DETROIT (AP) Ever since the Detroit Lions lost Ndamukong Suh to free agency, replacing the star defensive tackle has been a huge priority this offseason.
Detroit made one big move in the wake of Suh’s departure, acquiring defensive lineman Haloti Ngata from Baltimore.
Now, the Lions will see if anyone in the draft can help their defensive front.
”Very deep at defensive tackle especially – there are some quality defensive ends also,” general manager Martin Mayhew said. ”There are some guys down in the mid-rounds I think that can come in and perform well on the D-line.”
Suh and fellow defensive tackle Nick Fairley both left the Lions via free agency, leaving Detroit scrambling to replace two key players after its defense was ranked among the top units in the league last season.
Over the past 13 years, the Lions have had 10 top-10 picks, but following last season’s playoff appearance, they’re in the No. 23 slot for Thursday night’s first round.
Here are a few things to watch with the Lions in this year’s draft:
LINE OF SCRIMMAGE: Replacing Suh and Fairley is a tall task, but Detroit can also use help on the offensive line. The Lions have moved on from longtime center Dominic Raiola, with Travis Swanson in a position to take over that spot, and it’s not clear whether guard Rob Sims will be back.
REPLACING BUSH: The Lions cut Reggie Bush, meaning they could be in the market for another running back to help Joique Bell in the backfield. Georgia’s Todd Gurley may be a tempting option if he’s available when the team makes its first pick, or the Lions could decide to wait.
Gurley and Indiana’s Tevin Coleman both made pre-draft visits with the Lions, according to the team’s website.
SPECIFIC TARGETS?: Other players who made pre-draft visits with Detroit include: DT Angelo Blackson of Auburn, T Jamon Brown of Louisville, DB Alex Carter of Stanford, T La’el Collins of LSU, DT Xavier Cooper of Washington State, DT Carl Davis of Iowa, DT Mario Edwards of Florida State, DT Marcus Hardison of Arizona State, T D.J. Humphries of Florida, WR Tyler Lockett of Kansas State, WR Tre McBride of William and Mary, RB Marcus Murphy of Missouri, WR J.J. Nelson of Alabama-Birmingham, DB Steve Nelson of Oregon State, T Cedric Ogbuehi of Texas A&M, WR DeVante Parker of Louisville, WR Breshad Perriman of Central Florida, DT Jordan Phillips of Oklahoma, DB Eric Rowe of Utah, DT Danny Shelton of Washington, T Donovan Smith of Penn State and CB P.J. Williams of Florida State.
BALANCE: Mayhew said he probably splits his time evenly between analyzing the first two rounds and looking at the rest of the draft.
”The 50 percent goes into probably the first two rounds, then 50 percent on three on down probably. Just in terms of tape, phone calls and talking with people and researching background, all that,” Mayhew said. ”I spend a lot of time on the first two rounds. When we get back in the fifth and sixth round, I’m really relying on our scouts, our area scout, our college director, our national guys, coaching staff who spend time with some of these guys.”
DEALING: The Lions have one pick each in the first, second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. They have not had this few picks in a draft since 2011, when they made five – but the number for 2015 is still subject to change.
”We’ll see what happens in terms of acquiring more picks,” Mayhew said. ”I think I made the point at the league meeting that we’ve never started a draft and finished a draft with the same picks, so I think we’ll have a different number of picks at the end of this draft. Right now it is what it is, so we’ll take what we have. I feel good about where we are in the rounds and I feel good about what’s going to be there, especially in the first two rounds.”
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