Earlier this offseason, I ranked the Detroit Lions' needs going into free agency. Now it's time to rank their needs going into the 2014 NFL Draft. Once again, I have broken down the positions into four different categories in order to represent which needs are the most pressing and which needs are at the bottom of the list. Take a look:
Need to be addressed in the draft
Wide receiver, defensive end/outside linebacker, cornerback, safety
These are the biggest needs for the Lions. They need to come away from the draft with added depth at wide receiver, a new edge rusher and some fresh faces in the secondary.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Lions did address the wide receiver position by signing Golden Tate. However, there's still not a ton of proven depth behind Calvin Johnson and Tate. The Lions could use someone with the talent to be at least a No. 2 or No. 3 wide receiver to solidify this position, and chances are this need will be addressed on the first or second day of the draft.
On defense, there are a few different needs. For starters, the Lions could use an every-down upgrade at outside linebacker over Ashlee Palmer, and at the very least they need to add someone who can get after the opposing quarterback. Whether this means drafting someone who is a traditional outside linebacker or defensive end or someone who is a hybrid type of player with the ability to play both positions, the point is that they need an edge pass rusher.
In the secondary, the Lions simply need more talent. There's already a lot of youth at cornerback, but it's all unproven youth for now. And yes, the Lions do have Chris Houston and Rashean Mathis as the veterans at this position, but Houston's future is up in the air because of a toe injury and Mathis will be 34 in August. I don't necessarily think the Lions need to spend a first-round pick to address this need, but they could use another player to develop at this position. The same goes for safety. The Lions should be able to get by with James Ihedigbo in the short term, but he's already 30 and there's not a ton of depth behind him.
Need to think about the future
Quarterback, offensive guard, center, defensive tackle, kicker
This set of positions is all about future need. If the season started today, the Lions would be in okay shape at all of these positions, but at the same time, this group could represent some of the top needs for 2015 depending on what happens in the draft this year. It would be wise for the Lions to groom a future backup quarterback to take over for Dan Orlovsky, for example, and the same is true at center with Dominic Raiola nearing the end of his career. The Lions also need to think about offensive guard with Rob Sims entering the final season of his contract and there not being much depth for the interior of the offensive line in the first place.
At defensive tackle and kicker, depth is not a concern right now by any means. The Lions actually have more than enough talent at defensive tackle, but Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley, Vaughn Martin, Andre Fluellen and Corvey Irvin are all set to become free agents in 2015. It's unlikely that everybody in that group will be re-signed, so the Lions need to think about bringing in a rookie to compete at this position. As for kicker, it's possible that John Potter or Giorgio Tavecchio could step it up and make sure that this isn't a need for the foreseeable future, but the Lions should think about spending a late-round pick on this position like they did with punter last year.
Tight end, offensive tackle
In terms of starting spots, these two positions are good to go right now with Brandon Pettigrew and Joseph Fauria at tight end and Riley Reiff and LaAdrian Waddle at offensive tackle. Would the Lions benefit from making upgrades in the talent department at these positions? Sure. Adding a field-stretching tight end to complement Pettigrew would be nice, and it certainly wouldn't be a bad thing to come away with a franchise left tackle in the first round of the draft. However, contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, the Lions aren't in desperate need for help at either position. They do need a bit more depth at tackle, but that need could be solved with a developmental player late in the draft, a veteran free agent or even an undrafted free agent.
In great shape
Running back/fullback, middle linebacker, punter, long snapper
The Lions have more than enough bodies at running back and fullback right now, so that area of the roster seems to be set. The same goes for middle linebacker, where the Lions have Stephen Tulloch starting and various guys with the ability to back him up (like Travis Lewis, Julian Stanford and Brandon Hepburn) or step in for him in case of an injury (like DeAndre Levy, who has played in the middle before). And at punter and long snapper, the Lions are good to go with Sam Martin and Don Muhlbach.