The 2012 season showed us that the Detroit Lions have a lot of holes. They aren't in a position where they are a player or two away from being perennial contenders. Instead, they are several positions away from simply being in a spot where returning to the playoffs seems realistic. It's hard to believe they have taken such a big step back after 2011, but last season exposed their flaws in a big way.
To me, the Lions have needs at the following positions: running back, wide receiver, offensive tackle, offensive guard, center, defensive end, linebacker, cornerback, safety and punter. I could've saved time by listing the positions that aren't on the list of needs this offseason, but that doesn't mean the roster is in complete shambles. Some of the needs are much smaller than others, and some are dependent on what happens during free agency.
Let's take a more in-depth look at each of the aforementioned needs.
The need here is pretty simple. The Lions need a player like Jahvid Best since he isn't likely going to ever play football again. They need a speedy running back to complement Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell. If they can find one, they'll have a pretty nice trio of backs.
Thanks to Titus Young's descent into madness, the Lions are in need of help at wide receiver. Ryan Broyles' ACL injury doesn't do them any favors, meaning the Lions could really use a No. 2 type of wide receiver. That's probably expecting too much given the Lions' cap situation, but at the very least they need to add somebody capable of taking some attention away from Calvin Johnson.
Whether or not there is truly a need at offensive tackle will depend on if Jeff Backus comes back for another season and if Gosder Cherilus is re-signed. I think Backus will be back, but I don't expect Cherilus to return since he'll probably seek a bigger contract elsewhere. The Lions have Riley Reiff ready to step in as a starter, but if they lose both Backus and Cherilus, there will be a definite need at offensive tackle. I suppose Jason Fox could help fill that need, but either way, there would be a need for additional depth.
The Lions are slated to have starters Rob Sims and Stephen Peterman back, but I see a need at right guard because an upgrade needs to be made. The Lions have to improve their interior offensive line, and unless Bill Nagy steps up this offseason, help is going to have to come from somewhere else.
The same goes for center. The Lions could use an upgrade over Dominic Raiola. Nagy could very well be that upgrade since he can also play center, but if he's not, the Lions will need to look elsewhere to improve their interior O-line.
With Cliff Avril likely gone, Lawrence Jackson also an unrestricted free agent and Kyle Vanden Bosch's effectiveness rapidly declining, the Lions are in need of help at defensive end. The play from the defensive ends was extremely disappointing in 2012, and given the state of the position right now, the Lions could be on the lookout for one or two starters this offseason.
Just how big of a need exists at linebacker will come down to if the Lions re-sign free agents DeAndre Levy and Justin Durant. Ashlee Palmer could step in at one of the starting spots, but if both Levy and Durant depart, there will be two openings at the top of the depth chart.
The Lions are in need of more talent and depth at cornerback. This will especially be true if they can't re-sign free agent Chris Houston. While the Lions do have guys like Bill Bentley, Jonte Green and Chris Greenwood from last year's draft, can you really rely on unproven players? I say no, and given the secondary's struggles and the fact that this is such a pass-happy league, there's really always a need for help at cornerback.
What I just said about the cornerback position is especially true for safety for the Lions. Louis Delmas is a free agent, and even if he's brought back, you don't know how long he can go without getting hurt. As a result, there's really a need here for two starting-caliber safeties even if Delmas is re-signed.
Nick Harris was awful in 2012. Plain and simple. The Lions need to make an upgrade at this position for 2013.
What is the biggest need?
The top three for me are defensive end, cornerback and safety. Of those three, I put defensive end at the very top. I was tempted to go with safety given how bad this position was for most of 2012, but the Lions defense is really designed around pressuring the opposing quarterback. They need to get a lot more out of their defensive ends, and with Avril likely gone and Vanden Bosch becoming more and more ineffective, this position tops the list for me. I expect the Lions to use the No. 5 pick on a defensive end, and I wouldn't be surprised if they end up drafting more than one this year.
What do you think?