Lions have been fairly active in the free-agent market. They have especially beefed up the right side of the offensive line signing right tackle Rick Wagner from the Baltimore Ravens and stole T.J. Lang, a Detroit homeboy, from the Green Bay Packers. Wagner and Lang more than make up for the loss of Riley Reif (Vikings) and Larry Warford (Saints.)
The Lions offensive line should be more productive with a starting O-line of Decker at left tackle, Tomlinson at left guard, Swanson at center, Lang at RG and Wagner at right tackle along with free agent TE Darren Fells who is a good blocking TE. It’s a solid offensive line that will protect QB Matthew Stafford better and open up decent running lanes.
There is a point of contention that the Lions need to have defensive playmakers. I couldn’t agree more but I don’t think they need to use their first round pick, not when the lack of a running game is so apparent. I had written an article, back on February 18, that in the draft, the Lions should get a running back with their first pick. With the recent free agent signings of Lang and Wagner, I believe it’s the correct move even more.
Now I know there are big supporters of Ameer Abdullah and I don’t deny that he can be a dynamic playmaker if he can stay healthy. Granted he is coming into his third year and he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder since he will feel that he’s got something to prove. Abdullah believes that he can be an every down back that the Lions have been so desperately seeking. But the NFC North is one of the most physical divisions in the NFL. And at 5-9 and 209 lbs., I’m not convinced that he will be able to take the wear and tear of playing in such a tough division.
So to those fans who feel the need to go with a defensive playmaker in the first round, hear me out. If the Lions cannot find better balance on the offensive side of the ball, no matter how good of a defensive player, the Lions will struggle to get above .500 in 2017.
The best defense the Lions can play is a well-rested one. That means the Lions will need to control the clock and that means having an effective ground attack. I would love to see the Lions with an average time of possession to be anywhere from 31 to 33 minutes a game, which would be a one to three minute improvement. Keeping the ball and extra one to three minutes a game means more scoring opportunities for the Lions and less for opponents. I’d much rather see opposing defenses gasping for breath as the Lions churn out first down after first down and getting more into the end zone instead of field goals.
In my expert opinion (OK, I admit, I am a legend in my own mind), I would trade Abdullah for draft picks…perhaps picking up a 3rd round pick in 2017 and maybe another 3rd round pick in 2018.
Then I would target D’Onta Foreman, the 6’1″, 250 lbs. beast out of Texas. He was one of the most productive runners in the 2016 collegiate season, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, gaining over 2,000 yards and running for 15 touchdowns. And once he gets past the line, he will look for contact and run over defenders.
By drafting Foreman, you make Jim Bob Cooter’s offense just that much more dangerous. Matt Stafford will become even more efficient as a passer since the defense will have to creep up to protect against the run. That frees up Golden Tate and Marvin Jones for some 1-1 opportunities and give TE Eric Ebron receiving opportunities underneath for six to ten yard gains.
Let’s not forget that the Lions have one of the best 3rd down backs in the league in Theo Riddick as well as a change of pace runner in Zack Zenner to spell Foreman.
Control time of possession just allows so many scoring chances and keeps opposing quarterbacks on the bench which where they are the least effective. I am so tired of Aaron Rodgers pretty much having his way with the Lions either at Ford Field or at Lambeau. Keep him on the bench and he can’t hurt you.
So take Foreman with the first pick and then address the rest of the needs in later rounds.
Lions need to get a middle linebacker. Tahir Whitehead gave up too many passes over the middle. Good player against the run and on occasion can get after the quarterback, but Lions need a linebacker that can stay with opposing tight ends. The middle is probably the weakest area on the field for the Lions in regard to pass defense.
Round 2 pick: Jarrad Davis, Florida 6-1, 238 lbs., Linebacker
In his senior year, Davis recorded 60 tackles, two sacks and broke up four passes. He has above grade instincts and is a play-maker on the field to go along with his leadership skills. He does need to improve getting off blocks but he has skills and is a dangerous blitzer. He is very physical when hitting backs, quarterbacks, receivers and offensive linemen. Will bring a certain amount of nastiness to the defense.
Round 3 pick: Jordan Willis, Kansas State 6-3, 255 lbs., Defensive End
Jordan Willis has good speed for his size with a 4.53 40 time. At the combine, he looked smooth and athletic in the field drills. As for his season, he caused a lot of disruption and negative plays. With 16.5 sacks, 52 tackles (17.5 of them for loss) and three forced fumbles, he would be a great bookend for Ziggy Ansah.
Round 4 pick: Davon Godchauex, LSU 6-3, 310 lbs. Defensive Tackle
Godchauex has a good first step off the ball with speed to shoot the gap. He has the ability to fire up the field and get to the quarterback as well as being effective in stunts to loop around and causing disruption. He is at his best charging up field and dropping running backs for loss and sacking the QB. He needs to work on holding his own against downhill runners but his upside is to good to pass up.
There are a few more areas the Lions need help…and despite signing free agent TE Darren Fells, he isn’t the pass catching TE the Lions could use. I would love to see the Lions nab Seattle Seahawk TE Luke Willson who is on the cusp of breaking out. He could very well challenge Ebron for playing time. He’s a smart receiver with good route instincts and not a bad blocker to boot.
Ah heck, if I was a good GM, some team would hire me, right?