The Detroit Lions were a a disappointment once again under head coach Jim Schwartz in 2013, as they failed to make the playoffs for the second year in a row. Failure to improve eventually led to his firing and the arrival of new head coach, Jim Caldwell.
Caldwell had quality success with the Indianapolis Colts and even reached a Super Bowl, so Detroit might be on the path to winning again. However, if they’re going to change their fortune in a fairly competitive NFC North, they’ll have to add some key pieces in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Let’s take a look at Detroit’s top needs on both sides of the ball:
Offensive needs: WR, C, TE
Detroit could maybe bring in a backup quarterback at some point in the draft, but they did bring in Dan Orlovsky and Matthew Stafford shed his glass label years ago. It’s not a huge concern and would be a luxury at this point. Instead, they need to bring in a long-term center prospect. They’re good to go for 2014 and maybe 2015, but they’re aging at the position and need to prepare for the future. Travis Swanson should be a terrific value pick somewhere between rounds 2-4.
Wide receiver clearly is the bigger issue here, though, as the Lions have Calvin Johnson and nothing else. Sure, Ryan Broyles has upside and Golden Tate is a decent slot option, but Broyles is always hurt and neither of those guys are legit #2 options that are going to take defense’s focus off of Megatron. A stud like Mike Evans or Odell Beckham just might. Detroit will take a long look at either one in the first round, while trading up to land Sammy Watkins isn’t the craziest rumor that could be passed around.
Detroit might even look at a receiver again later in the draft, but with the need for a stud corner, they might look at the position for the first time in round two. There they can still find the impact talent they crave, as receiver is insanely deep. Allen Robinson is one guy that stands out, while Jordan Matthews and a handful of other names will be very attractive and should provide awesome value.
Lastly, tight end might be worth a look. Brandon Pettigrew was brought back, but lacks explosiveness and somehow isn’t a factor at all in the red-zone despite good size. Joseph Fauria is their main red-zone guy at tight end and he simply is a fringe talent. Adding an impact tight end like Eric Ebron with the 10th overall pick isn’t way off base, while waiting until round two for someone like Troy Niklas wouldn’t be out of the question, either.
Defensive needs: CB, S, DL
Corner has to top Detroit’s list of true immediate needs, and it very well may end up trumping a sexy pick like a wide receiver early. If that’s true, it should come down to Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard at the 10 spot. Gilbert is a burner with more upside, while Dennard is more physical and has a better skill-set. I’m guessing the Lions shoot for the upside and take Gilbert if they go corner here.
Detroit could also still take their offensive weapon and land a very solid corner in round two or three. Plenty of guys should be available that offer upside, but Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Marcus Roberson are two names that step out.
Louis Delmas was let go this offseason, making safety a priority, as well. The Lions brought in some depth but they need to look for a true talent to take over for the long-term. Someone like LaMarcus Joyner or Dion Bailey could be worth a look if they can slide into the third round.
Other than that, the Lions could look for pure depth on the defensive line. Trade rumors are swirling around Ndamukong Suh, so perhaps if the right defensive tackle slides down they can jump on him. Depth at linebacker is also something they’ll look at, as well.