It is finally here. Today is the first day of the 2015 NFL draft. In preparation for today’s explosive festivities, lets look at some team needs, comments by general manager Martin Mayhew, and some of the pre-draft visits to see where the Lions are focusing their efforts.
First and foremost, the Detroit Lions decided they will pick up Riley Reiff‘s option. Martin Mayhew stated that he likes Reiff, and thinks he can play either tackle spot. That statement, combined with coach Jim Caldwell saying Reiff is not a guard, leads me to believe that the team will either take a guard or a right tackle or both in the draft instead of looking to draft a left tackle and move Reiff. While they still could do that, it is not something most teams would do unless they felt the rookie was better than their current left tackle right now. Considering Reiff has been solid, it is likely that the Lions do not draft a left tackle. They could, however, take a right tackle given the unknown status of injured tackle LaAdrian Waddle.
Looking at the Lions roster, the obvious needs are at running back, corner, guard, offensive tackle, and defensive tackle. I expect the Lions to draft an offensive lineman and a running back at some point. Defensive tackle is a position that they should take a look at, but they could wait if they feel good about Haloti Ngata and Tyrunn Walker as their starters.
I am certain that the Lions will draft a corner in this draft. I do not have a guess as to when, but it will happen for two reasons. The first is Rashean Mathis‘ age. He is back on a 2 year deal and is in his mid 30s. The team would like to draft his replacement and allow Mathis to mentor him while he finishes his career up in Detroit. The second reason is that Martin Mayhew has drafted a corner in every one of his drafts except two of them. Of those two, one of them yielded a safety instead of a corner.
The Detroit Lions like to take the best player available. They will likely do that in the first round, possibly also the second round. Looking at the mock drafts, most people do not expect any of the top 5 offensive linemen to be available when the Lions pick. They also do not see any of the top 4 defensive tackles available when the Lions pick. If that actually plays out, the best player available would likely not be at either of those largely important positions. What would the Lions do? Well if you look at last season’s draft, they will draft the best player available, even if they are stacked at that position. They added a first round tight end to a solid tight end group. They could take a receiver in the first round. They have had several in, most of which have kick or punt return abilities. If the best player available is a receiver, expect Mayhew to take him.
With the loss of defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the obvious hole is at defensive tackle, but do not sleep on the Lions taking a defensive end if they like one of the guys that falls to them. While they do have Ezekiel Ansah, Jason Jones, Devin Taylor, and Larry Webster still on the roster, only Ansah is a proven commodity. They lost George Johnson who surprised many with his production last season. While I think there are bigger needs elsewhere and that Webster could be a very big surprise, it is not out of the question that the Lions take a defensive end to boost their pass rush.
Safety is another wild card position for the Lions. While this is a poor draft class for safeties, the Lions have brought a few in to look at. It is very possible they are checking to see if these guys could be a fit for them in a late round. They do need to look for a potential replacement for James Ihedigbo as he has one more year on his contract and is currently unhappy with his deal.
In all, the next few days will be exciting, stressful, and confusing as the Lions select players and trade picks in a manner that makes fans wonder what Mayhew is thinking. Considering his current roster has quite a few original draft picks or undrafted free agents on it, I would say he’s doing a decent job with his picks. As a reminder, we will have full coverage of the Detroit Lions draft selections starting tonight and extending all weekend long with write ups on those picks coming after the draft.