2012 NFL Draft: 4 Positions the Detroit Lions Must Upgrade
The Detroit Lions made the playoffs this season for the first time since 1999.
While the Lions playoff appearance excited their fans, they were beat soundly in the first round by the New Orleans Saints. If the Lions hope to make a serious run at their first ever Super Bowl, there are four positions they must improve before next season.
The Lions are looking to build on their foundation of up-and-coming stars Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh and Calvin Johnson.
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GM Martin Mayhew wants to re-sign free agent middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch. Tulloch was a leader on defense for the Lions and brought outside linebackers DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant together to form a solid group.
If Tulloch leaves via free agency, Mayhew will be hard pressed to find a replacement. Vontaze Burfict, a linebacker form Arizona State, has the talent to go in the first round.
He had issues controlling himself on and off the field in college, but if he can learn to control his actions, he could bring a lot of talent to Detroit.
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The Lions' offensive line did a solid job protecting Matthew Stafford in 2011. The group finished in the top half of the league in quarterback hits and sacks allowed.
However, Jeff Backus is 34 and Dominic Raiola is 33. They could still have a few good years left in them, but nobody can play forever. Bringing in linemen to play behind them for a year or two will add depth and insurance.
Center Peter Konz from Wisconsin and guards Cordy Glenn from Geogia and David DeCastro from Stanford look to be potential picks for Detroit. Tackle Mike Adams from Ohio State could be in the mix too, but he did not have a very good showing at the combine.
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The Lions secondary improved this season, however, it still needs to get better. This was shown in the unit's performance over the last two games of the season, when the Packers and Saints combined to burn the Lions for nine touchdowns and 946 yards through the air.
As well, starting cornerback Eric Wright may leave through free agency and the Lions already don't have adequate depth at the position.
Fortunately for the Lions, there are a number of good cornerback prospects in this year's draft.
Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick may be Mayhew's choice if he is still around when the Lions pick in the first round. If he's not, Mayhew may opt for South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore. The former Gamecock has good size and should go no earlier than the second round.
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The Lions have struggled to keep their running backs healthy.
Jahvid Best suffered two concussions last year and Mikel Leshoure tore his Achilles' tendon before the season started.
Kevin Smith played well after joining the team mid-season, but he too could not fend off the injury bug.
If Best, Leshoure and Smith do not seem ready to go when conditioning begins for veterans before the draft, the Lions may need to spend another high pick on a running back.
Alabama's Trent Richardson is probably the only back worthy of going in the first round and will probably be gone by the time Detroit picks. Miami's Lamar Miller may be available in the second round and is quick with good strength.