While the action in the free-agent market dies down, the focus of the NFL now shifts to the upcoming draft.
The Detroit Lions arguably had one of their most productive free-agency periods in the history of the franchise. Here’s the key moves on the offensive side of the ball:
Joique Bell, running back (re-sign) Golden Tate, wide receiver (above)
Brandon Pettigrew, tight end (re-sign) Jed Collins, fullback
Kevin Ogletree, wide receiver (re-sign)
Shaun Hill, quarterback
Nate Burleson, wide receiver
The 2014 NFL Draft will take place May 8-10. Detroit was awarded two compensatory picks, both in the fourth round, which brings the Lions to eight total picks in the draft.
Here’s a breakdown of the Lions’ needs on offense and where they should look to address them in the draft:
Besides Matthew Stafford, the only quarterback on the Lions’ roster is Kellen Moore, who will be entering the third season of his career and is yet to see any regular-season action. The departure of Shaun Hill means that Detroit needs to find a competent back-up plan.
Middle rounds: It wouldn’t be a bad idea to address this need with one of the Lions’ three fourth-round picks. Zach Mettenberger (LSU) and Aaron Murray (Georgia) would both be an upgrade from Moore and at least one of them will be available in the fourth round
Late rounds: Two guys in the later rounds that stand out are Connor Shaw (South Carolina) and Jeff Mathews (Cornell). Shaw had a great workout at the combine and Mathews has the frame and arm strength of the prototypical NFL quarterback.
The Lions finally have an outstanding receiver to compliment Calvin Johnson, but that’s not all that Tate provides. The Lions’ biggest free-agent acquisition can do just as much damage in the slot as he can outside. Clearly, Detroit has plenty of weapons on the offensive side of the ball, but it could never hurt to add another.
Early Rounds: Do the Lions really need to draft another receiver in the first two rounds? No, but crazier ideas have came out of the Lions’ draft room. If Sammy Watkins falls to them, he’s easily the Lions’ first pick, however, don’t rule out the possibility of Martin Mayhew moving up in the draft to snatch him.
The idea of Detroit selecting Mike Evans (Texas A&M) is also intriguing. Evans is a massive red-zone target and would give the Lions the best trio of wide receivers in the NFL.
Late Rounds: Although the idea of adding another weapon at wide receiver in the early stages of the draft is exciting, it’s more realistic that Detroit will draft a receiver in the later stages of the draft. My favorites who are late-round projections are: Kevin Norwood (Alabama), Dri Archer (Kent State), Jeff Janis (Saginaw Valley State), L’Damian Washington (Missouri), and Tevin Reese (Baylor).
Dominic Raiola’s career is nearing the end and the Lions could find his replacement in this year’s draft. It makes sense to address that need while Raiola is still with Detroit.
Early-mid rounds: In my eyes, Travis Swanson (Arkansas) is a lock to be the Lions’ third-round pick. He excels in pass protection and displays great awareness as a leader of the offensive line. Weston Richburg (Colorado State) and Bryan Stork (Florida State) are two guys who are projected to go in the third and fourth round, respectively.