Detroit Lions 2015 NFL Draft: Top 3 Needs

With the draft less than three weeks away, Last Word on Sports will be bringing you the top three draft needs for all NFL teams. Next up is the Detroit Lions, who have high expectations following last year’s return to the playoffs. The pressure is on head coach Jim Caldwell and general manager Martin Mayhew to return to the postseason and improve upon last year’s record. The Lions lost several key players on the defensive side of the ball during the free agency period, including defensive tackle standout Ndamukong Suh. They currently have the 22nd overall pick in the draft (six selections in total) and they do not have any fourth or fifth round selections after dealing them to Baltimore in order to obtain defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.

Detroit Lions 2015 NFL Draft: Top 3 Needs

Defensive Tackle

The Lions let all three of their starting defensive tackles walk this summer. Ndamukong Suh signed a blockbuster deal in Miami, Nick Fairley signed a “prove it” deal with the Rams after being injured for half the season and C.J. Mosley is currently looking for a team but all indications are that the Lions are done with the 31-year-old after a string of character concerns, including being sent home from the team’s London game for having drugs in the team hotel.

The Lions invested heavily in defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, sending their fourth and fifth round picks in exchange for his services and a seventh round selection. While Ngata was impressive in Baltimore and a perennial Pro Bowler, he is no Suh and he is three years older. Detroit also added Tyrunn Walker, a former undrafted player for New Orleans who has only recorded 3.5 sacks in his career. The team needs to invest heavily in the position that has been one of the team strengths in previous years or their position as one of the best defenses in the league will be in jeopardy. With a dominant defensive line that finished with the least rushing yards allowed per game, their weakness at the cornerback position was masked, as opposing quarterbacks had little time to exploit them. The team fell to 13th in the league in passing yards allowed and this could be a concern with the inevitable drop in pass rush production from the defensive line.

Offensive Guard

Matt Stafford got sacked 45 times last year, good enough to see the team finish fourth in the league in this unpalatable stat. Additionally, the Lions cut longtime center Dominic Raiola, so the line is in a flux. Travis Swanson, a third-round pick in 2014, saw some time at right guard last season and is expected to become the starting center in the coming year. This unit did little to help Stafford’s sub-par year, in which he saw his lowest total yards in a season since 2010, when he only played 3 games. After failing to re-sign Rob Sims, right guard becomes an open competition and a high draft choice here will be needed so that the unit can return to 2013 levels. This would also help improve upon the next position of need: running back.

Running Back

Reggie Bush was s surprise cut early in the offseason, but he was coming off one of his worst seasons in professional football, as he only rushed for 297 yards and 2 touchdowns in 11 games during an injury-prone season; it was believed that he would be around for one more season though. In his stead, Joique Bell did an admirable job, posting a career high 860 yards and 7 rushing touchdowns, but the team finished 28th in the league in rushing and have not had stability at the position in almost a decade. During that time, the Lions have attempted to fill the position using four picks in the first three rounds since 2006, most notably on injury-prone players Mike Leshoure in 2011 and Jahvid Best in 2010. The Lions have not invested early in this position since 2011, but with the running back class reportedly deep in this year’s draft, it could be the year they dip their feet into the running game and draft a dedicated starter for years to come.

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