How the First 3 Days of Free Agency Have Affected the Lions' 2013 NFL Draft

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistMarch 15, 2013

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 30:  Head coach Jim Schwartz of the Detroit Lions looks on during the second half while playing the Chicago Bears at Ford Field on December 30, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. Chicago won the game 26-24. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

What a difference a few days make. This is why I don't love having to do mock drafts before free agency (and this year I didn't—that's next week).

Too many changes.

Before free agency, the priority needs for the Detroit Lions were in the secondary, outside pass-rusher, backfield, offensive line, wide receiver and then they'd move on to depth across the board.

A few days later, many things have changed.

Secondary: Priority Down

With Chris Houston and Louis Delmas potentially gone, this seemed like a very high priority on Monday morning. Enough to where I had started to ink in Dee Milliner from Alabama as a potential Lions draftee.

Well, Houston came back for a long-term deal, and was joined by safety Glover Quin and a returning Amari Spievey.

Now by no means is this a perfect group, but it's a lot more reasonable than what they had before.

Will they draft more secondary help? They should.

In the first round? No way. I'll get to where I believe they'll go in a few minutes.

Backfield: Priority Down

Joique Bell and Mikel Leshoure did all right, but not well enough. When you force defenses to chase Calvin Johnson but can't run the ball effectively, you need help.

This was never going to be an early priority for the Lions, but the second day seemed reasonable.

Signing Reggie Bush pretty much pushes that back, unless there is a tremendous value pick in the third round.

There's no need to go running back in Round 2 or 3 (you could throw 4 in there as well, go ahead) with Bush in the house. If he's half as effective as he was in Miami, this will be a beautiful thing.

Push this down the board in terms of need, and wait for a value pick on Saturday to give you some depth.

Outside Pass-Rusher: Priority Same

I like Jason Jones, and if Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press is right and he ends up back at defensive end, he could bolster this line. While he wasn't great when he played end before, he's got Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh inside creating massive pressure, so the table really is set for him.

Still, the Lions will need more help. While they might retain a guy like Lawrence Jackson or be able to depend on Ronnell Lewis, they won't get a lot more out of free agency.

So an outside pass-rusher—at end or linebacker—remains a high need. Whether it is one they address at No. 5 will depend entirely on who is there at that pick—because after this week there's only one need I think is higher than this one.

Offensive Line: Priority Up

With Jeff Backus retiring (per the Detroit Free Press), left tackle is a much bigger concern this year. Had Backus returned, they might have been able to take the year to figure out if Riley Reiff could develop some more, or at least push back drafting a tackle until 2014.

As it stands, they've now lost three starting offensive linemen—Gosder Cherilus went to Indianapolis and guard Stephen Peterman was released a while back.

Sure, Reiff can step in at left tackle—it's what they drafted him for.

However if Luke Joeckel or Eric Fisher are there, they should draft them and have Reiff at right tackle. I like Reiff, but Joeckel and Fisher are that much better than him even on day one. You can throw Lane Johnson in there as well, though I am not quite as high on the tackle from Oklahoma.

The defensive line class has a lot of talent, and with the Lions picking early in Round 2, they will be in place to get one there while drastically improving their line with a tackle pick at No. 5.

You can't flip that for the same result, though. If you pass on these tackles, the drop-off is far steeper to the next level by the time they pick again.

I've loved Milliner at No. 5 for a long time, but there's a part of me that wonders if one of the three tackles would be a better pick.

With Backus retiring, there is no long any "if."

Wide Receiver: Priority Same

The Lions were never going to go hard after anyone in free agency because they knew the prices would be outrageous for the most part.

So it really doesn't change much.

There was never going to be a first-round receiver pick. With the depth in this class and the needs elsewhere, I would see them passing on a receiver in the second round as well, unless phenomenal value fell to them.

They still need at least one guy, and they'll get him.

It's just not going to happen until they address some other things first.

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