Today we finish the four part NFC North Draft needs series with the most talented team in the division, the Detroit Lions.
The Lions have a few needs even after a good free agency by new GM Bob Quinn and a good talent base set-up by former GM Martin Mayhew. The Lions have 10 picks currently in the 2016 draft to find one starter and several good back-ups/future starters. The Lions have picks 16, 46, 95, 111, 151, 169, 191, 202, 210, and 236 in the 2016 draft.
Immediate Starting Needs
The Lions have a need for a starting right tackle. It’s not a dire need as Michael Ola played solid in the second half of the 2015 season replacing the dreadful combo of LaAdrian Waddle and Cornelius Lucas. The Lions could get away with the Reiff/Ola combination in 2016 but they probably should draft a right tackle early in the draft.
Ronnie Stanley, Taylor Decker or Jack Conklin could be options at pick 16. Jason Spriggs could be an option with a trade down in Round 1. Shonn Coleman, Germain Ifedi and Jerald Hawkins could be options with pick 46. Some of those prospects have left tackle potential too.
The Lions could start a rookie high pick at left tackle and move Riley Reiff to right tackle. Riley is a great run blocker and solid pass blocker. Reiff only has one year left on his rookie deal (5th year option) which makes tackle a future need too for Detroit.
Cornelius Lucas should not be the primary backup after the debacle in 2014 and 2015 with him filling in for Waddle. Corey Robinson was inactive as a 7th round pick in 2015. Lamar Holmes has experience but is oft injured and a below average player at right tackle. Geoff Schwartz is a good guard but only a spot starter at right tackle. Detroit should draft a tackle early. Offensive tackle is their biggest need.
The Lions don’t have many starting needs after free agency. They do have some players with expiring contracts after the 2016 season and some backup holes still for 2016. Let’s take a look at those issues. NOTE: Several options are given for pick 16, 46, 95 and 111. Detroit could wait until day 3 obviously for some of these backup needs.
Travis Swanson hasn’t been up to par in his two years with Detroit. The 3rd round pick in 2014 has strength issues and is coming off surgeries on both his shoulders this offseason. Detroit could upgrade at center with pick 46, 95 or day 3. Gabe Ilkard, Darren Keyton and Braxton Cave are the current backup center candidates.
Ryan Kelly or Nick Martin could be pick 46 options. Graham Glasgow and Matt Tuerk are day 3 options but probably wouldn’t beat out Swanson as rookies.
Dan Orlovsky is not a good backup QB. He knows the system but he couldn’t be counted on to win games if Stafford goes down. Detroit must draft a developmental young QB. Kevin Hogan, Jeff Driskel, Jake Coker, Nate Sudfield, Jacoby Brissett may be some options on day 3. Pick 95 (Round 3 comp pick) or pick 111 (Round 4) could be used on a backup QB too if they really like a QB prospect.
The Lions have Ziggy Ansah and Devin Taylor as great and solid starters, respectively. Veteran Wallace Gilberry has proven to be a solid backup DE in this league for the Bengals but is on a one year deal and over 30 years old. The Lions need one more back-up DE that could be a starter down the line. Devin Taylor and Wallace Gilberry are free agents after the 2016 season. Ansah will be 5th year optioned for 2017.
The Lions could use another stud pass rusher to develop within the rotation. Austin likes to rotate his DEs and four DEs play often for Detroit. The Lions could take a DE in Round 1 to have a stud pairing with Ansah. Shaq Lawson, Emmanuel Ogbah could be taken at pick 16 which would give Detroit menacing DE talent. Kevin Dodd could be acquired in Round 1 after a trade down. Shilique Calhoun, Carl Nassib, Johnathan Bullard, Bronson Kuafasi are day 2 options for the Lions.
Backup Strong Safety
The Lions added two safeties in free agency with Rafael Bush on a one year deal and Tavon Wilson to a cheap two year deal. Both can play strong safety but the Lions could use a thumper for an in the box safety. Pick 46, Pick 95 or Pick 111 could be used on a strong safety. Vonn Bell, Karl Joseph, Darian Thompson, Jeremy Cash, Jayron Kearse and OLB/S hybrid Su’a Cravens could all be options on day 2 or early day 3 for Detroit.
The Lions are set with their top 4 CBs (Slay, Lawson, Diggs and Carter) and should have an average veteran option with Darrin Walls at CB 5. However, upgrades could be made over Lawson and Carter is very unproven after an IR rookie season in 2016. Slay is a free agent next season but should be extended or at the very least franchised in 2017.
Detroit could draft a CB if they don’t like their offensive tackle, defensive tackle or DE options at pick 16. Mackensie Alexander and Eli Apple are in play at pick 16. William Jackson III could be a late round 1 or a pick 46 option. Kendall Fuller or Artie Burns could be pick 46 draftees by Detroit.
The Lions lost Travis Lewis in free agency and Stephen Tulloch should be cut or traded. Detroit has a good LB crew with DeAndre Levy returning from injury and Tahir Whitehead re-signed to play the middle. Josh Bynes played well the last two seasons in Detroit and can play the SAM, WLB or ILB spots. Kyle Van Noy has been a disappointment but has talent to be the SAM LB as a former 2nd round pick. Brandon Copeland made the team last year for special teams play.
Detroit could use a 5th or 6th LB that could potentially be a good SAM LB. Darron Lee could be in play at pick 16. He is a great talent but probably more a weak side LB. Jordan Jenkins, Kamalei Correra, Kyle Frackell, Deion Jones are Round 3-4 options at LB. This isn’t a huge need for Detroit. Reggie Ragland could surprise at pick 16 to play ILB and move Whitehead to SAM LB. However, Quinn has said Whitehead was signed to play ILB.
The Lions WR corp is set with Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Jeremy Kerley, TJ Jones and Corey Fuller. They have plenty of other weapons with Eric Ebron, Theo Riddick and Ameer Abdullah in the passing game for Matt Stafford.
Using pick 16 for Laquan Treadwell, Corey Coleman or Josh Doctson could happen but is unlikely. Detroit could potentially have a great WR core if these guys panned out but it’s risky taking a WR early with other trench needs for Detroit. Michael Thomas, Braxton Miller, Will Fuller and Tyler Boyd could be day 2 options. Detroit has 10 picks and could wait until day 3 for a WR too.
Again, the Lions are set at DT. Ngata is a good starter despite being 32 years old. He was re-signed to a two year deal. Tyrunn Walker is a solid starter that had 2015 derailed by a cheap shot by the Seahawks guard. Carruan Reid and Stefan Charles are proven good backups. Gabe Wright is the young developing 4th round pick from the 2015 draft.
However, Walker and Charles are only one year deals and Ngata will be 33 years old next season for Detroit. Detroit could certainly draft a DT in any round. This is a very deep DT class and Detroit will take one for sure in this draft.
Power running back
Steven Ridley was signed to a one year deal and hasn’t played much in two years due to injury (torn ACL) and injury recovery/behind Ivory/Powell with the Jets. Ridley should be the 2016 power back but has health and ball security to prove. Theo Riddick is not a power back and a free agent after 2016.
Zach Zenner is a good developmental power back but was injured early in his rookie season. Ameer Abdullah is a good RB but has to prove he can shoulder 200 carries (had 150 in 2015) and has his first half of season fumbles issues behind him. Power back is low on the immediate need list but a long term young back is not out of the question on late day 2 or day 3 for Detroit.
The Lions have a few needs (many future needs) but no real dire starting needs. They have 10 draft picks which is ample ammo to fill these needs even if only hitting 50-60% of the 10 picks. Quinn could also extend some current players like Devin Taylor, Larry Warford, Darius Slay, Sam Martin and Theo Riddick to lessen future needs. Quinn could find a hidden undrafted free agent too or swing a trade on draft day for a player.
This will be Bob Quinn’s first draft as a GM. We’ll see if he likes to trade up or down. The Patriots grade based on roles and not rounds. We’ll see how that factors into the Lions 10 picks. Detroit is in very good shape heading into the draft but Quinn will mold the future of this team in his first draft. It should be a fun three days.