10, 2013 10:04 AM

    This draft will either solidify this team or cause the entire front office and coaching staff to be fired. I don’t think there is really any other way to describe the situation.

  4. njdet says: Apr 10, 2013 10:09 AM

    I don’t think cornerback is that big of a need. The secondary is solid with Quin, Delmas, and Houston. They have three young corners who should be improved this year

  5. operwapitsai says: Apr 10, 2013 10:14 AM

    while its fun having the entire NFC North playing competitive all year and potentially being the strongest division in the league…. I like having the lions ~.250
    skol vikings!

  6. mjkelly77 says: Apr 10, 2013 10:23 AM

    I believe that the records of the last two years, 10-6 and 4-12 were both aberrations. The Li0ns were probably more like an 8-8 or possibly a 9-7 team in both of those years. With the additions and subtractions so far this year, I think it’s a push.

    IF, and that’s a big if, the Lions find help via the draft on the offensive and defensive lines, and pick up some serviceable rotation players, they’ll proably make the playoffs this year.

  7. scoregasmic says: Apr 10, 2013 10:23 AM

    Oline lions for the love of god…oline

  8. deltanovembertoronto says: Apr 10, 2013 10:28 AM

    Riley Reiff was the first OL that we drafted in the top 3 rounds in a very very long time. The line is aged and Stafford barely has any time to scan the field. Secondly, our running game is horrible. How can we run play action and go deep down the field? Third, signing Reggie Bush was nice but, if there is nobody blocking up front, we could just stick with Bell and Leshoure because both are good RB’s.

    The bottom line is that its time to address a position that has been neglected since Millen. All the elite teams in the NFL have good offensive lines. Enough said.

    I have very little faith in this organization though. I’m hoping Xanders has implemented a new look to the BPA strategy. Fisher, Joeckel, Warmack, Lane Johnson, Johnathan Cooper…. any of these guys at 5 is our best bet to improving this team.

  9. mandingo77 says: Apr 10, 2013 10:30 AM

    I still say grab Milliner with the 1st pick we NEED a good corner. And after that O LINE all day long. And I say go after Barrett Jones cuz he is the only player to win a championship at tackle,guard and center. You can place him anywhere on the line and he will hold up.

  10. prosportswashington says: Apr 10, 2013 10:34 AM

    How long have they been picking in the top 10 for? With guys on offense like CJ and Stafford you would have thought they could pull together something better than 4-12

  11. jkrc717 says: Apr 10, 2013 10:35 AM

    Werner won’t be there in the 2nd. Putting your faith in a 3rd rounder or later is a major risk.

    This team needs a DE badly. They need 2!

    DE needs to be first

    OG/CB in 2nd or 3rd. In any particular order.

  12. mrposey5 says: Apr 10, 2013 10:39 AM

    The Lions are a good draft away from becoming back to a contender. This draft has all their needs. They just need to draft right instead of drafting boneheads this year.

  13. scoregasmic says: Apr 10, 2013 10:46 AM

    Also may I take this time to ask why the lions are so hated? I feel like people should be rooting for them. A team trying to rise out of the ashes after YEARS upon YEARS of awfulness. Sure I understand if you are a division rival but why must people post negative things on every article about the lions? Is it because of Suh? One guy who plays exactly the way a DT is supposed to play and got carried away with a stomp one time? Who wants a DT to lightly place the QB on the ground? No one Suh manhandles QBs and that is awesome. As a lifelong fan of the team, as a person who watched them go 0-16 and still held hope every game that they could pull one out. I beg you guys to stop mindlessly attacking my team and just let lions fans enjoy that our team is relevant and things are finally looking up. You don’t have to love them, but don’t say things about them that are completely false just because…

  14. butkus54 says: Apr 10, 2013 10:47 AM

    The Lions are going to get a good player at 5 in the draft.
    I know myself I’ve gone back and forth on which way to go with that pick but I think if any of the big OT’s are there I’d like to see the Lions take one of them.
    The real key to this draft for me is what the Lions are able to do in the 2nd and 3rd rounds. If those players can step up and start this year then the Lions have a legitimate shot of getting back to the playoffs.

  15. mungman69 says: Apr 10, 2013 10:55 AM

    Why can’t this team win? I put it all on the head coach and GM. If the Lions don’t win this year both the coach and GM should go.

  16. beedubyatoo says: Apr 10, 2013 11:20 AM

    And their most effective offensive player just retired, Jason Hanson.

  17. staffordsrightbicep says: Apr 10, 2013 11:24 AM

    If the draft happened right now, I would bet money on them taking Joeckel or Fisher with #5. While Riley Reiff is promising and played considerably well when he had to come in for Backus, I think there are still too many question marks at the position if god forbid something were to happen to one of the starters. Also, lets not count out the face that someone like Reiff could move to guard if necessary- all around that makes an OT the most logical choice.

    I also wouldn’t at all be surprised if the Lions went Defensive Tackle. Yup I said Tackle and here’s why. There has been a lot of talk since last year’s abortion of a season of Gunther Cunningham rotating Suh and Fairley between tackles and ends. Having Suh play on the end with his raw power and quickness is something I would personally be excited to see, and I think it would be a wonderful scheme to change to every now and then to throw the offensive line out of rhythm.

    I don’t see the Lions picking up Milliner. They have invested too much into corners in recent years, and I truly think they have a diamond in the rough in Chris Greenwood. He fits the height/strength/speed prototype perfectly that the Lions have been raving about all offseason. Greenwood had all last season to rehab and injury from training camp and I’ll look forward to seeing what he can do this year.

  18. mjkelly77 says: Apr 10, 2013 11:40 AM

    The top two needs of the Lions are OT and DE. If Fisher is available, that’s how it will happen. Fisher and then the best DE available.

  19. classactcalvin81 says: Apr 10, 2013 11:46 AM

    Would love to c o-line then DE or WR 2nd!! And to all u HATERS that wanna keep bringing up 4-12 go look at our schedule last year and u will c we easily could have gone 12-4 with pretty much every loss being 7pts or less we were in every game!! Go D!!

  20. charlesanakin says: Apr 10, 2013 12:30 PM

    The biggest problem on the o-line isn’t at tackle. I didnt see anything last season to make me think that Riley Reiff cant have a Jeff Backus type career at LT. It’s RG and C where the Lions need help. No way a Guard goes 5th overall. Warmacks visit is either a trade down scenario or a smokescreen to hide who the Lions really want. Of the Lions drafted Milliner (you can never had too many good corners) they would either have to cut one of the promising corners they drafted last season or go into this year with essentially four rookie corners. I wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t draft a corner at all. The Lions have a gaping hole at RE. The dream scenario would be to trade down a few picks (AZ at #7) and pick up an extra 3rd.
    1. Ziggy Ansah- DE/BYU
    2. Barrett Jones- C/Ala
    3. Sio Moore- OLB/UConn or Marcus Wheaton- WR/OrSt

  21. warhammer420 says: Apr 10, 2013 12:33 PM

    The O-line should definitely be a priority. Gotta minimize hits on Stafford. If he does down with an injury, the Lions are done.

  22. doug1grohlin says: Apr 10, 2013 12:46 PM

    Why do people hate the Lions?

    1. Your team is ran by a joke of a coach and GM who let their players act like boneheads. They have had great talent and it’s just being wasted. They should have been able to go out and at least compete for the last 4 years.

    2. The second Detroit did somewhat well a lot of fans acted like the Lions were indestructible. I know it’s exciting when your team has been horrible for years, but learn some modesty.

  23. lionsdraftguy says: Apr 10, 2013 12:47 PM

    All you guys who say the Lions need to take a CB at #5 clearly show your lack of knowledge when it comes to this team and the draft.

  24. 3yardsandacloud says: Apr 10, 2013 1:09 PM

    “lionsdraftguy” -you sir are flat out wrong.

    The Lions need to take Millner at #5. He is as close to a sure thing as there is. Furthermore, this draft is deep for DE’s, so they can address it later.

    As for O-Line, they have three starters in Reiff, Rialoa, and Sims. They are high on both Jason Fox and Cory Hillard. They are of the opinion that both could fill their tackle needs and move Reiff to RG, leaving only backup positions to be filled. Let’s not forget Andre Smith is available in FA and is still young, having just completed his first contract. Eric Winston is also out there. There was a reason they let Peterman and Cherilus leave. (Colts, terrible plan). Also, If Detroit thought they had a huge tackle need, wouldn’t they have been in on Jake Long?

    All of that said, I would consider Joeckel/Fisher, Millner or Jordan to be major wins for Detroit in the first round. My choice is Millner because Detroit has ignored the position in the first round for several years at this point and a Patrick Peterson type player that can make plays and force turnovers would be a welcome addition. I understand this defense is not predicated on corners that have to be 5 star, I just can’t bear to think with Rodgers and Cutler slinging the ball for the foreseeable future that you don’t need to get players to make their life difficult.

  25. norcalsportsknowledge says: Apr 10, 2013 1:11 PM

    @lionsdraftguy – Team needs: a coach that’s not such a patsy! You troll on are posts, so I’m returning the favor.

  26. packerbackernj says: Apr 10, 2013 1:47 PM

    What would Matt Millen do?

  27. lks311 says: Apr 10, 2013 1:48 PM

    doug1grohlin says:
    Apr 10, 2013 12:46 PM
    Why do people hate the Lions?

    1. Your team is ran by a joke of a coach and GM…They have had great talent…

    2. The second Detroit did somewhat well a lot of fans acted like the Lions were indestructible…blah, blah, blah…
    ——————————————-
    So, you hate the Lions because their braintrust has underachieved and you wanted their fans to act like they’d been there before, even though they hadn’t (at least in recent memory).

    No Lions’ fan picked this team, who would? Most of us were born into it. We have no choice. The history goes back almost to the inception of the league of none of us have sniffed a Super Bowl. I’d put Lions’ fans up against any in the league and PFT knows this as well. That’s why you see them run a disproportionate number of Detroit articles.

    So, doug…blah, you’re just a hater. And probably an idiot to boot.

  28. livepredictor says: Apr 10, 2013 1:51 PM

    Bush and Leshoure will be a Solid one/two combo…need help on I-line and Johnson would fit this team. This is a good D draft. Look for them to host a first round game this season

  29. lionsdraftguy says: Apr 10, 2013 1:53 PM

    3yardsandacloud-

    Again, you have zero knowledge on the draft and this team. Milliner is NOT the closest to a sure thing. He is NOT a Patrick Peterson. I can guarantee you he is not a top 5 pick this year.

    Why didnt they sign Jake Long? Again, shows your lack of knowledge. You think they could afford Jake Long? Do you understand how a salary cap works? My guess is you dont.

    And your pick is Milliner because they’ve ignored the position for several year. Once again, your lack of knowledge on this team and the draft. Do the names Bill Bentley, Jonte Green, and Chris Greenwood ring a bell? Those are THREE corners they drafted last year. Maybe you were out playing golf or something, but I was watching the draft because the Lions are my life. Those are 3 corners the Lions have hopes for. I will tell you this, they will NOT draft Milliner. Mark my word. Will not.

    And to close out, Reiff will play tackle. They most definitely wont put Fox and Hilliard as their tackles. Nagy will play guard before Reiff.

    Watch the Lions for once instead of just reading the Bleacher Report.

  30. footballfather says: Apr 10, 2013 1:59 PM

    @lionsdraftguy – I couldn’t agree more.

    Getting a shut-down CB would be great, but using the 5th pick in the draft on Milliner is not the answer. They have 3 guys that they think highly of that they drafted last year, one of which (Greenwood) is just as athletic — if not more so — than Milliner.

  31. eaglesnd18 says: Apr 10, 2013 2:03 PM

    They should probably sign Eminem to a 10 year contract.

  32. theytukrjobs says: Apr 10, 2013 2:17 PM

    Since the quality of offensive linemen is deep in round 1 they should consider trading down to the 10 to 20 range where they can still get a top quality lineman and perhaps pick up a 2nd rounder in the process to put into the secondary.

    They need quantity probably more than quality at this point. Offensive line and secondary need to improve.

    While the Lions were not good last year they do have a few high quality players. If you can be elite in one or two areas and functional in the rest you can win in the NFL. The elite part is usually the difficult thing and they kind of have that part down.

  33. whatjusthapped says: Apr 10, 2013 2:21 PM

    Forget the draft, the existing Lion players need to stay out of jail. That alone would be a huge improvement over last year.

  34. 3yardsandacloud says: Apr 10, 2013 3:27 PM

    @lionsdraftguy

    Did you squirt a tear there?

    I watch every game and I am well aware of who they drafted last year. Maybe you missed the part where none of those three were very good. How you can think any of those three is on the same level as Milliner is beyond me.

    Nonetheless, the Lions have $6M in cap space. Long’s deal has a $4.5M cap hit for 2013 and the Lions are going to extend Stafford and reduce his $20M cap hit. I think they could have gotten it done. As for your other offensive line thoughts, maybe you should listen to Schwartz talk about Hillard and Fox. He flat out said he thinks both could start for this team.

    Milliner won’t fall out of the top 10 and if he doesn’t go in the top five, it will be need based, not talent based. My pick for Milliner is because he’s a top end corner, rather than a mid-round hole filler like they’ve been using since drafting Westbrook in the 90′s.

  35. jimmylions says: Apr 10, 2013 3:53 PM

    I don’t think there’s much doubt that the Lions will take Eric Fisher if he’s still on the board at #5. It’s a position of need, and he has potential to be a long-term solution to the o-line issues.

    Also – if they can use Reggie Bush like Javid Best, and burn defenses who don’t defend the run, it will eventually make pass protection easier.

    @3yardsandacloud: The Jake Long thing was totally a cap issue. His price tag was way too high for us to afford. The $6M in cap space we currently have will be used to sign all the new rookies we draft. If/when they work out a long term extension for Stafford, any cap space they create will probably be used to sign free agents on defense.

    Although he’s not really a fit, I’d love to see the Lions sign Urlacher. I’d love to have his professionalism and focus in our locker room.

  36. warhammer420 says: Apr 10, 2013 4:07 PM

    While I’d like to have Milliner, I think the better plan is to develop the 3 CB’s they drafted last year. Maybe one (or all) of them can grow into a good/great player. At #5 I think pick should be Joeckel, Fisher, or Johnson at OT. Or hell even Warmack.

  37. lyons4lyfe says: Apr 11, 2013 10:44 AM

    priority for lions draft needs is a GM that knows how to draft beyond the top 10 picks of the 1st round. We keep trading up and using high draft picks on the SAME position year after year while other positions get neglected. We drafted receivers in the 2nd round back to back and we STILL have a need at receiver because 1 of the receivers, titus young,is out the league by the way randall cobb and torrey smith were still on the board when we drafted titus young. We traded up in back to back drafts to get running backs, jahvid best and mikel lesoure and what did the lions do the 1st week of free agency? they went out and threw a bunch of money to reggie bush when we couldve used that money to add a position of need ex. guard, cb, ot, de,. For the people out there who thinks our cornerback needs are addressed because we drafted three cb’s last year let me remind u we drafted those cb’s after the 3rd rd of the draft nothing against these players but as lions fans do we really have confidence in these players being any more than special team players?

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