After Matt Millen's departure the Detroit Lions infrastructure is in much better shape. Last year's draft had almost more starters (five) than the previous four years total (eight).
It is going to take a couple more good drafts to undo the damage which has already been done. Part of the team's roster struggles in the Millen era was the in offensive and defensive philosophy, with different coaches wanting different types of players-many of whom are not a good fit for this team.
The offense has cornerstones in place with QB Matthew Stafford, WR Calvin Johnson and TE Brandon Pettigrew, but the defense remains traditionally one of the worst in the league. Picks 2, 34, 66, 100, 133, 214 and 255 belong to the Lions from Detroit.
Jim Schwartz, center, head coach of the Detroit Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew, left, and Tom Lewand team president are the braintrust of this franchise.
Martin Mayhew spent first year with the organization cleaning up the Matt Millen era. Martin needs to still build with depth and young talent, but should be praised for a good draft last year (Stafford, Pettigrew, Levy, Delmas and Sammie Hill).
Coach Schwartz has a background in scouting and has an eye for playmakers, is deeply involved in the draft. Tom Lewand weighs in on major decisions.
The defense that Gunther Cunningham and Jim Schwartz want to run is predicated on pressure from the front four. The Lions were forced to blitz be it unsuccessfully, almost more than any team in the NFL last year.
A dominant three-technique similar to who Schwartz had in Tennessee, Albert Haynesworth would make an immeasuable difference. The two prospects in the first round that emerge are considered the best prospects overall, Ndamukong Suh & Gerald McCoy. Both have the potential to be blue-chip players for years to come, Detroit takes Suh.
Two seasons in a row the Lions have ranked last in pass defense. For as much as the Lions blitzed, they flat out could not cover on the back end and payed for it.
Phillip Buchanon and Anthony Henry were only stop-gaps last year evident on the release of both. So far this offseason, Detroit has acquired starting corner Chris Houston from Atlanta via trade, and signed free-agents Jonathan Wade and Dante Wesley for depth to their rotation.
The Lions could use two young corners(or more) but need to get one starter out of the draft. Corner is a fairly deep draft this year Detroit could take a running back in the second round if not they hope Kareem Jackson is available other talent could be Patrick Robinson or Jerome Murphy.
Third round talent could be Brandon Ghee, Chris Cook, Perrish Cox and Dominque Franks. A sleeper could lie in Walter Thumond III from Oregon.
Kevin Smith gamely fought through two bad shoulder injuries before suffering a season ending ACL injury. As tough and promising as Smith is he was run in to the ground as a college star and will be recovering from a major knee surgery.
Kevin had only one carry for over 30 yards in the '09 season, not a home run hitter that the Lions need. Rookie Aaron Brown has speed but poor instincts. The position needs a playmaker, someone who can get involved into the passing game as well as take it to the house.
If the position is addressed in the second round look for Jahvid Best the team would love for Ryan Matthews to fall. Third round is most likely when the trigger is pulled watch out for Joe McKnight, Dexter McCluster, Ben Tate and Montario Hardesty.
A late round choice could be unheralded Deji Kerim of Southern Illinois whom the team has recently worked out. Ultimately I believe it is a need that should be addressed in the third round, that said if Jahvid Best is there take him.
The defensive style that Schwartz employs needs pressure from the front four every down. Kyle Vanden Bosch might solidify one side, other than that Cliff Avril and Jason Hunter combined for only 10 1/2 sacks.
The group as a whole failed to put pressure on the QB without the aid of blitzes. Avril could be a pass rusher worth cultivating, his run defense needs help though.
I think they would address this in the fourth round Alex Carrington is a small school prospect but is stout against the run and would beef up the line more so than a Greg Hardy could. Hardy has great pass rush skills however is often injured and immature.
Free Safety should not be a need for years to come Louis Delmas is a star in the making. Detroit needs another every snap safety who can help out in the run game and deep zone coverage.
The NFC North has good tight ends(Jermichael Finley, Greg Olsen and Vinsanthe Shiancoe) Delmas needs help he can't do it alone. Kansas safety Darrell Stuckey is a smart, experienced playmaker who plays with sound technique.
Other late round picks I can see would be Cam Nelson of Arizona, Cornhusker Larry Asante or Virginia Tech's Kam Chancellor.
Detroit should address the defense this year not LT and kick Jeff Backus inside, I am sure they will earn another high pick in the 2011 draft. As it stands Backus, Sims, Raiola, Peterman and Cherilus are the starters and Manny Ramirez (not the Dodger) is the key back up.
I realize that Stafford can't complete passes from his back but right now the line isn't half bad. Jeff Backus takes a lot of heat for giving up eight sacks last year or a sack on around one percent of pass attempts.