Detroit Lions April Scouting Report
Draft preview: The Lions enter the draft with picks 21, 53, 85, 128, 165, 205, 215, and 250. That is a total of 8 picks. GM Bob Quinn did not pull off any trades during last year’s draft and I wouldn’t expect any dramatic moves this year either. As you look at Detroit’s roster as it currently stands, a few positions stand out as needs, with other positions needing improved depth and competition. The Lions figure to rely on a best available player approach with some common sense involved with respect to targeting certain positions.
QB: There doesn’t seem to be a reason to take a quarterback at any point in this draft as they just used a late round pick on QB Jake Rudock last year and he figures to get a heavy workload in camp and preseason to prepare him to be the backup to QB Matthew Stafford. Stafford is in a contract year but all indications are that he will get a well earned extension done over the summer at some point so they won’t be looking for his replacement in this draft. The Lions only have those 2 on the roster right now so they will certainly add a third quarterback at some point, and I’m not sure if they are leaning toward an undrafted rookie or a veteran. If they stay local you’ve got Cooper Rush of Central Michigan and Zach Terrell of Western Michigan that are prospects who may not get drafted.
RB: I’m still not a big believer that the Lions will look to draft a running back early. It will be moot if the top backs are off the board by 21. I think they will give RB Ameer Abdullah one more chance to stay healthy and be the lead back. I know they want to upgrade their running game but everyone knows it’s a passing league. I would expect them to look for a power back in the middle rounds as they need some insurance for the injury prone Abdullah and RB Theo Riddick but the first round pick can be better used elsewhere.
WR/TE: I know it’s only April but there is a little bit of hype over last year’s preseason star WR Jace Billingsley. I don’t know if he is the answer to fill the void left by WR Anquan Boldin. I think Detroit’s lack of depth here makes wide receiver an option in round 1, although it’s more likely they go defense. One guy they had in for a visit and could be a round 2 option is Chris Godwin of Penn State. As for tight ends, the Lions have been linked to David Njoku from Miami if they want to address it early. They haven’t picked up the 2018 option on TE Eric Ebron yet, and if they draft a tight end in round 1 it’s safe to say they won’t pick up that option unless they decide to use a 2 tight end formation as their base offense going forward instead of a 3 receiver set.
OL: Even Quinn admitted they won’t be looking at offensive line early in this draft. They signed two big free agents and appear to be set. I could perhaps see them taking a tackle late to compete for a backup spot or to stash on the practice squad but Quinn set out to rebuild this line when he got here in 2016 and the task is done.
DL: Most fans would love to see the Lions add pass rushing help. Taco Charlton might be a good fit at pick 21 to plug in at left end. Takk McKinley and Charles Harris seem like better fits for a 3-4 scheme. I think they look OK at defensive tackle for now but they could use a mid round pick on a developmental prospect.
LB: This is the weakest position on the roster right now. The Lions will almost certainly take a linebacker early, possibly in round 1. Reuben Foster’s stock is dropping and he could be a home run if he is there at 21. The Lions would also jump on Haason Reddick, but it’s more likely they settle for Jarrad Davis of Florida.
DB: The Lions constantly add guys in the offseason for the secondary but still end up signing guys off the street by the end of the season. Could they take a corner in round 1? Possibly. Kevin King of Washington has amazing size and Gareon Conley of Ohio State would be solid. They would both merit consideration. A free safety in the later rounds that they could groom to eventually replace Glover Quin would be something to look for.
ST: The Lions are set with their specialists. Obviously they will look at the rookies they draft and where they can contribute on special teams. There is no clear cut kick and punt return man on the current roster.
Week 1 Sept. 10 vs. Arizona 1:00
Week 2 (MON) Sept. 18 at NY Giants 8:30 (ESPN)
Week 3 Sept. 24 vs. Atlanta 1:00
Week 4 Oct. 1 at Minnesota 1:00
Week 5 Oct. 8 vs. Carolina 1:00
Week 6 Oct. 15 at New Orleans 1:00
Week 7 Oct. 22 BYE
Week 8 Oct. 29 vs. Pittsburgh 8:30 (NBC)
Week 9 (MON) Nov. 6 at Green Bay 8:30 (ESPN)
Week 10 Nov. 12 vs. Cleveland 1:00
Week 11 Nov. 19 at Chicago 1:00
Week 12 (THU) Nov. 23 vs. Minnesota 12:30 (FOX)
Week 13 Dec. 3 at Baltimore 1:00
Week 14 Dec. 10 at Tampa Bay 1:00
Week 15 (SAT) Dec. 16 vs. Chicago 4:30 (NFLN)
Week 16 Dec. 24 at Cincinnati 1:00
Week 17 Dec. 31 vs. Green Bay 1:00
Schedule thoughts: The Lions have 10 indoor games this year which I believe is down from last year. The trips to Green Bay and Chicago in November could have weather factoring in, but if they get lucky that week 16 game could be the only really bad weather game. The week 7 bye is interesting as that is a week with only 2 teams on the bye. Week 8, 9, and 11 are the heaviest bye weeks, so drafting Lions players could help you spread out your byes on your roster. Five national TV games will give the Lions more exposure this year. I don’t like trying to project strength of schedule, but if you just look at some of the quarterbacks the Lions will face, the first 8 games definitely look tougher than the last 8 games. Drafting the Lions defense will not be recommended, but maybe they are a streaming option later in the year if they upgrade in the draft and improve their playmaking.
Next month we will review the draft.
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