Martin Mayhew is facing his toughest offseason as the Detroit Lions general manager. He managed to re-sign five of their own key free agents, and he managed to scrape up $132 million and a seven-year contract for Calvin Johnson.
All difficult tasks completed, the offseason only gets tougher for Mayhew and the front office with the NFL draft right around the corner.
In Mayew's first two years, his first-round picks weren't extremely difficult selecting Matthew Stafford in 2009 No. 1 overall, and Ndamukong Suh No. 2 overall in 2010.
This year, the Lions have the No. 23 pick in the draft, and have plenty of options to choose from. The glaring concerns point to the secondary, and the aging offensive line.
The Lions offense made a statement last season, ranking fourth in the NFL in points, and fifth in the NFL in yardage. The offensive line had a better season than normal protecting the quarterback, and putting points up on the scoreboard.
The secondary is the obvious weak point of the defense and the whole team. Surrendering monster games to quarterbacks like Carson Palmer, Matt Flynn, and Drew Brees are instant red flags for the Lions to upgrade the secondary.
The back four needs a new addition, but given the circumstances of the draft and the team, the Lions should avoid the cornerback prospects and draft offensive tackle Jonathan Martin.
Martin carried the responsibility of protecting Andrew Luck's blindside last season, and he successfully did just that. Without Martin's tough, quality blocking at tackle, Luck doesn't have the success he's been having at Stanford.
Detroit re-signed veteran left tackle Jeff Backus to a two-year contract. A deal like that for a 34-year-old means he's wanted now, but not later. With Backus' hour glass running low, it's time for the this team to begin looking towards the future.
That's where Jonathan Martin comes in.
Martin is a well-rounded athlete at his position, and is capable of making a significant impact for the Lions.
Martin's strength at Stanford was run blocking. He displayed great mobility on the perimeter during outside runs, and was impressive sealing off linebackers at the next level of the defense. Martin uses his hands well against rushers, is very instinctive and plays with a mean aggression when he steps on the field.
Martin's not quite picture perfect, though.
Martin had a hard time blocking speed rushers at left tackle. He's capable of playing right tackle in the NFL, and that could be the case depending on where he's drafted. Nonetheless, Martin has to improve against faster defensive ends in the NFL if he wants to live up to his capabilities.
Fans and analysts view the smarter route would be to draft a cornerback. The usual names mentioned in discussion are Janoris Jenkins and Dre Kirpatrick, two highly talented first-round projected prospects.
The Lions need all the help they can find in the secondary, but Martin Mayhew needs to keep both of these men off his draft board.
Nobody can deny the talent both of these men carry, but the bigger story is their character issues.
Kirkpatrick was arrested in January for marijuana possession. The charges were dropped, but still a concern that can't be ignored.
Jenkins' list of dirty laundry is far worse than Kirkpatrick.
Jenkins has been arrested for marijuana possession twice, transferred from the University of Florida for misconduct and was arrested for a bar fight in Gainesville.
After Mikel Leshoure and Nick Fairley were both arrested with marijuana charges, and the Lions already struggling with on-field character concerns, Jenkins and Kirkpatrick are the exact players the Lions should not take a gamble on.
This team needs high-character players like Martin, not potential headaches that aren't trustworthy. If the Lions do choose to go for a cornerback, the team can trade down for a player like Nebraska prospect Alfonso Dennard.
Overall, Martin is the smarter and better first-round pick for Detroit.
Martin would more than likely sit behind Backus as a rookie and maybe even his second year. Martin is a work in progress, but with his physical tools, and desire to get better, he could be a very efficient and reliable tackle for the Detroit Lions.
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