The 2011 Lions went into the season on a 12 year playoff drought. Their franchise quarterback and former number 1 overall pick Mathew Stafford came into the season healthy, something that the Lions weren’t used to. After being in the NFL for two seasons, Stafford had only started 13 games. Many people speculated that the Lions would have a break out year in 2011 if Stafford could stay healthy, and also because the way the Lions have drafted in the last two years. The Lions finished their season at 10-6 but lost in the wild card round to the New Orlean Saints.
1) Secondary Help – Many thought the Lions would draft Nebraska’s Cornerback Prince Amukamara in last year’s draft. Instead, the Lions went in a different direction and selected Auburn’s Defensive Tackle Nick Fairley. The move was quite intriguing considering that Fairley added depth to an already talented defensive line. But the Lions never addressed the secondary in 2011’s draft. This year should be the turning point and the Lions could draft a cornerback as high as the first round. Chris Houston is coming off of a career year and Eric Wright was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They need to find a solid draft prospect in this years draft to fill the need at that position.
2) Free Agency – The Lions have not been active in acquiring players from other teams; instead the Lions have gone out and re-signed many of their own players. Players that were lost to free agency were: Eric Wright (CB/Buccaneers), Bobby Carpenter (LB/Patriots), and Drew Stanton (QB/Jets). Players the Lions have re-signed were: OT Jeff Backus, S Erik Coleman, DT Andre Fluellen, P Ben Graham, TE Will Heller, QB Shaun Hill, LS Don Muhlbach, RB Kevin Smith, LB Stephen Tulloch.
3) Draft Needs – The cornerback position has already been addressed but other positions that the Lions have needs at are: Offensive Tackle, Safety, and Linebacker. If the Lions really wanted to solidify a top 5 defense in this league, they may go with a cornerback in the first round but add a linebacker in the second. Adding to a very talented defensive line would give the Lions more help in the other two tiers of their defense. On the other side of the ball, adding another offensive tackle to help Mathew Stafford stay upright and healthy would be a good idea.
4) Draft Day – The Lions have the 23rd overall pick in the 2012 draft. Assuming certain players will be selected before the Lions draft pick, I can see a handful of prospects the Lions could target in the first round. At cornerback, the Lions could target three players: Dre Kirkpatrick (Alabama), Stephon Gilmore (South Carolina), and Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama). The most probable of these three to be taken by the Lions would have to be Stephon Gilmore. Dre Kirkpatrick may be off the board by the time the Lions are drafting at 23, and Janoris Jenkins has had off the field issues that has hurt his draft stock. BTK 5.0 Mock Draft has the Lions selecting Stephon Gilmore. Other possible prospects would be OT Jonathan Martin and LB Lavonte David.
Written By – David Rantisi- NFL Draft and NFC North Writer
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