>\n\nWorst to First: 1. Detroit Lions \n\n\n\n

Worst to First: 1. Detroit Lions

Written by Ben Morgan on 04/05/2009

For a while there it was touch and go as to which GM would leave Detroit first, Matt Millen or General Motors. Thanks to a Federal bailout Millen ended up being the one pushed out of town. And let's face it, not before time.It wasn't long before Rod Marinelli followed Millen out of town. In to replace them come Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwarz. I'm not sure if appointing from within for Mayhew was the wisest of moves. The Detroit Lions are a franchise with a losing pedigree and maybe some outside blood would've been a good idea but I have to say, I've liked the personnel moves so far. Whatever the new coach and GM do it's not like they can get any lower than the worst season in NFL history. So there's that small mercy I guess but when the only thing you win all season is the first pick in the draft, you can only get better.

I'll breakdown the Lions roster and give my opinions on what they should do in the draft but first let's take a look at the roster turnover and the potential turnover for 2010.

2009 Free Agent Losses
2009 Free Agent additions
Leigh Bodden CB (Patriots, cut), Anthony Cannon LB (cut), Shaun Cody DT (Texans, UFA), Mike Furrey WR (cut), Moran Norris FB (49ers, UFA), Dan Orlovsky QB (Texans, UFA), John Owens TE (Seahawks, UFA), Dwight Smith S (cut) Phillip Buchanon CB (Buccaneers), Will Heller TE (Seahawks), Grady Jackson DT (Falcons), Bryant Johnson WR (49ers), Eric King CB (Titans), Daniel Loper OT (Titans), Maurice Morris RB (Seahawks), Cody Spencer LB (Jets), Julian Peterson LB (Seahawks via trade), Anthony Henry CB (Cowboys via trade) , Dylan Gandy OL (Broncos)
2009 Unsigned Free Agents
2010 Potential Free Agents
Keary Colbert WR, Rudi Johnson RB, Shemiah LeGrande DT, Paris Lenon ILB, Andy McCollum C, Shaun McDonald WR, Langston Moore DT, Ryan Nece OLB, Stanley Winston CB Daunte Culpepper QB, Drew Henson QB, Aveion Cason RB, Brian Calhoun RB, Will Heller TE, Cody Spencer LB, Anthony Henry CB, Daniel Bullocks S, Stuart Schweigert S, Dominic Raiola C, George Foster OT

Roster Breakdown
Quarterbacks Major Need

Detroit's operated something of a revolving door at QB over the Millen years. Outside of the now departed Jon Kitna, no-one's really done a great job and describing Kitna's body of work as a great job is a stretch. Now Daunte Culpepper and a couple of Drews are on board. It doesn't look good. Clearly they'd have loved to have Jay Cutler but what Chicago gave up for him, with the holes Detroit have it was probably the smart thing to not get involved. With a guy like Calvin Johnson though, finding a QB with a big time arm is absolutely imperative. The smart money's all on Matthew Stafford, he's got the arm, he's a good fit for the #1 pick and Detroit could do a lot worse than pick him. Given Scott Linehan's familiarity with Daunte Culpepper the Lions may be prepared to roll with him for a season regardless of who they draft.


Runningbacks No Need

Rookie Kevin Smith rushed for a respectable 976 yards at 4.1yards a pop. Chuck in 8TDs behind a struggling OL and that bodes pretty well for him and the Lions. Rudi Johnson's gone but Maurice Morris has been added. Smith also grabbed 39 balls out of the air so he looks like he can be an every down back. He'll need spelling though and Morris should be a good guy to do that. He also brings some return skills.


Wide Receivers
Minor Need

Calvin Johnson's quickly established himself as one of, if not the, best young WRs in the league. A season's return of 78 rec for 1,331 yards, 12 TDs and a suitably monstrous 17.1 yard average is simply stellar for any second year WR. If you factor in Detroit's lack of anyone to really throw the ball to him, it's astonishing. Recently departed Shaun McDonald was the next most productive WR with an anaemic 332 yards and 1TD. It's pretty obvious that WR was something of a need. They've added Bryant Johnson from the 49ers and he might be good. He certainly looked great as a #3 WR in Arizona. On the other hand he was completely anonymous in San Francisco so the jury's out. The intriguing one for me if undrafted John Standeford out of Purdue. He's got great size at 6'4" and though he only pulled in 15 balls in the last 7 games of 2008, he did it at an eye-catching 16.3yard average. That shows some deep promise but this is a guy who couldn't make an NFL roster until his 4th season so don't raise expectations too high. Detroit would probably be well served to bring back one of McDonald or Furrey. Regardless a second day pick on a good route running WR would still be a smart pick.



Tight Ends
Minor Need

Has not really been a big part of the passing offense in Detroit for some years. With a move away from Mike Martz's offense it could very well be a position that needs addressing. Michael Gaines is serviceable and new addition Will Heller should improve the blocking on one end but isn't really a threat in the passing game. With Casey Fitzsimmons rounding out a solid if unspectacular threesome it's a position that could stand some improvement but with so many other needs it may be something of a luxury pick.


Offensive Line
Major Need

Clearly Detroit is not in real great shape on the OL. They did however, manage to open enough holes for rookie Kevin Smith to break the 4ypc mark. Detroit's bigger problem lies in the same place it has for several years now. They get behind too early and too often. It means they can't run the ball as often as they would like and that's borne out by a 31st ranking in Rushing attempts per game. The only team lower? Arizona and their no-run offense...

In 2008 Jeff Backus gave up 9.25 sacks and Gosder Cherilus a further 6. Personally, I think the worst thing they could do is put a #1 overall QB behind the 2008 OL. No-one wants to see the next David Carr happen in Motown and that's a distinct possibility behind this current line. Looking at the OL in context though they had a rookie at RT who struggled and they never had a QB for long enough to get comfortable with. There's been talk the Lions are already discussing a contract with Jason Smith and to me, that would be a real smart move. Jeff Backus has been a good servant but I could see him being moved to Guard to prolong his career and improve the blocking inside. Cherilus should be better his second year at RT so the addition of Jason Smith could help dramatically improve this OL in one fell swoop. Depth on the interior also looks a good spend of a draft pick at some point. Raiola and Peterman did ok but aren't really anything special. Raiola is a free agent in 2010 but they're apparently talking extension.


Defensive Tackle
Minor Need

Detroit's Run Defense is the worst in the league. the DL definitely needs to be improved in a big way. They've added Grady Jackson to stuff the middle and he'll do a good job but he's entering his 12th year and he's only a stopgap at this point in his career. Combined with Chuck Darby it should be a little harder to run on Detroit than last season. Even so with Jackson and Darby's age (36 and 33 respectively) DT is a major position of future need. An early pick here is something of a necessity.


Defensive End
Minor Need

Last year they drafted Cliff Avril, he didn't play all that much but chipped in with 5 sacks. He's got potential and I can see him improving the Lions mediocre pass rush this year. I'm still not sure if he can be an every down DE in the NFL though. DeWayne White does a good solid job on one end but someone who can achieve a little more pressure and still defend the run wouldn't go amiss on the other.


Linebackers Major Need

Detroit's added Julian Peterson. He significantly upgrades the LB corps in Detroit and together with Ernie Sims means they've got their OLBs all sorted. MLB is still a question mark, Paris Lenon has been allowed to go with no sign of him returning. Common consensus says they reached for Jordon Dizon last year but he's a player they liked a lot at the time. Whether the new regime feels the same way is another matter. If they're ditching the Tampa 2 Defense, Dizon may no longer fit. Aaron Curry might be the single smartest pick they could make at #1 He's a hell of a player and a leader as well. Something a bit lacking on the Lions D but, can you ever justify the #1 overall on a Linebacker? If I'm the Lions I'm probably praying someone like Rey Maualuga falls to #20.


Cornerback Minimal Need

On the surface this has been a massive problem for the Lions. Last year only 1 INT was caught by a CB. And he's now a Patriot. I've seen a lot of Leigh Bodden and I always rated him pretty high before 2008. For him to have that disastrous a season in Detroit may say something deeper about the pass defense. Maybe he just didn't fit the scheme I don't know. At any rate The Lions have moved to address their CBs by signing 2 guys, 1 via trade in Anthony Henry and the other via Free Agency, former first rounder Phil Buchanon. They've also added Eric King. Buchanon has been something of a bust thus far in his career but he's had a few good years and he can catch the football. The same is certainly true of Henry. These could turn out to be a couple of good signings and you definitely can't fault the new management for moving quickly to address a big problem area. There's some talk of Henry playing at FS if King can step up and start. In that situation Henry should upgrade the S position and could prove to be something of a ballhawk.


Safety Minor/Major Need

Most likely Eric King is the nickelback and Henry stays at CB. If that's the case The Lions could definitely use a new FS. Gerald Alexander is coming off a neck injury and might not suit the new defensive scheme anyway. I've always liked Daniel Bullocks at SS and he's a guy who could revel under Cunningham. He's also entering the last year of his deal so I'm sure he'll be motivated. Regardless of whether Henry plays CB or S the Lions would do well to pick up a Safety somewhere in the 2009 Draft.


Specialists No Need

Jason Hanson signed a new deal this offseason. Punter Nick Harris is in the middle of a long term multi million dollar deal. Other than a couple of training camp legs, the Lions will have no interest here.

Return Game
Minimal Need

The Lions were pretty average in both facets of the return game last year. Neither Aveion Cason, nor Brandon Middleton really did too much on kick off returns, despite an inordinate amount of practice. Averaging around 23 yards or less doesn't get you a back door ticket to Hawaii. Neither does not returning a single one for a TD. So poor was Detroit's defense they actually only returned 21 punts all last year. With all the needs they have I doubt the Lions will spend a pick on a return specialist but it wouldn't surprise me to see them draft say, a WR with return ability over a guy who just catches the ball. Maurice Morris returned a lot of kicks in Seattle, I'd say it's highly likely he'll be doing some of that in 2009 too.



Dream Day One

1.1 Jason Smith OT Baylor 1.20 Rey Maualuga ILB USC
2.33 Josh Freeman QB Kansas St

Player Visits
Jason Smith OT Baylor
B.J. Raji DT Boston College
Matthew Stafford QB Georgia
Eugene Monroe OT Virginia
Brandon Pettigrew
TE Oklahoma St
Aaron Curry LB Wake Forest
Connor Barwin DE Cincinatti
Johnny Knox
WR Abilene Christian
Mark Sanchez QB USC






Last Edited: 04/05/2009




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