Detroit Lions: Top 5 Draft Targets

Jay Wierenga@@JayWierengaCorrespondent IMarch 1, 2012

Detroit Lions: Top 5 Draft Targets

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    The Detroit Lions are coming off of one of the best seasons we have seen from the team in the last 20 years.

    They started out extremely strong, cooled a bit in the middle of the year and then closed out strong.

    In the playoffs, they came up against a very tough New Orleans team at home, but for one half, they had Lions fans thinking upset.

    So what's next for this team?

    First off, they have some in-house business to take care of.

    They have a number of free agents who they need to re-sign, and in order to do so, they will need to restructure Calvin Johnson's deal and get the talented wide receiver locked up for the foreseeable future.

    Lucky for Detroit, they have a lot more answers than they do questions.

    Provided they re-sign Stephen Tulloch and Cliff Avril, they have a very strong front seven.

    Their wide receivers are top shelf, their specialists are solid, and they have the most important position covered—a franchise quarterback.

    But that's not to say that this team is perfect.

    Their cornerbacks improved over the course of the year, but they still are a weak spot with this defense. 

    The running game was nearly non-existent for the majority of the season. And while many are hopeful that last year's draft pick Mikel Leshoure returns from injury, they still will need to get more depth at the position.

    The offensive line was better than expected, but they're starting to get long in the tooth at left tackle and center, and they need to bring in some young bodies.

    Overall, the future looks bright for Detroit, and as a result, they're drafting much lower in the first round than in previous years. 

    That being said, there should still be some serious talent left on the board for Detroit.

    Here are the top five first-round targets for the Lions.

Dre Kirkpatrick, CB, Alabama

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    The Lions haven't drafted a corner back in the first round since the 90s—and with good reason.

    Bryant Westbrook and Terry Fair were both highly touted, and both were busts.

    That being said, the best way to get a shutdown corner in the NFL is to draft one. Cornerbacks start getting very expensive on the free agent market once they become established.

    And with a pass rush like we have seen from the Lions each of the last two years, a stud corner could be dominant very quickly.

    Kirkpatrick is one of the top cornerbacks in this draft, so there's a chance that he won't slip to Detroit at 23.

    Kirkpatrick is lightning quick with excellent size (6'2") and is coming from a great program.

    The only knock on Kirkpatrick is that he did have shoulder surgery in college, so durability could be an issue.

    Would the Lions be able to handle 50 percent of their secondary to have injury concerns?

Janoris Jenkins, CB, N. Alabama

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    Jenkins is more of your prototypical corner.

    He is only about 5'10" but has perhaps the best speed of any corner in this draft.

    But there is a reason that this picture shows him with Florida but his profile says North Alabama.

    Jenkins has some serious character issues attached to him.

    Multiple arrests for drug issues, bar fights, suspensions and ultimately led to expulsion from the Florida football team.

    Sure, the Lions have strong characters in their locker room and a loud-mouthed, trouble-making cornerback that weighs less than 200 pounds would learn humility quickly around Ndamukong Suh and Kyle Vanden Bosch, not to mention Louis Delmas who is the unquestioned leader of the secondary if not the defense.

    Jenkins likely will be available once Detroit drafts, and they will have to figure out if he is the next Deion Sanders or the next Pacman Jones.

David DeCastro, G, Stanford

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    The Lions really need to start addressing their offensive line.

    The question becomes are they getting value late in the first round?

    David DeCastro would actually be a really good fit.

    He's big but still fairly athletic. He's very durable and plays with a passion.

    He also does not have any character issues, and his leadership has never been questioned.

    But do you really want to draft a guard in the first round? Rob Sims and Stephen Peterman were solid last year, but neither really stood out.

    But if there is a talented cornerback at this spot, you have to take him.

Mark Barron, S, Alabama

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    There's a real chance that Barron is already off the board when Detroit drafts, but if he isn't, they will need to take a long look at him.

    Barron is your typical strong-side safety. He hits hard, has good size and plays stronger than he appears.

    He lacks top end speed, but free safety is where you want that type of speed, and Louis Delmas is far from slow.

    The Lions like Amari Spievey, but he's still adjusting to the position, and Detroit will need to add depth to this position to help push the starters.

    Besides, Delmas has been injury prone, and another stud safety couldn't hurt.

Vontaze Burfict, ILB, Arizona State

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    Personally, I absolutely love Burfict as a player.

    He's scarily intense on the field, and he has prototypical speed and size for the position.

    He loves to hit people, and he could provide an intimidating force in the defensive back field.

    That being said, he does have the tendency to let his emotions get the best of him and has been suspended as a result at times.

    The linebacker position is not very deep in this draft, and Burfict would be a top-10 pick if there weren't questions about his character.

    But you have got to love the image of the Lions as a fearsome, somewhat dirty, defensive unit. These guys already intimidate the competition.

    Imagine having a fearsome linebacker to go along with an already scarily-good defensive line.