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Ranking the Detroit Lions’ top 5 needs entering the 2021 NFL Draft

A final look at Detroit’s top needs as we head towards the 2021 NFL Draft.

AP

As we enter a pivotal draft for the Detroit Lions and new general manager Brad Holmes, it’s important to take one last reflection on the roster as is to see where they need more help. While it’s true at the start of the rebuild, the Lions probably cannot afford to reach for need over talent, there are extreme weaknesses on this team that Detroit would be wise not to ignore.

The Lions have been toeing the company line, saying they believe they’re closer to competing than many are giving them credit for. Not many are buying it, but if they truly believe those words, they better fill the most pressing needs facing this roster as we head into the 2021 NFL Draft.

Here are the team’s biggest needs:

Wide Receiver

Last year, the Lions entered the season with these six receivers: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr., Danny Amendola, Quintez Cephus, Marvin Hall, and Jamal Agnew. Of those six, only one remains: Cephus, the team’s 2020 fifth-round pick.

In free agency, the Lions added a lot of names, but the talent of those players is questionable, at best. Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams, Kalif Raymond, and Damion Ratley would represent a bottom-five unit in the NFL if the Lions choose not to address this position in the draft. Be it a No. 1 receiver or a potential starting slot receiver, the Lions need to come out of the draft with at least one receiver.

Safety

Detroit lost team leader and captain Duron Harmon in free agency and have not adequately replaced him yet. While the Lions have expressed confidence in their young secondary, which undoubtedly includes Tracy Walker, I’m not so sure they’d feel great about starting him beside Will Harris.

The Lions did add Dean Marlowe late in free agency, and while he has some starting experience, we’re talking about seven games since 2015. He’s best served as depth.

The Los Angeles Rams have been excellent at finding safety talent deep into the draft with Brad Holmes serving as their primary scout. Don’t be surprised if Holmes takes a shot at one in his first draft calling the shots.

Linebacker

After adding Alex Anzalone in free agency, the Lions have the bodies to sport a starting lineup. Given Detroit is only likely to sport two off-the-ball linebackers in base, they could theoretically get by in 2021 without investing a high pick at the position.

However, that would not set themselves up well for the future. Only Collins and Jahlani Tavai are signed into 2022, and Tavai does not appear to be a good fit for what the Lions now want in their linebackers.

Offensive line

It could be a tackle. It could be a guard. But the Lions need some help on the right side of that offensive line.

With head coach Dan Campbell admitted he’s intrigued by moving Halapoulivaati Vaitai to guard, it seems like offensive tackle may be the priority in this year’s draft, and there just so happens to be two prospects that may be worth the team’s seventh overall pick.

But don’t sleep on the team potentially looking at guard, as well. Vaitai could certainly stick at tackle, and while the Lions do have Logan Stenberg waiting in the wings at guard, it’s hard to know how much to trust a guy who spent nearly his entire rookie season inactive and was drafted by a different regime.

Nickel cornerback

The late addition of Corn Elder in free agency at least gives the Lions a body here for 2021, but it’s unclear if he’d be up to a starting position there. There is no plan at nickel for the future, though, as Elder is in Detroit on a one-year, prove-it deal.