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NFL fans everywhere look forward to this day from the moment their respective team is eliminated from playoff contention, it is NFL Draft Day! This is a very interesting off season for the Detroit Lions, as they are coming off their most successful season in a long time. The Lions posted an impressive 10-6 record before being eliminated in a competitive, yet telling playoff game in the first round against the New Orleans Saints. What we learned during that playoff game is that the Lions are most certainly a team that is to be reckoned with in the coming years, but on the other side of the coin, we learned that they still have some glaring holes that need to be addressed.
The Lions will pretty much be returning their roster from the 2011 campaign, after retaining key players such as Middle Linebacker Stephen Tulloch and Offensive Tackle Jeff Backus, as well as applying the franchise tag to Defensive End Cliff Avril. However it should also be pointed out the Lions lost their top Cornerback from the previous season, Eric Wright, who signed a monster contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This is a significant loss for the Lions simply because their secondary was considered by many experts to be depleted prior to the loss of Wright.
With that being said, there are many different directions the Lions could go with their first round selection in this year’s draft. Obviously, their most glaring hole is in their secondary, as it has been much publicized for quite some time now. There is no doubt they are in dyer need of a Cornerback, but they also could use a Safety to pair with the hard hitting Louis Delmas. It is hard to deny that the secondary is the Lions most pressing need that must be addressed during this years draft. However, we must remember that the draft is very unpredictable and never quite shakes out the way that even the “experts” think it will. An example of this is last year, when Defensive Tackle Nick Fairley dropped in the Lions lap at pick 13. Sometimes you have to just take the best player on the board in situations like that, and that is exactly what the Lions did. In order for the Lions to go the secondary route in the first round, they will have to get a bit lucky because there are a lot of teams drafting in front of and around the Lions that also need secondary help and to put it simply, there is a scarcity of first round Defensive Back talent in this year’s draft. Possible CB selections for the Lions in the first round could be:
Another plausible route the Lions could go with this year is to address some problems they have at Defensive End. Cliff Avril has a career year last year and because of that, the Lions were forced to place their franchise tag on Avril, ensuring he will stay with the Lions, and make $10.6 million next year, should he sign the franchise tender. That’s where the problem comes in, Avril has yet to sign that tender, and has admitted he will be holding out for a long term contract extension from the team. Couple that with the aging Kyle Vanden Bosch, whose production is sure to decrease in the next couple seasons, and the Lions defensive line goes from being quite strong to having a lot of question marks. It might be a little disappointing to many fans to see the Lions address the defensive line in three straight drafts, but due to the level of uncertainty surrounding the end positions right now, their hand may be forced. But rest assured, I am confident in saying this, the Lions WILL NOT draft a defensive tackle this year! Should the Lions go the defensive end route, some possible selections might be:
The last area that the Lions could address with their first round selection come Thursday night pertains to the offensive side of the ball and specifically the offensive line. The Lions offensive line, as a whole, was very serviceable last season. With the Lions throwing the ball so much, pass protection was the name of the game for the most part and they did their job. This upcoming season will definitely see the Lions run the ball a bit more, if for nothing else, to keep other teams honest. With that being said, the offensive line is not getting any younger, and aside from drafting Gosder Cherilus four years ago, they haven’t done much to improve the offensive line in the recent off seasons. Bringing back starting Left Tackle Jeff Backus was a good move for sure, but he is starting to get up there in age and it might be time to select his heir apparent to protect Matthew Stafford’s blind side in the years to come. Doing so might cause Backus to shift from the left side to the right side, but ultimately the move would make the offensive line much stronger. Possible offensive line prospects that could have their name called by the Lions on Thursday night include:
Obviously it is so tough to predict any picks in the draft just because there are always surprising moves that leave you saying “What the…” that change the entire landscape of the remaining picks in that round. With that being said, in my opinion, the Lions need a lot of things to happen including a decent amount of luck, to address the secondary issue in the way they want to. The lack of Cornerbacks that have first round talent in this year’s draft really hurts the Lions chances of getting one of the shutdown guys being that they pick so late. However should either Kirkpatrick or Gilmore remain on the board come pick 23, there is no way the Lions don’t pull the trigger. Mark Barron, the safety from Alabama, is widely considered to be coming off the board before the Lions selection, but same scenario here, should he still be there, his name will be called by the Lions.
In my honest opinion, the crop of defensive backs will have already been picked through come time for the Lions pick. That being said, it is much more likely that the Lions will spend the 23rd pick on a defensive end or an offensive lineman. Any of the players that I listed as potential selections at these positions will fit the Lions scheme, but I have my dream scenario set aside.
With the 23rd selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions will select: Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle from Ohio State. I know its not the flashy pick that some might crave, but it is the right pick should the aforementioned defensive backs all be off the board at the Lions selection. Adams would fit into the Lions plans immediately, and would allow Backus to shift over to Right Tackle quite possibly this year. Stafford has all of the weapons he needs, now it is time to protect the investment the Lions made in him. Stafford is a top flight Quarterback in this league, and with the injuries he has had in his first couple seasons, it is apparent that they need to protect him. Adams possesses all of the tools to be a ten plus year starter in the NFL, just like the man that will be mentoring him, Jeff Backus.
A very real alternative possibility is that the Lions trade back in hopes of possibly moving up in the second round which would be an interesting move because I believe Janoris Jenkins is going to be there in the second round due to his off the field problems. It would be awesome if the Lions could trade back and still end up with an offensive lineman and then snag Jenkins, who by all rights is a first rounder, in the second round.
Lions General Manager said last week that the team had already narrowed it down to seven or eight players they believed they would be selecting from, but with the unpredictability of what other teams will do, anything can and will happen. Hope everyone is as excited for tonight as I am, the NFL Draft is a national holiday for me, even though it is now stretched throughout an entire weekend.
The first round will be starting at 8PM on Thursday April 26th. Rounds two and three will be Friday starting at 7PM, with the final four rounds on Saturday starting at noon. All rounds of the draft will be airing on ESPN who will be offering complete coverage of the entire draft.