Detroit has the third pick in the draft and there are rumors they are willing to trade down for more picks. An injury that forced Matthew Stafford to miss half the season and a porous defense contributed to a 3-win season. Cornerback Jeffrey Okudah is most people’s pick, including mine, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they chose Auburn’s Derrick Brown at defensive tackle.
The Lions have nine picks: one in every round plus an extra third and fifth from Philadelphia for Darius Slay.
I list the needs below, including major, for depth, and areas they are unlikely to look at. I may add categories for a particular situation.
Major Needs (No Particular Order):
Running Back: Kerryon Johnson, a second round pick in 2018, could be the answer here if he could stay healthy, but he’s only played seven games in each of his two seasons. Do the Lions cross their fingers and hope he stays healthy or do they look for a more durable player? It depends on how they view Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, and Wildwood alum Wes Hills. Scarbrough started five games and it can be argued he was at least as productive as Kerryon Johnson. Ty Johnson and Hills started one game each. JD McKissic also played and left for Washington as a free agent. Don’t be surprised if the Lions pick a running back some time after the first round.
Wide Receiver: On the surface, this is not a weak area for the Lions, but there is not one receiver on the roster who is signed beyond this season, per Spotrac. Kenny Golladay has become one of the league’s better receivers and has reached the 1,000 yard mark in receiving each of the last two years – re-signing him should be a priority. Marvin Jones has been productive, though he has missed time with injury in each of the last two years. Danny Amendola is a handy receiver in the slot, but he’s 34 years old. The Lions signed Geronimo Allison from the Packers and Geremy Davis from the Chargers. There are five other players on the roster who have not made their mark and it would be wise to pick one or two players for insurance and as eventual replacements because I do not see all the players sticking around after this year.
Offensive Line: The Lions had a solid line, but two players are gone after releasing right tackle Rick Wagner and right guard Graham Glasgow leaving in free agency. That is where questions arise, while the left side stays intact. The left side features Taylor Decker at tackle and Joe Dahl at guard plus Frank Ragnow at center, with only Dahl not being a first rounder. The right side will have Halapoulivaati Vaitai starting at tackle, a free agent coming over from the Eagles and the Lions expect him to be an improvement as a run blocker. Guard is where the picture is cloudy. As it stands, Tyrell Crosby, Beau Benzschawel, Oday Aboushi, and Josh Garnett are competing for the job. Garnett bears watching since he was a first round choice of the 49ers in 2016 that didn’t work out. Others on the roster include Dan Skipper and Russell Bodine, who started at center for Cincinnati before bouncing around the last two years. I expect a guard to be chosen somewhere to compete at either guard spot or for depth purposes.
Defensive Line: The Lions defense was terrible last year and it all starts here: there was no pass rush. Trey Flowers was the lone bright spot at end and had a very good year; the rest of the line may look completely different this year. The Lions play multiple fronts, sometimes with Flowers the only end. The other ends who play are Romeo Okwara and Austin Bryant, last year’s fourth round pick, who may help here or linebacker. At tackle, bodies and talent are needed – they released Damon “Snacks” Harrison, Da’Shawn Robinson signed with the Rams in free agency, and Mike Daniels is unsigned. The Lions signed Danny Shelton from New England to join Da’Shawn Hand and John Atkins. Hand had a promising rookie year, but was injured most of 2019. Flowers and departed linebacker Devon Kennard each had seven sacks last year, but no other Lion had more than two – that has to improve and it may come from the draft at both end and tackle.
Linebacker: This is another area that needs improvement. Kennard left and they signed ex-Patriot Jamie Collins to replace him, which may be an upgrade. Jarrad Davis and Christian Jones are primary starters at the other two spots and last year’s second-round pick, Jahlani Tavai played often, along with Jaylin Reeves-Maybin. Reggie Ragland and Elijah Lee were signed in free agency, with Ragland challenging the incumbents after three successful years in Kansas City. Saddle Brook’s Steve Longa and Hunterdon Central’s Jason Cabinda are among those competing for spots on the roster. Improvement is needed and I expect at least one pick here.
Cornerback: This is a questionable area and the trade of Darius Slay to the Eagles makes it weaker. In addition to Slay, their other starter, Rashaan Melvin, signed with Jacksonville as a free agent. Justin Coleman started in the slot last year and Desmond Trufant was signed from Atlanta and has a good chance of starting. Jamal Agnew, Amani Oruwarlye, and Mike Ford return, with Oruwariye going into his second year. Darryl Roberts signed as a free agent. It should be noted the Lions surrendered more air yards (receiving yards minus yards after catch) and intercepted 1.1 percent of the passes thrown against them – the worst in the NFL per Athlon. Some of that is on the lack of a pass rush, but some of that is on the secondary. Major improvement is needed and Okudah could be a step in the right direction, if he is chosen.
Quarterback: Matthew Stafford has been the Lion quarterback since 2009 and played on a good-to-very good level. Last year, the Lions were 3-4-1 before he was injured, going 0-8 the rest of the way without him. Signed for backup relief was Chase Daniels, while David Blough returns for his second season. Drafting someone who could eventually replace Stafford would be a wise decision.
Tight End: The Lions picked TJ Hockenson last year with the eight pick in the draft, where he had a big debut, followed by rookie growing pains. This year should give us a better idea how he will turn out. The Lions signed Jesse James in free agency last year and he was a disappointment; hopefully things improve this year and he will only be 26 this June. Another rookie on the roster last year was seventh-round pick Isaac Nauta. I don’t expect them to address the position, but a late-round pick is not out of the question.
Safety: Tracy Walker played very well in his second season and the addition of ex-Patriot Juron Harmon by trade strengthens the other safety. Will Harris was a third-round pick last year and may have more impact this year. Miles Kinnebrew also plays, but he is as much a linebacker as he is a safety. Jayron Kearse was signed in free agency and CJ Moore is on the roster. Javon Wilson is unsigned and a very good return man. Far from their biggest need, there may be a pick for depth purposes.
*Information from various sources, including Pro-Football Reference, Sportac, and ESPN.