2011 NFL Draft | Detroit Lions Team Needs
Despite playing the majority of 2010 without Matthew Stafford, the Detroit Lions know they have a talented squad that can compete for a division title right now. Without Stafford, the Lions still managed a 6-10 record and were highly competitive in nearly every matchup.
The Lions know that if Stafford is healthy, their offense can hang with most teams these days. Their improving defense is where much of their focus will be on heading into 2011. They made great strides with the addition of Defensive Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh in the middle, but still have issues in their secondary.
Biggest Needs: OL, WR, RB
Assuming that franchise quarterback can stay on his feet for a full 16 games for the first time in his career, the Lions will march into 2011 with a solid offense. However, it could be better. Stafford was knocked out the first time in 2010 due to poor pass protection, and its high time Detroit works harder at protecting their huge investment. The tackle class is pretty weak this year, so look for Detroit to target a solid tackle prospect in rounds two or three, where they’ll likely find quality linemen like Gabe Carimi or Ben Ijalana available. Guard and center could also arguably use upgrades, and Mike Pouncey would be of interest if he falls to the second round, while Rodney Hudson also makes sense.
Aside from finally paying some real attention to their offensive line, Detroit should consider getting stud receiver Calvin Johnson a true running mate. Nate Burleson was serviceable at times, but he’s not the long-term answer, and there’s little help after him. If the Lions don’t like any offensive linemen in the second round they can grab Titus Young, a speedy and explosive threat. If they wait until the third or fourth, Jeff Maehl or Young’s Boise State teammate Austin Pettis could make for solid additions.
Running back is somewhat of a need, but to a lesser degree. The team is obviously very high on Jahvid Best, but he’s not a great inside the tackles runner, and may not be best suited for full-time goal-line work, either. With Kevin Smith likely gone and Maurice Morris aging, they could go after a mid-round guy like John Clay or Bilal Powell, both of which can run inside and have good power and strength.
Biggest Needs: OLB, CB, S
Detroit needs to find more guys that can help with applying pressure, as well as be useful in the pass defense. That means upgrading at outside linebacker, and finding guys who can do more than just tackle. A good start could be Von Miller if he falls to them, but with that being unlikely, they could deal with landing a guy like Justin Houston. If Detroit opts to wait until the middle rounds to address this area, North Carolina’s Bruce Carter could be a nice pickup.
While getting an upgrade at linebacker and in the pass rush is essential to Jim Schwartz’s defense, so is making sure the opposing quarterback doesn’t have an unbelievably easy time completing passes. Part of applying consistent pressure relies on the secondary doing its job, and that didn’t happen all that much in 2010. Detroit could use upgrades at both starting corner spots, and the make-over could start with the Lions taking Brandon Harris with the 13th overall pick. Even if their second starter is only mediocre, Harris should make enough of an impact to give the defense a solid boost. If they pass on Harris with their first pick, or simply want to add another corner in this draft, Jalil Brown could be had in the third or fourth round, giving them a physical corner.
Another area of concern is safety, where Detroit has been lacking a true play-maker for quite some time. It’s time to upgrade, although unlike past years, there aren’t a great amount of elite safeties available. Detroit won’t want to reach for Rahim Moore, but if he for some reason fell to them in the second round, they’d have to take him. Another guy that would fit in nicely is Deunta Williams, who appears to possess the ability to play either safety spot. DeAndre McDaniel could also be a quality option in the second round.
Overall, Detroit is not far at all from competing for the NFC North, and they know it. Their defense came a long way in 2010, and their offense kept them in games, despite being without their star quarterback. With a good draft and a healthy Matthew Stafford, the Lions could be looking at a possible playoff appearance in 2011.