The Detroit Lions seem to be on the cusp of another breakout season in 2011.
With solid drafting and smart investments in the free agent market, the Lions are on the rise and would not surprise me if this team makes the playoffs next season.
On offense, the key is Matthew Stafford staying healthy, as he gives them the best chance to win. The Stafford to Calvin Johnson combination is sometimes unstoppable.
Major weaknesses on offense are along the offensive line. If the Lions could build a solid line, then maybe Stafford would not get injured every drop back.
Defensively, the Lions are improving. Though there is a need for more playmakers, the Lions are led by Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh. Suh is the best defensive tackle in the game and the key is building on this foundation.
On defense, there are weaknesses in the secondary and in the linebacker corps.
So, let's start off with a mock draft of the Detroit Lions...
Akeem Ayers has Top 10 potential and is a great selection at 13th overall for the Lions.
Ayers had a great senior campaign, recording 68 tackles, four sacks and two interceptions. His overall playmaking skills are second to none in terms of linebackers in this year's draft.
The Lions are set in the middle with DeAndre Levy, but the strongside and weakside linebacker positions are concerns.
Ayers can come in right away and start at strongside linebacker, while moving the defense in the right direction.
Jimmy Smith, the cornerback from Colorado, may be gone before the Lions can pick in the 2nd Round, especially if he has a strong combine. Smith is projected to run in the low 4.4's.
That's a great time especially for a 6’2”, 205 pound corner.
Smith's play earned him 2010 First Team All-Big 12 honors, as he recorded 68 tackles.
Though, he did not intercept a pass all season, Smith was not targeted. He shut down the opponent's best wide receiver. Smith is a great run supporter, he is obviously big in size and is also great in press coverage.
The Lions desperately need secondary help and Smith can come in and start right away.
John Moffitt, the guard out of Wisconsin, stands at 6' 4" and 320 pounds. He has the versatility to play center as well, something the Lions love in their offensive lineman.
Moffitt is a great run blocker, drives defenders back and is solid in pass coverage.
Moffitt may not last until the third round, as the earliest he could go is in the late second round.
Moffitt would be an upgrade over anyone the Lions put at the guard position, he could also play center if Dominic Raioli struggles.
Richard Sherman is a cornerback out of Stanford with immense potential.
His stock is on the rise after an impressive Senior Bowl and he could potentially give the Lions two rookie starting cornerbacks.
On the season, this 6'3", 190 pound corner recorded 49 tackles, one forced fumble and four interceptions.
He is a playmaker at the cornerback position and also provides the Lions height in the secondary.
Sherman is very similar to Carolina Panthers' Richard Marshall.
This draft pick could move Alphonso Smith to the nickel CB, something he is more comfortable with.
James Carpenter, the 6'5", 315 pound tackle/guard out of Alabama, also had a great Senior Bowl week.
Carpenter played tackle in college, but throughout the Senior Bowl he looked like a dominating guard. His versatility is an added plus.
Carpenter paved holes for elite running backs like Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson.
Carpenter is more than a depth player and could legitimately challenge for a starting role.
Ronald Johnson is a 6', 188 pound speedster from the University of Southern California.
Johnson caught 64 balls from Matt Barkley for 692 yards, and eight touchdowns. These numbers suggest he is a possession receiver, but Johnson can also beat you deep, as he is projected to run in the low 4.4.
The Lions could use another receiver to complement Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson. Ronald Johnson can certainly be that guy.
Johnson also returns punts and kicks.
Jonas Mouton, a weakside linebacker from Michigan, is very underrated, with huge potential.
The 6'2", 235 pound Mouton recorded 111 tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble and two interceptions. Like Ayers, he is a playmaker at the linebacker position.
Mouton has very good speed and could challenge for a starting role.
At the least, Mouton would be a special teams ace.