The Detroit Lions are off a disappointing 2013 campaign that saw them finish 3rd in the NFC North at 7-9. What made it so difficult to watch watch was the Lions were 5-3 at the halfway point. In the end it cost head coach Jim Schwatz his job.
The Lions have since replaced Schwartz with Jim Caldwell, who spent three years as the head coach of the Indianapolis Colts from 2009-11. Caldwell served as assistant for the Ravens in each of the last two seasons.
Detroit’s two big free agent additions to this point have been wide receiver Golden Tate (Seahawks) and safety James Ihedigbo (Ravens). They also brought in defensive tackle Vaughn Martin (Chargers), fullback Jed Collins (Saints), corner Cassis Vaughn (Colts) and defensive end Darryl Tapp. Detroit was also able to re-sign center Dominic Raiola, tight end Brandon Pettigrew, running back Joique Bell and corner Rashean Mathis.
The list of players who the Lions either lost in free agency or decided not to bring back, include safety Louis Delmas, defensive end Willie Young, backup quarterback Shaun Hill, defensive end Israel Idonije, wide receiver Nate Burleson, kicker David Akers, guard Leroy Harris and offensive tackle Jason Fox.
Detroit will now look to build their roster via the NFL Draft. The Lions have the No. 10 overall pick in the first round. While they don’t have any selections in the 5th round, they were awarded two compensatory selections in the 4th round. Here’s a quick look at the five positions I think Detroit needs to target when they are on the clock.
Re-signing Mathis was a plus for 2014, as he was their best corner last year. The problem is he turns 34 in August and isn’t exactly what you would consider an elite talent. Detroit figures to have their pick of the litter at the cornerback position when they are up at No. 10 and they need to take advantage of the opportunity to help improve a secondary that ranked 23rd against pass in 2013.
The Lions desperately need a No. 2 option for quarterback Matthew Stafford. Unfortunately for Detroit, both Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans figure to be off the board. I don’t think there’s another wide out worth taking at No. 10, which is another reason why I think they need to grab a corner with that pick. There’s all kinds of talent at wide receiver. I wouldn’t be surprised if Detroit used their second pick here and one of their three picks in the 4th round. The Lions could also be interested in adding a tight end to compete with Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria.
Detroit could probably make due with Ashlee Palmer starting at the strongside spot, but I also think an upgrade could payoff big for their defense. Best case scenario would be to bring in someone who can help out in the pass rush, which could also have them looking for more help up front at defensive end.
The Lions have pieced together a strong nucleus up front on the offensive line and aren’t in need of a starter at any of the five positions. However, I think it would be wise to use one of the middle/late round picks to try and find a potential replacement for Raiola, who turns 36 in December.
This isn’t a huge need, as the Lions have two capable starters on the roster in Glover Quin and James Ihedigbo, but I’m not convinced either one is the ball-hawking free safety that almost every great defense has. If someone they like falls to them late, I would expect the Lions to pull the trigger.
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