The Detroit Lions are barely finished with the 2019 NFL season, and already, talk is shifting to the 2020 NFL Draft.
A rash of losses as well as injuries have put the Lions in a precarious position this year. There are plenty of games remaining, yet the team has made losing look easy with a defense which struggles to get off the field and an offense which far too often has long lulls between scoring drives.
So naturally, with a potential top 10 pick coming into focus, it’s time for the Lions and their fans to start dreaming of the future. When preparation shifts from game day to draft day, what will the Lions be looking for most of all this coming draft season?
Here’s a look at breaking down Detroit’s top positions of need.
Lions Top NFL Draft Need: Defensive End
Detroit cannot pressure the quarterback meaningfully in 2019, and that is a glaring problem given what the team has done to add to the front in recent months and years. Part of the problem has been injury, but beyond Trey Flowers and Da’Shawn Hand, the Lions simply don’t have any young building blocks they can count on right now. The team has to find some form of consistency in the trenches, and that is why it’s a major need for them moving forward. If the draft were held today, the Lions would have to target some type of defensive end or pass rush specialist highly. Without a few impact players here in 2020, it’s tough to imagine the Lions turning their defensive fortunes around.
Lions Second NFL Draft Need: Cornerback
The Lions will have questions to answer with Darius Slay, and beyond that, they will have positions to address. Justin Coleman will stick around given the team just added him, and given what he’s done so far, that is good news. Every other job should be up for grabs. Rashaan Melvin started strong but has fallen off the map, and the Lions haven’t gotten much from rookie pick Amani Oruwariye. The chance should exist for the Lions to nab someone who can be a solid difference maker in the backfield. They might have to overhaul the corner spots again, and the draft will be an easy way to do that.
Lions Third NFL Draft Need: Linebacker
Ironically, the Lions have drafted linebackers early in a few years under Bob Quinn and to continue the overhaul of the group, that probably has to happen once again. Jarrad Davis and Jahlani Tavai are each solid pieces, but the argument can be made that the Lions still have big needs at the spot to help out the defense as a whole. Davis is probably suited for more of a free ranging role, and while Tavai has been good, he still has some growing to do. Bringing another young player into the mix the Lions can grow with should be a significant draft goal. Ideally, this linebacker should be able to cover a bit too. Finding linebackers for Detroit’s scheme is said to be difficult, but the Lions need to put their thinking cap on and figure it out.
Lions Fourth NFL Draft Need: Running Back
If the Lions choose not to upgrade the running back spot in free agency or via trade, it would be easy to see them draft someone else to go with Kerryon Johnson and Ty Johnson. Perhaps Bo Scarbrough can make a case, but even if he does, the Lions need to look into adding another runner relatively quickly in the draft or the offseason as the depth has been their biggest issue exposed in 2019. Detroit needs someone who can complement Johnson effectively in case he has injury troubles come back as he has in 2018 and 2019. That puts a premium on Quinn addressing this situation in a major way.
Lions Fifth NFL Draft Need: Quarterback
The Lions haven’t committed to grooming a young quarterback. Perhaps they think Jeff Driskel can be their backup, and Driskel has done a nice job to hold down the fort in Stafford’s absence even though the team hasn’t won games for him. Behind Driskel, however, there is a major hole. Detroit could look to develop David Blaugh, but some type of premium has to be placed on the backup position as the team is learning. Developing a capable backup would be a huge advantage for the Lions moving forward and it’s something they should think about addressing in 2020 so that they can feel more comfortable with where their roster is at.