The Lions have a variety of options to choose from when they go on the clock in the first round of the 2008 NFL Draft later this month. The truth is, anybody they pick will likely fill a pressing need. I hate to say this as I don't want to be a jinx, but not even Matt Millen could screw up this year's first-round pick. Why? Well, the roster has been depleted enough that there are needs in many positions on both sides of the ball. Considering that, almost any pick wouldn't be an immediate failure simply because that player should take care of one of the many needs this team has.
With so many needs on this team, it'll be tough for the Lions to pick a player come April 26 (the first day of the draft). At pick #15, talented offensive linemen, running backs, linebackers, cornerbacks, and defense ends will still be on the board. That provides Detroit the opportunity to go in many different directions. I wouldn't say there is only one right direction to go in as filling any need is a good thing, but some options look better than others.
Out of all the needs the Lions have, the one that stands out to most people is the running back position. Kevin Jones gets released and suddenly a ton of mock drafts switch the Lions to taking a running back with pick #15. I'm not saying that thinking is wrong at all as Detroit does need another back, but personally I don't think the Lions should use their first-round pick on a RB. The RB position is fairly deep this year, and after Darren McFadden, none of the other top players at that position seem to be all that appealing, at least to me. Rashard Mendenhall certainly is a good player, and Jonathan Stewart is too. Although both will be first-round picks, I'm hoping the Lions stay away from both.
I have nothing against Mendenhall and Stewart, but feel that the Lions would be better off going in a direction other than RB in the first round. Since that position is deep, they would be better served selecting a defensive end, for example. If - and this is a huge if - Derrick Harvey is still available when it's the Lions turn to pick, I would hope and expect that he is on his way to Detroit. The reason I hope he would be Detroit's pick is because he would fill the need for another defensive end, which is an important position in the Cover 2. Similarly, I would expect him to be the pick because Rod Marinelli is a defensive line kind of guy. He wants an edge pass rusher that can make an impact, and I believe Derrick Harvey is someone that could fit that role.
If Harvey wasn't available when the Lions go on the clock, I would want the Lions to go find an offensive tackle. There are plenty that will be on the board and have first round talent, so the Lions have a big group to choose from. In the SB Nation Mock Draft, I drafted Chris Williams. Had Ryan Clady not been selected already, though, he would have been my pick instead. Either way, I really think it would be tough to go wrong with drafting a potential franchise tackle to build your o-line around.
Out of all the positions mentioned with Detroit's first-round pick, the two wild cards really are linebacker and cornerback. At linebacker, Detroit could reach for someone like Jerod Mayo and eventually make him their middle linebacker, or they could wait until round two and hope that someone like Curtis Lofton is still around. At the same time, finding a cornerback isn't a huge priority anymore for the Lions, but with so many top players from that position in the draft, it would be hard to pass on one of the many CBs that will likely be on the board come pick #15.
Rod Marinelli has said in the past that he would prefer to sign a veteran MLB rather than try to put a rookie in there, but at this point, it is looking more and more like the latter is his only option. The Lions haven't had success in finding a healthy veteran MLB, otherwise one would have been signed by now (I'm looking at you Al Wilson). Knowing that, should the Lions draft a LB in the first-round, get him acclimated to the defense, and then move him to the middle? Or, could they just wait until a later round and do the same thing? Either option is a good one, but I would rather see them wait until a later round personally.
Going back to the subject of cornerbacks, Detroit doesn't have as pressing of a need at that position as they managed to address it somewhat in free agency. Even so, with the chance that players like Dominique Rogers-Cromartie or Leodis
McKelvin could fall to the 15th pick, the Lions very well could pull the trigger on helping their secondary. It isn't likely that all of the top talents will last to the second round when Detroit picks again, so the window of opportunity will probably be pretty small when it comes to drafting a top corner. Since that isn't a position in a great deal of need anymore, would Detroit simply put it to the side and go down a different path?
The 2008 NFL Draft will be about timing for the Lions. With so many positions in need of talent, Detroit has to map out a plan to address nearly all of them once all seven rounds are complete. It would be foolish to think that after the draft all needs will be gone as there are only so many rounds and so many players, but best-case scenario in my mind (other than someone kidnapping Millen before the draft) is that Detroit's top four picks eventually work their way into the starting lineup. That is a testament to how bad the roster is now, but hey, that's what the draft is four.
For me, I would be happy with a draft day that went something like this:
Round 1: OT
Round 2: LB
Round 3: RB
Round 3 (From Browns): DE or CB
Obviously that could be rearranged in a number of ways depending on which players are available each time the Lions go on the clock, but you get the gist of my point. Detroit has many needs. They also have four picks in the first three rounds. Most of their positions of need are pretty deep talent-wise in this draft, meaning that after three rounds are gone, the depth chart should start to look better. I know that expecting anything this great is tough to do with Matt Millen having the final say in things, but at least the first-round pick should be hard to screw up. Then again, if anyone can do it, Millen is your man. After all, I hear Devin Thomas' stock is rising...