By: Detroit Larry
The Detroit Lions are in a place they haven’t been in since 1993. After a 10-6 season and the team’s first trip to the playoffs in over a decade, Detroit is in a position to make a playoff team better by adding depth and filling holes. Now, while excitement remains with the Lions’ high-powered offense, their defense left plenty to be desired, especially down the stretch where they couldn’t stop a rookie, Joe Webb, and a backup with only 2 career starts. In my mind, the defensive backfield should be priority number one for this team. They lost Eric Wright to Tampa, but for the money he got I am very content letting him walk. Chris Houston is decent, but he needs a stopper on the other side who can help slow down Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, and Jermichael Finley from the Packers, whom the Lions must get past in order to make a serious run this year and in the future. But for the first time in a long time, the Lions may not be able to get the guy they want with a high pick in the first round. So here are the potential picks I see the Lions going after:
Dre Kilpatrick, Cornerback, Alabama
This is my guy, right here. A big, fast, strong DB, who can cover and make plays on the defensive side of the ball. He can match up with just about any wide out, be physical, defend passes, and run with anyone. Unfortunately, he likely won’t make it to the Lions at 23, barring something bizarre happening. This could be the year Martin Mayhew makes a big splash to trade up and snag this guy. If they don’t get a corner in round one, it is slim pickings.
Jonathan Martin, Offensive Tackle, Stanford
The offensive line in Detroit probably doesn’t get the credit it deserves as a solid pass blocking unit. However, they have a couple of aging vets in Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola whom will need to be replaced in the near future. Martin is a tackle who can play either the left or the right side – and you can never have enough protection for your franchise quarterback. He can step in right away on the right side and add much needed protection for the Lions’ high-powered passing game.
Mike Adams, Offensive Tackle, Ohio State
For the same reasons stated above, the Lions need to bring in a young guy who can protect Matthew Stafford. Adams is a physical player who can also step right in and help this team. He just tested positive for marijuana, which might see him fall in the draft. He will certainly be there at 23 for Detroit, but he might also be around later if the Lions want to trade up to get him in the second round.
Courtney Upshaw, Defensive End, Alabama
Wait, hold on – I know you are thinking: The Lions just drafted Nick Fairley last season and Suh the year before that with first round picks. To win in the NFL, you start in the trenches and work out. The Lions have a strong defensive line, but they didn’t get to the QB as well as most would have liked. Kyle VandenBoesch is in the last year of his contract, and showed signs of slowing down last year. Cliff Avril had a career year last year and deserves a big payday, something the Lions really can’t do right now unless they structure the contract perfectly. He could be gone after this year, leaving a few holes for the Lions. Upshaw could be the best available player at 23, and if other players the Lions want are gone by then, he becomes an excellent value and depth pick.
Janoris Jenkins, Defensive Back, North Alabama
After Morris Claiborne, this may be the next best cover corner in the draft. He was an All-American as a freshman at Florida, and showed flashes of greatness. However, he has had character issues ever since, leading to him being kicked off Florida’s team and landing at North Alabama. If not for the off-the-field problems, this guy is a top ten and perhaps top 5 pick. It would be a bold move to snag him in the first round, and take the risk of him not doing something stupid, but the upside could be huge with his ability.
My gut says they will take Upshaw going with the best player available theory. He adds to a deep D-Line and adds to the strength of the team where games will be won and lost. Trading up for Kilpatrick is a big possibility and maybe the best thing the Lions SHOULD do. He makes the defense better while adding to a position of need. The draft is such a crapshoot but Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz have done a fantastic job since they took over and I trust them to make a pick that is in the best interest of the team.