The Detroit Lions’ off-season has been one from the seventh circle of hell. With the 2012 NFL Draft a week away, the Lions have had their fair share of off-season problems.
Detroit has done virtually nothing in free agency. They have overpaid non-franchise type players. On top of that, the boys in Honolulu Blue can’t seem to find a former draft pick without off-the-field problems.
Let’s start with free agency. Rather than go out and look for some help in their defensive secondary and front seven, they lost two key veterans to last year’s defense: linebacker Bobby Carpenter and cornerback Eric Wright.
In the process, the Lions’ front office placed the franchise tag on defensive end Cliff Avril and will pay him over $10 million next season if they don’t work out a long-term deal this off-season.
Translation: The Lions will grossly overpay a role player who was drafted in the third round.
The next problem is with Detroit’s first and second round draft pick from a year ago, defensive tackle Nick Fairley and running back Mikel Leshoure. Both players were arrested in recent weeks on drug charges and likely face suspension. Leshoure’s drug problems are more extensive, as he has a history of failing drug tests dating back to his college days at Illinois.
Detroit has a team that lacks consistency, depth and discipline. The 2012 NFL Draft is their last chance to upgrade for the upcoming campaign to get back to the playoffs.
The Lions have the 23rd overall draft pick this year and a pick in the same spot in each of the next two rounds. When it comes to drafting quality players, teams usually don’t find starters after the first two days. They are going to need to find quality players with their first three picks.
To say the Lions have needs is an understatement, but I will try to list them all. Detroit’s top defensive back is Chris Houston, a guy who would be a two on most teams. Obviously, the Lions have a need there.
South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore or Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick would be nice pickups if they fall to the Lions at the 23rd pick. Northern Alabama’s Janoris Jenkins might be the best cover corner in this year’s draft class, but he comes with baggage the Lions don’t need.
The front seven on Detroit’s defense lost Bobby Carpenter, a former first round draft pick who underperformed but showed good consistency.
They will be anchored by DeAndre Levy, Stephen Tulloch and Justin Durant. This is a decent core, but none of them are spectacular playmakers.
Boston College’s Luke Kuechly would solidify the middle of the field if he drops in the draft, but the Lions would be better equipped with Crimson Tide product Courtney Upshaw’s versatility.
Detroit’s first round pick needs to be on the defensive side of the ball.
On top of the deficiencies on defense, Detroit’s offense has issues too.
With Leshoure likely out for the first four weeks of the season to suspension, and Jahvid Best still hampered by injury, the Lions may need to address running back in the first three rounds – again. The Lions’ brass has taken a running back in the first round each of the last two years. A third in as many years would be unprecedented, but it would fill a need.
On the same side of the ball, guard Stephen Peterman and tackle Gosder Cherilus did not live up to expectations when the Lions signed and drafted them, respectively. Upgrading the offensive line might need to be a priority, depending on who is available.
With most of the talent pool off of the market, the Lions’ options are limited to drafting seven unproven players at the professional level. The NFL Draft is a crapshoot historically, but championship teams are built finding value where no one else does.