Can't afford to miss

The Lions need to continue to make good, if not great draft decisions. Each pick can't just be good, they need to be great, and above all almost a certainty.

Although Brad Holmes was implored not to draft another offensive lineman in this year's draft, one of the best and safest picks is another offensive lineman, Evan Neal. He's huge; 6-9 350 sized. He's also fast and agile. He's also young, and under team cap control for the next four years. All of this makes him a very, very, very good pick in the 2022 draft.

Last year Taylor Decker missed nearly half the season with a finger injury. The offensive line wasn't the strength it was supposed to be. Frank Ragnow also was injured. He had a toe injury. Fortunately we had a very good option to turn to in both cases: Penei Sewell and Evan Brown. Without this quality depth the strength of this position would have turned into a true weakness.

There are some internal prospects for improving the line. Tyrell Crosby returns from being injured but is a free agent. Dan Skipper also returns from being on the injured reserve all of last season too. Both give the Lions quality options to back-up their intended starters Decker and Sewell. Ideally both return and stay healthy for the season, but I'm wondering if Crosby might be an all-purpose lineman able to fill in at either tackle or guard spot. Skipper I think is strictly a tackle.

Although both are likely or at least very possible to re-sign, neither seems like a multi-year option to groom and retain as long term starters. Both are likely journeyman that can support the team for several years as fill-ins.

Perhaps the team has others that fit this description: Matt Nelson, Evan Brown, and Tommy Kraemer. I'm not sure that Logan Stenberg has proven he's one of these guys. You might argue that with these three or four and the two previously mentioned that this is more than enough, but looking at the starting group calls into question two players that might not prove to be long term contributors: Taylor Decker and Hal Vaitai.

Both performed exceptionally well at the close of last year but both have had some injury issues. Although I'm happy both are on the team now, what does the longer term future hold? Like baseball's catch phrase, "you can never have enough pitching," I'm inclined to believe you can never have enough offensive linemen, especially if they are under team salary control.

Managing the salary cap is extremely important. Bloating salaries might seem like it is required for past performance, but in reality all that really matters is current and future performance and optimized the value received for the value you spend.

Building the strongest, most capable offensive line I think should still be a top priority for the Lions. I agree that developing the receiver corp is needed too, and the corner back room is depleted or at least questionably thin with Okudah's return from injury a lingering question mark, and the loss of Parker, as well to injury, making these positions definitely big needs.

I also wouldn't ignore how important building the defensive line up. I am a believer that success of a football team starts in the trenches. So this is an area that still needs attention. Michael Brockers has lingering injuries. Trey Flowers hasn't been able to play a full season for at least two years. Both have under-produced as two of the team's top paid players. I'm simply not enamored with either of them enough to say give them both another year. I think that's thinking for a team that can afford veterans to contribute toward a winning season for one or two more years. The Lions need to build a team made for a longer run to reach success.

Adding to the interior of the defensive line and the edge is still a big need in my book. Alim McNeill and John Penisini might be good nose tackles. Levi Onwuzike is still a project. Jashon Cornell is still a project. Nick Williams was a key contributor, but is also the oldest player we have so his tenure is also questionable, if he even re-signs as a free agent. Unproven players like Bruce Hector are all that's left to offer help on the current roster. Reinforcements are definitely needed.

Fortunately there is a lot of talent in this year's draft for the defensive line. The edge might have two of the top players in the draft, as well as another five or six that should warrant serious attention over the first two or three rounds. If at all possible, the Lions should target both an interior and edge player for their defense.

If the position is taken that the trenches are the priority, I'd stand with drafting them over the corner back and receiver positions for one more year, in hopes that possibly a surprise talent, given ample opportunity, will perform much like Amon-Ra St Brown. There are a few of those types of players in this draft. I think we should hope that Brad Holmes is looking at or for them.

This piece is meant to encourage Holmes and company, as well as the Lions' fans to be patient one more year to build the team in the right way - in the trenches first.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.