Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
The Lions approach to the 2013 NFL draft should be to get productive players on the field using a blend of the “best player available” approach and targeting positions of need.
The Lions need upgrades on the offensive line, talent at the wide receiver position and speed on offense. On defense they need a defensive end and talent in the secondary. An elite cornerback and an upgrade at the safety position are warranted.
It remains to be determined what position the Lions will select from. It will range from third overall to ninth overall. Entering Week 17, the Lions are set to pick from the fifth spot overall.
The Lions will be drafting early, and there will be many different ways they can go to start the draft. What they can’t do is to take a player at No. 5 who won’t come in and play immediately. They must get a player who will come in and make a difference from the first day.
There are a few players that fit the “best player available” model while playing in a position of need. Alabama guard Chance Warmack is the best guard to enter the draft in years, and he is the kind of plug-and-play type the Lions really need early in the draft.
Another player that fits the bill is Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner. He is a big, mauling defensive end who can get to the quarterback as well as play the run. If the Lions lose Avril, they will need a defensive end like Werner.
They could get lucky and have Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel fall to them, and that would be a wonderful thing. Joeckel is a finesse player but perhaps the best left tackle to enter the draft since Joe Thomas.
The addition of Joeckel would allow 2012 first-round pick Riley Reiff to move over to the right side where he can physically dominate defenders. It really upgrades the Lions offensive line with youth and talent.
The other spot they can look at in Round 1 is at cornerback. Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner is this draft’s best cornerback, but the selection of Milliner at No. 5 overall is a little high. It would be better to see the Lions trade out of their spot and move down to get an extra second-round pick.
In Round 2, the Lions selection will depend on what they did in Round 1. Assuming they go offensive or defensive line in Round 1, they should be looking at filling the safety position in Round 2. A player like LSU’s Eric Reid or Florida’s Matt Elam would certainly fill the need.
In filling out their draft, the Lions need to find a playmaker in the secondary like Tyrann Mathieu. He can play the slot-corner position for the Lions. In today’s NFL, the slot corner is on the field more than off of it, and it is a priority position. He also can return punts and help the Lions get a returner who plays another position on their 53-man roster.
The last target is speed that they can line up out of the backfield on offense. A player like Michigan’s Dennard Robinson is a player who could make defenses crazy with this speed, and he could be utilized the way the Minnesota Vikings use Percy Harvin in their offense.
The Lions must hit on a few of these picks in a big way, and the combination of adding talent and having talent return from IR should have them in a much better place to start the 2013 season than they are finishing the 2012 season.