It’s fair to say that the Lions have suffered through one of the worst periods of NFL football that anybody has ever witnessed, if not the worst.
Their failures and disappointments have been well documented, and hope was lost in Detroit for many years.
But, when the Lions were finally able to rid themselves of the stench of Matt Millen, many people renewed their hope in the Leo’s, and the current regime has shown enough progress to be classified as a legitimate NFL front office.
The Lions have since put themselves in position to be called an up and coming team in the NFL, and now they only need to start filling in the gaps to get themselves over the hump.
With that in mind let’s take a look at the top 10 players that the Detroit Lions should be targeting in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Matthews is not going to be taken in the first round, he might not even be taken in the second round, so if you can get this guy in the second round or beyond you do it for one reason only:
He's a Matthews.
Casey Matthews is going to receive a lot of hype just because big brother, Clay Matthews, is a beast and a half.
But, there is something to be said about the Matthews bloodline, and if you can take a chance on this guy in the later rounds he might really pay off.
Everybody wants a Matthews on their team, so go get yours Detroit!
Here comes the homer pick for all of you green and white slappys out there.
Greg Jones is a very attractive pick for the Lions mainly because of his “hometown hero” potential, but he has the on field potential to back it up.
Jones’s stats have ranked among the best in the Big Ten, if not the country, since his freshman year at Michigan State, and he has an incredible knack for making plays, especially in the backfield.
The only downside to Jones is his size. He is not big enough to be a middle linebacker in the NFL, so the Lions couldn’t count on him to fill that role.
If I could pick him up sometime after the first round and mold him into an outside linebacker, I would jump on it in a heartbeat.
From what I can gather the Lions current left tackle has taken a little bit of heat in his day…
Anthony Costanzo would come in and be an instant hero in Detroit. You can put him behind Backus and let him learn, or you can throw him into the fire, and he should be good enough to hold his own right away.
He’s a big guy with great technique, and the Lions desperately need to protect Stafford.
He has the potential to be a late first round pick, but I can see him sliding into the second.
Stafford has had a tiny little problem with his blind side in the past…let’s fix that eh?
Allen Bailey would be an incredible addition to the Lions defense.
He played DT down at The U, but hypothetically he is really not big enough to play tackle in the 4-3 scheme that the Lions run.
If they can coach the kid up and put him at defensive end next to Suh, it could end up being a perfect way for him to transition into the NFL.
The reports on Bailey are that he excels at creating pressure, and he has great speed to be able to come off the edge.
Bailey had somewhat of a rough Senior Bowl so his stock might fall enough where the Lions could snag him outside of the first round.
Pouncey has the skills to be a high first round draft pick, but he might slip to the second round. He would then become the ultimate steal for the Lions, who desperately need help on the offensive line.
Keeping Matthew Stafford healthy has to be a main priority of the Lions organization, and having a young and talented offensive lineman with a great pedigree moving into the future would be ideal.
You know they grow ‘em real big up at Wisconsin, and any player you snag from the Badgers is going to know how to play tough and physical football.
If I were the Lions I would salivating at the chance to put Clay in my backfield.
If we’re going to be honest with ourselves I think that most rational fans can agree that Jahvid Best is in no way an every down back.
Best would be at his best (get it) if given the opportunity to make plays in the open field. He could really be that factor back instead of the work horse Jim Schwartz tried to turn him into.
John Clay is used to being a “platoon” type of back, and he would be a perfect fit in a “thunder and lightning” type of running scheme.
Put Clay with Best in the backfield, and I think the Lions would start to have something that resembled a very dangerous running attack.
The Lions have one of the best defensive fronts in the entire league.
Ndamukong Suh spearheads a very aggressive front four that is so good at rushing the passer that blitzing linebackers aren’t even necessary sometimes.
A great pass rush means nothing though if wide receivers are getting open, and that is where the Lions struggled tremendously this past season.
Brandon Harris is an incredibly quick corner, and he should have the speed and skills to hang tough with most of the receivers in this league.
I wouldn’t consider him a shutdown corner just yet, but you could compare him to Sam Shields of the Packers: very quick, and will make plays
In my opinion he's worth the #13 pick.
Put Amukamara and Ndamukong Suh together and you’ve got yourself the makings of a pretty sweet sitcom!
Now let’s be honest here, this is the sexy pick that I can almost guarantee won’t happen.
But, if they Lions feel that they can pull off a trade to move up in the draft and snag the guy, I feel they should do everything within their power to get him!
Let’s say a team like Cleveland might want a few more pieces to work with in the draft and is willing to trade up…
I don’t care if you have to trade away a few draft picks and a player or two, heck even throw in Stafford’s shoulder sling!
He could be the player that would take the Lions from an exciting upcoming team, to a very scary match up in the Playoffs.
I can already see all the nasty comments that are going to come just because of this slide.
The next slide might also boil some Honolulu Blue and Silver blood, so just hold on to your britches for a second.
Now, I know that this would be rather Millen-esque, but I have to pose the question!
How would you feel about pairing up Julio Jones and Calvin Johnson, and seeing if that alone won’t glue Stafford’s arm back on all by itself?
To me this is incredibly intriguing, specifically because many draft boards have Jones still available at 13.
Granted the Lions have so many holes to fill on their team, so they don’t have much room to get flashy, but would it be worth the shot if they felt they could get players with enough talent to really fill those holes in the later rounds?
Think about it.
I’m prepared to be bombarded over this slide, and you know what…bring it on.
The truth of the matter is that we have no idea what is going to happen with Matthew Stafford.
He has shown us next to nothing in the two years that he has been with the Lions, and if anything, there have been more questions about his health than answers about his skill set.
If Stafford goes down one more time you can pretty much say goodbye to the Lions hopes of being that up and coming team they are projected to be, so why not get plan B on the way?
Stanzi was an incredible quarterback at Iowa, and he seems to have a great football IQ to go along with his solid mechanics and accuracy.
He’s not projected to go until the late rounds, so what do you have to lose!? Are you excited for Shaun Hill to lead the Lions to the promise land?
If anything you give him the ability to learn how to play the quarterback position in the NFL the right way: learning from the sidelines and practice.
If Stafford does go down you have yourself an excellent backup quarterback, and then things won’t look so bad if you have to part ways with Matthew "the china doll" Stafford in the future.
If Stafford stays healthy and reaches his potential than you have an excellent backup, and you could even trade him away one day to receive something in return.
This small investment could lead to a big return.