The Detroit Lions finally made it back into the playoffs for the first time in a long time in 2011 and look to build on that this year. I chatted with Zac Snyder of the terrific Lions Blog, SideLionReport to get an insight into what the Lions might do in the 2012 NFL Draft.
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1) How do you think the Lions did in Free Agency?
I really like what the Lions did in keeping their core together. Few thought the team would be able to keep Cliff Avril, Stephen Tulloch and Jeff Backus with the salary cap constraints the team was facing but the front office did a great job in freeing up some money with restructured contracts and an extension to Calvin Johnson. With the exception of Eric Wright leaving for insane money to Tampa, the Lions did exactly what they set out to do in keeping their top free agents. The team has room to grow together and the consistency in the locker room and coaching staff will allow that to happen. Overall, I gave the Lions an A-.
2). After Free Agency what are the Lions three biggest needs?
They still need to get better at cornerback. They signed Jacob Lacey but he won’t be expected to be the kind of top-two cover corner the team needs. That’s the biggest glaring hole right now, the rest of the process is just about adding talent and depth to the roster.
3). Something that is often over-looked in mocking drafts is future free agents. The Giants always seem to draft a player at a position of strength high when they know they have an important expiring contract (think DE or WR for the 2012 draft). Is there a position of strength the Lions might address in draft because of a big looming free agent after the 2012 NFL Season?
The defensive line is always a possibility just because of the team’s philosophy. Plus, Kyle Vanden Bosch is a veteran player that will need to be replaced eventually. While there are guys on the roster that could fill that role, the Lions would love to replace the pool of talent behind whoever takes over for KVB. Outside of that, the prevailing wisdom is that the Lions need to go about finding players to fill the shoes of other aging players. The Lions need to find long-term solutions just about everywhere on the offensive line.
4). Are there any young players or practice squad players that might be ready to step up and fill a perceived position of need?
I might be cheating with this answer but I’ll say Mikel Leshoure. He was in position to take on an important role with the Lions last season before suffering an achilles injury that forced him to miss his entire rookie season. He’s expected back at 100% for training camp. The Lions running game struggled for much of last season with Jahvid Best and Leshoure both ending up on IR.
5). What young 2nd or 3rd year player do you think is ready to make a jump in the 2012 season?
Nick Fairley. He was impressive in spots last season despite not having a normal offseason due to the lockout and suffering a foot injury in training camp that lingered throughout the season. Rest for his foot combined with a normal offseason should put him in position to be the player we saw dominate at Auburn.
6). Is there a player that fans seem to be gravitating towards in the first round?
There are a few names or positions that fans are favoring but I don’t get the impression there is an overwhelming favorite. The Lions have taken more of a best player available approach to the draft in the post-Millen era and it’s hard to argue with the progress they’ve made on the field in that time. Lions fans trust Martin Mayhew, Tom Lewand and Jim Schwartz to get it right so we’re content to sit back and watch it play out.
7). If the Lions were going to trade up and target a player who won’t fall to them, who do you think it might be?
I really don’t see the Lions trading up for anyone in the first round. They’ve moved up in later rounds but the cost of moving up in the first round just doesn’t seem to fit their style. The only way it could happen is if someone they believe is a top ten talent starts to fall and they decide that it is worth the cost to move up a few spots.
8). Anything else to add about the Lions or the draft?