Free Agency Moves Position Lions to Draft Okung

AJ GorczycaContributor IMarch 9, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 27: Offensive lineman Russell Okung of Oklahoma State runs the 40 yard dash during the NFL Scouting Combine presented by Under Armour at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 27, 2010 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Scott Boehm/Getty Images)
Scott Boehm/Getty Images

Detroit is a team of many needs.  From 0-16 to 2-14 in recent years, there is no quick fix to making the Lions a super bowl contender.  It's a process that, while quick started with a great 2009 draft class, will not happen over night.  Given the facts that have played out over this off season, especially this first free agency weekend, it is fair to assume that the Lions are strategically positioning themselves to be able to take a franchise left tackle like Russel Okung with the second overall pick.

Fact #1:  The Lions make two strong moves to improve their defensive line.  The signing of Kyle Vanden Bosch and the trade for Corey Williams point to the Lions searching elsewhere besides defensive tackle with the second overall pick. 

Fact #2:  Schwartz has stressed the importance many times of improving the team from the inside out on both sides of the ball.  They have already invested a considerable amount of money on the defensive line this off season, Schwartz won't want to neglect the other side of the line. 

Fact #3:  Schwartz likes big defensive tackles.  I will never argue the value that a Suh or McCoy could bring to the team, but when you look at what Schwartz likes in his scheme, he favors size on the inside.  Both of the top defensive tackles are right about 300 pounds, not the formidable size of recent draft pick Sammie Hill and acquisition Corey Williams who both weight in over 330.

Fact #4:  The pick of Matthew Stafford as the first pick of the draft last year shows that the Lions consider both those players who are best available as well as positional value when making draft selections.  Stafford was not considered by most the be the top prospect in last year's draft class but the Lions went with him anyway based on their evaluation and the importance of a franchise quarterback.  The second most important part of a successful franchise is the ability to protect the quarterback and have a franchise left tackle.

Fact #5:  The Chicago Bears sign Julius Peppers to a huge contract.  This by itselft might not mean much, but considering the Lions already had a huge hole at left tackle and now have a division that has to contain Peppers, Clay Matthews and Jared Allen, this is even more glaring of a need.

Look, I'm not about to debate the potential of Suh and McCoy, both could be tremendous players in the NFL.  Both would be an improvement to a defense and defensive line that could already be on the way up after early free agent moves.  But when it comes right down to it, will Schwartz really invest that much into defensive tackles, a position farther down the line of importance in terms of positional value?  And if he does, what becomes of Sammie Hill, who had a great rookie year and is only improving?  Depth is great, but the Lions have too many needs to spend the number two overall pick to build depth at a position that isn't as great of a need as it once was.

If Okung was not worthy of the pick, then we wouldn't be having this discussion, but he is.  After a great combine, he solidified himself as the first OT prospect in this year's draft and worthy of a top pick.  Detroit can't have Stafford hurt again because Backus, while a very solid run blocker, will be manhandled by all the talented pass rushers in the division.  This pick not only bolsters the LT position, but the LG position if you slide Backus inside.  At the end of the day they have a 40 plus million dollar investment to protect under center and too many needs to continue to improve and area that has already been addressed during the off season.  A franchise left tackle is just too important to pass up.