Written by: Barry Lewis on April 23, 2011
The Detroit Lions took some positive steps forward last year as they are now two seasons removed from a winless campaign. The most noticeable sign of advancement is that the Lions went from a -249 point disadvantage in 2008 to a -7 point disadvantage in 2010. A lot of that has to do with the fact that the Lions have been able to amass significant talent which has enabled them to compete after years of misses in the draft.
Since their winless season, the Lions have drafted 6 starters through the draft. QB Matthew Stafford, TE Brandon Pettigrew, FS Louis Delmas, MLB DeAndre Levy, DT Ndamukong Suh, and RB Jahvid Best represent the last two draft classes and represents a sign of progress within their scouting system.
Now that they have cornerstones on offense in Stafford, Best, Pettigew as well as WR Calvin Johnson and other players that include OT Gosder Cherilus, the focus is now on defense.
One of the reasons why the Lions were not a .500 team in 2010 was because their secondary was brutal. Also, if OLB Julian Peterson does not come back to the fold next year, they are going to need to draft as many defensive players as possible who can make an impact because their schedule is very tough. Their out-of-conference games includes: at Tampa Bay, at Dallas, at New Orleans along with home games against Kansas City, Atlanta, and San Diego.
Since the schedule makers did the Lions no favors – addressing the defense is imperative. In the Twitter draft, the Lions started addressing the OLB position with Aldon Smith, Missouri. A solid choice especially if Peterson does not come back.
In rounds 3 and 4, the Lions continued to address their linebacking situation with ILB Mason Foster and OLB Mark Herzlich. Foster is capable of moving to the outside with Levy on the inside and if Herzlich is able to fully comeback from cancer as he has over the last two years, he could return to form as a former 1st round talent that he was.
The Lions likely need to address their cornerback situation if Chris Houston is not resigned as well. The Lions took another “injury risk” in Ras-I Dowling from Virginia. Dowling, who was considered another 1st/2nd round talent, is a tall and fast corner who plays well in man coverage and if healthy, is a potential lock-down corner.
To round out the draft, the Lions added another running back who suffered a recent injury in Johnny White, North Carolina. White, if healthy, is a #1 running back who can also impact special teams. White would compete with starter Jahvid Best as well as former starter Kevin Smith. Their final pick was former USC WR Ronald Johnson, who may be a good fit as a slot receiver.
Other areas on the Lions that needed to be addressed that were not in the draft included their offensive tackle and center positions.
The Lions weighed the risk and reward values when it came to this years’ Twitter Draft. Dowling, Herzlich and White all have had medical conditions that pushed down their value. If the Lions have done their medical homework prior to drafting these three players and felt comfortable in drafting them then they could have a homerun of a draft here.
With that mind, the Lions still have to address their offensive line positions and did take the risk in those three picks. The Lions have earned a grade of B which can be pushed down if Dowling, who is probably the most important pick of this draft for the Lions, does not come through. Smith and Foster provides the Lions with a solid addition to their growing foundation. If Dowling and Herzlich make substantial impacts, then their long-term draft grade will be an A.