The Detroit Lions seem to have five directions to consider with the No. 5 pick overall in the NFL Draft beginning Thursday night.
They could take an offensive tackle, a pass rusher, a cornerback, another “best player available,” or possibly trade down.
Here are the pros and cons of each:
Pros: The Lions have to replace both tackles, Jeff Backus and Gosder Cherilus. Backus’ retirement leaves a void on the crucial left side, the blindside for quarterback Matthew Stafford.
Based on most evaluations, Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel and Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher — perhaps even Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson — could immediately fill that void. The move would also help plug another hole with Riley Reiff, last year’s first-round pick, taking over at probably right guard while Jason Fox and Corey Hilliard competed for the right-tackle spot. Cons: It would be the second straight year that Detroit uses a first-round pick on an offensive tackle while failing to address its significant weaknesses on defense.
It also might be an indication that the Lions don’t believe Reiff would be a quality left tackle.
Pros: The Lions are extremely shorthanded at defensive end. They must replace both starters, Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch, and currently have only three defensive ends on the roster (Jason Jones, Willie Young and Ronnell Lewis).
You can’t win in the NFL these days without a strong edge rusher to put pressure on the quarterback. The Lions don’t have that guy and it’s questionable if they’re going to find him later in the draft, free agency or a trade.
Cons: Neither of the top pass rushers in the draft — BYU’s Ziggy Ansah and Oregon’s Dion Jordan — is projected as a guaranteed full-time starter and impact player at defensive end as a rookie.
Ansah, who grew up in Africa, has freakish athleticism but he’s viewed as “raw” because he only starting playing football a couple years ago. Jordan also has a strong upside, but he’s considered more of an outside linebacker until he adds more size.
Coming off a 4-12 season, the Lions clearly need this first-round pick to start and produce as a rookie because the jobs of coach Jim Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew could be on the line.
The club’s pass defense has been a longstanding sore spot, which is not the way to win a division that features Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Drafting Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner would help further solidify an improving secondary that includes the addition of free-agent safety Glover Quin from the Houston Texans and the return of safety Louis Delmas and cornerback Chris Houston, both of whom were re-signed.
Cons: Increasing speculation suggests that Milliner’s health might be a serious concern coming off shoulder surgery for a torn labrum last month.
This also could indicate that the Lions aren’t confident Bill Bentley, a third-round pick last year, is the answer at cornerback after missing much of his rookie season because of a shoulder injury.
‘BEST PLAYER AVAILABLE’
Pros: More than likely, that choice would be a defensive tackle (Florida’s Sharrif Floyd or Utah’s Star Lotulelei) or an offensive guard (Alabama’s Chance Warmack or North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper).
The Lions would be getting a talented player that they graded extremely high. Floyd is ranked No. 2 overall in NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock’s prospect rankings; Warmack is No. 4.
Warmack or Cooper should start immediately and have long careers.
Cons: Detroit already has two standout defensive tackles in Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
While there’s a need for an offensive guard, the fifth pick is generally considered too high to take a player at that position. Offensive tackle and defensive end are viewed as the more “value” positions by most NFL executives.
Pros: They could still get a good player later in the first round while adding another pick, possibly in the second round, with the swap.
Cons: The strength of this draft apparently is more in quantity than quality. That could create problems finding a team that wants to move up badly enough to throw in that extra pick, especially if the offensive tackles already are off the board.