As it is beginning to look more and more like the Detroit Lions are going to draft the quarterback of their future in Matthew Stafford with the No. 1 pick in the draft, the No. 20 pick becomes that much more important to the success of the franchise.
The Lions are quietly targeting Rey Maualuga, the fierce linebacker out of USC, with that 20th pick, although there is a good chance the MLB will be gone by then.
If Maualuga is off the board when the Lions select, look for them to try to trade down, gain another pick, and still be able to nab a solid defensive player like Lauranitus or Peria Jerry. If Maualuga is gone and Detroit can't get adequate value for the pick, they must hit a home run with the 20th pick in order to call this draft a success.
The Lions missed badly when they selected Jordan Dizon in the second round last season. Sure, Dizon may have a nice role in Detroit as a backup to Ernie Sims and Julian Peterson, and may even surprise us with a very solid year, but he was a huge reach in the second round.
Detroit can ill afford to miss in the second round of the upcoming draft again. If all goes well, Stafford will sit and learn all season and Culpepper will have a solid year throwing the deep ball to Calvin Johnson. This makes the No. 20 and 33 pick crucial to the team's success this year.
The Lions could be an 8-8 ball club this year if they draft well. If they select a starting MLB and defensive lineman at 20 and 33, that and the other additions made this offseason (like Julian Peterson from Seattle) could actually give this team a respectable defense.
Detoit could be solid at DT running a rotation of Grady Jackson, Chuck Darby, Andre Fluellen, and a stud rookie. They will be excellent at LB with Ernie Sims, Peterson, and Rey Maualuga in the middle. The secondary is wishy-washy, but has potential if the DL and LBs play well and they add depth through the draft.
If things go well this year, it looks like the Lions' top pick and highest-paid player on the team will be riding the pines. But, if the team drafts well at 20 and 33, the overpaid bench warmer may be smiling all season, knowing that when he takes over in 2010, he has a chance to lead the Lions to the playoffs.