Detroit Lions General Manager Martin Mayhew
Before anyone takes aim, please hear me out: There aren't too many people happier than me at the moment with the current success of our boys in Honolulu Blue.
That being said, while I think the Detroit Lions will make the playoffs this year, I don't see them going very deep, for one simple reason.
They need to revamp the offensive line.
Perhaps the most stable offensive lineman is left guard Rob Sims, who has been a major factor in the improvement the line has enjoyed. However, Matthew Stafford is still getting hit way too often and if the Lions can't find a way to better protect him, his career could be over before it starts.
I can see where folks might see that as a "doom and gloom" outlook but hey, what do you expect from a die-hard Lions fan?
I figure the Lions will have anywhere between the 20th and 26th pick in 2012 NFL draft. Detroit has plenty of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, the defense is pretty much set so the one area left to address is going to be the offensive line.
The choices of players I will be listing in the first three rounds is assuming the Lions don't make any trades to move up or down.
First Choice - Rielly Reif, Offensive Tackle, Iowa
I really like Reif. He's tall (6'6"), big (300 lbs.) and a solid run and pass blocker. He is a strong and athletic left tackle. His downhill blocking skills are excellent and has very good pass blocking technique. Reif has excellent feet and does very well in mirroring defensive ends as they try to get upfield.
Second Choice - Barrett Jones, Offensive Tackle, Alabama
Jones is 6'5" tall and 311 lbs. so he is going to give defensive ends fits in pass protection. He switched from left guard to left tackle this season and the transition has been flawless. He has good football intelligence and the physical tools to be a legitimate first round pick as a left tackle. He has been very effective for Alabama's ground game, something the Lions desperately need to allow running backs to get outside for 8-10 yard gains on a consistent basis.
Lions need to improve the offensive line
First Choice - Kevin Zeitler, Guard, Wisconsin
Since Rob Sims is set at left guard for the Lions, I'd like to see them get a quality player at right guard. Kevin Zeitler would fill the bill quite nicely. He has done a great job paving the way for running backs in Wisconsin. At 6'4", 312 lbs., Zeitler would be a great road-grading right guard for the Lions to open up holes for Jahvid Best and Mikel LeShoure. He has better mobility than people would think, does great hitting the blocks at the second level as well as on screen plays.
Second Choice - William Vlachos, Center, Alabama
I like Dominic Raiola. He's got just the right amount of nastiness that you like to see in a center. But he has been pushed around the last few years and has been an ineffective blocker in the running game. Enter William Vlachos, a 6'1", 291 lbs. center from Alabama. He's had a good career leading the way as an excellent interior run blocker for the Crimson Tide's inside run game. He's been solid in pass protection and would be a fixture in the middle for Detroit over the next ten years.
First Choice - Donnie Fletcher, Cornerback, Boston College
Eric Wright and Chris Houston are doing an excellent job for the Lions this year but I think they need to add some depth. Donnie Fletcher fills the bill nicely. At 6'1" and 200 lbs., he's not likely to get pushed around by big wide receivers.
Second Choice - Chris Polk, Running Back, Washington
Jahvid Best is not an every down back and he's been injury prone the last two seasons, including this season with a concussion issue. Chris Polk has shown he can produce behind a struggling offensive line as he led the Huskies with 1,415 yards and nine touchdowns. He runs with great vision, excellent cutting ability as well as having the talent to get skinny to get through the hole and into the secondary. While he does hit the hole quickly, he is also a patient runner. Lions need to get a durable running back and Polk would be an excellent addition to the Lions.
There you have it folks. With any of these three players, the Lions would make the playoffs again in 2012 but go much deeper than I suspect they will go this year.