The Lions looked very impressive in 2010 and they are definitely a team on the rise. They have a lot of young talent on the roster that figures to play big roles in the future success of the team. The one thing that could hold them back are Matthew Stafford’s injury concerns as they need to surround him with as much protection as possible.
Stafford missed a lot of time again last season and he has missed more games than he has played in his young career. He needs to stay healthy if the Lions want to be playoff contenders next season.
Jahvid Best is the game changing type of running back that the Lions have been searching for since Barry Sanders retired. He was slowed down by injuries for the better part of last year but if he can stay healthy, he can be a real game changer for the Lions’ offense.
Calvin Johnson is one of the top receivers in the league and he gives the Lions a true number one receiver that most teams lack. Nate Burleson is a solid number two receiver but the depth behind them is a concern.
Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler form one of the better tight end duos in the league. The offensive line has improved but they could still use some upgrades in certain positions.
Rob Sims and Gosder Cherilus had possibly the best seasons of their career last year, and veterans Dominic Raiola and Jeff Backus are still solid players. Stephen Peterman struggled at right guard and it’s very possible that they will find some competition for him in this year’s draft.
The defensive line is one of the better overall line units in the NFL. Kyle Vandenbosch and Cliff Avril form a very solid pass rushing duo, as Avril really came into his own last year.
Turk McBride and Lawrence Jackson give the team good depth. The defensive tackle position is also very deep, where rookie sensation Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams are the starters.
This group also has good depth with Andre Fluellen and Sammie Hill. The linebacker group needs some upgrades, as both outside linebacker spots were weak spots last season.
DeAndre Levy is pretty solid in the middle but I think we could see the Lions take two outside linebackers in this year’s draft. The secondary is a unit that saw some improvements last year, but it still has a little ways to go before it is seen as a dominant unit.
Chris Houston and Alphonso Smith could be the starters next season, but neither one of them is a shutdown corner and we could see them take a corner in round one or two. Louis Delmas is a future pro bowler at free safety, and Amari Spievey looks like he could develop into a solid strong safety in the next year or two.
1. (2) DT Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska: A future star, Suh looked as impressive as any rookie we have seen in a long time. 16 GP/ 16 GS
1. (30) RB Jahvid Best, California: He was slowed down a bit by injuries, but he could be a game changer at the running back position. 16 GP/ 9 GS
3. (66) CB Amari Spievey, Iowa: He was converted to safety during the season, and he looks like he’s got a lot of potential. 15 GP/ 9 GS
4. (128) OT Jason Fox, Miami: The Lions seem to like his ability to develop into a starting offensive tackle in the future. 4 GP/ 0 GS
7. (213) DE Willie Young, North Carolina State: Young didn’t get much of an opportunity in his rookie season, and I don’t see that changing in the future. 2 GP/ 0 GS
7. (255) WR Tim Toone, Weber State: Toone was the last pick in the draft, and he didn’t get any opportunity to play in 2010. 0 GP/ 0 GS
Summary: This class doesn’t have a whole lot of depth but the top level talent is what makes this class special. Suh looks like he will be a long time pro bowler and both Best and Spievey could be long time starters. I’m very skeptical of Fox’s potential but if he turns into a successful offensive tackle then this class could really be special.
This position is a very big need for the Lions due to the fact that they need upgrades at both starting positions. Julian Peterson struggled and he had consistent mental lapses that led to big plays for the opposition.
He has since been released and I think that the Lions will target a replacement for him early on in the draft. Landon Johnson is a free agent and I don’t think he’ll be back, meaning the Lions will need to find another starting linebacker to take his place.
Zach Follett could be that upgrade at the starting position, but he is coming off a serious injury that could keep him from participating early on in the season.
Round One: Akeem Ayers
Round Two: Mason Foster, Bruce Carter
Round Three: Mark Herzlich Chris Carter, Colin McCarthy
Round Four: Nate Irving, Lawrence Wilson, K.J. Wright
Round Five: Jonas Mouton, Mario Harvey, Scott Lutrus
The Lions will give very strong consideration to Ayers in round one. He is the impact linebacker that the team is missing and he’d give them an instant upgrade at one of the starting positions. They may take another linebacker such as Irving or Harvey in round four or five to contend for the other starting position.
The Lions did get two pretty good upgrades in last year’s offseason with the acquisitions of Alphonso Smith and Chris Houston. They both played surprisingly well in 2010, and they look to have sizeable roles in the future.
However, neither one of them is, or ever will be, a shutdown number one cornerback. The Lions defense needs a player who can consistently shut down opposing team’s top pass catcher.
The Lions will most likely miss out on the only sure fire number one cornerbacks in this year’s draft but they still could find a potential number one corner in round two.
Round One: Prince Amukamara, Jimmy Smith
Round Two: Brandon Burton, Curtis Brown, Ras-I Dowling, Johnny Patrick
Round Three: Kendric Burney, Curtis Marsh, Rashad Carmichael, Davon House, Jalil Brown
Round Four: Chimdi Chekwa, Shareece Wright
As I said, the Lions will more than likely miss out on Amukamara, but if he’s still available I don’t see the Lions passing on him. They could still get a corner in round two or three who they can develop into a number one receiver, but they really could use an immediate upgrade at that position.
The Lions have a pretty good pair of starting wide receivers in Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson, yet the depth is really lacking. The combination of Bryant Johnson, Stefan Logan and Derrick Williams just isn’t cutting it and the Lions need to find some more weapons for franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford.
I don’t expect to see the Lions use an early round pick on this position but I think they will take at least one pass catcher in this draft, maybe even as early as the third round.
Round Three: Randall Cobb, Tandon Doss, Dwayne Harris, Vincent Brown, Niles Paul, Greg Salas
Round Four: Cecil Shorts, Edmund Gates, Austin Pettis, Jeremy Kerley
Round Five: Ronald Johnson, Terrance Tolliver, Ryan Whalen, Jeff Maehl
Round Six: Dane Sanzenbacher, Darvin Adams, Armon Binns
I think that the Lions can find a solid number three receiver in the third round, where guys like Paul and Salas would be upgrades over the current group of free agents. They may even grab another wide receiver such as Maehl in round five to provide even more depth.
The Lions have seemed to always like Jeff Backus at left tackle, and I will admit that he had one of his better seasons in 2010. However, he may not be around for too many more seasons, and he could even be moved over to guard in the coming seasons. They could potentially find an upgrade for him in the first round of this year’s draft, allowing him to move to guard.
I think Backus is a nice player but I don’t think that he is the franchise cornerstone at left tackle that the Lions need. They need to give Stafford as much protection as possible.
Round One: Tyron Smith, Nate Solder, Anthony Castonzo
Round Two: James Brewer, Ben Ijalana
Round Three: James Carpenter, Orlando Franklin, Marcus Gilbert, Lee Ziemba
I think that Smith is another player who the Lions would be hard pressed to pass on if he were to still be available when they are on the clock. He would give the Lions the top level blind side protector that the Lions have lacked for years.
I personally think the Lions should consider a left tackle early on, but they may like what they have in Jason Fox, and choose not to even consider one in this draft.
Rob Sims played very well at left guard, and he filled the hole at the guard position that the Lions have lacked for awhile now. He has one spot locked down, but the other offensive tackle position isn’t so certain. Stephen Peterman really struggled at the right guard position, and I fully expect the Lions to try and find an upgrade for him.
This is a position that the Lions may not necessarily have to use a top pick on to upgrade but I expect them to use a mid round pick to come in and compete with Peterman for his starting spot.
Round Two: Clint Boling, Marcus Cannon
Round Three: Will Rackley, John Moffitt
Round Five: David Arkin, Zach Hurd
Round Six: Bryant Browning, Andrew Jackson
The Lions aren’t likely to take a guard in the second round but I think that both Boling and Cannon would be instant upgrades to the offensive line. It’s more likely that they’ll take Hurd or Jackson in round five or six to develop into a starting guard for the future.
Center: Dominic Raiola is a team leader but he is getting up there in years, so the Lions may want to find a future replacement for him in the later rounds.
Running Back: Kevin Smith is a free agent this season and while he may be brought back, both he and Jahvid Best have some injury concerns moving forward.
Inside Linebacker: DeAndre Levy is very solid at the starting position but the depth isn’t really there and it could take a bigger hit if current backups leave in free agency.
This team has a lot of young talent and if Matt Stafford can stay healthy for an entire season, this team could be very good. If the Lions improve a few of the team needs that I have outlined, then I could see them competing for a playoff spot next season.
They won’t contend for a title next season but they could make some noise as a wild card team. The future is finally starting to look bright in Detroit and much of that can be attributed to what Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz have done since joining the franchise.
The Lions have nice building blocks on both sides of the ball but I expect that the Lions will use most of their early round picks on the defensive side of the ball.
They really need a shutdown cornerback and two new starting linebackers for their defense to improve next season. This is a team on the rise that could contend for a playoff spot next season if they can stay healthy.