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Detroit Lions: Top free agency, NFL draft needs for 2017

By
The Sports Xchange
Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah (21) is smothered by Baltimore Ravens defenders during the first half on Maryland, August 27, 2016. A dynamic runner should be at the top of Detroit's wish list. Photo by David Tulis/UPI
Detroit Lions running back Ameer Abdullah (21) is smothered by Baltimore Ravens defenders during the first half on Maryland, August 27, 2016. A dynamic runner should be at the top of Detroit's wish list. Photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

As they wade through free agency and prepare to evaluate draft prospects at the Indianapolis Scouting Combine (March 1-6), the Detroit Lions must decide which players to keep as they seek to improve upon their 9-7 record from last season.

The Sports Xchange and NFLDraftScout.com evaluated the Lions' roster and created a shopping list to use in free agency and to reference during the Combine.

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Like a broken record it seems, the Lions continue to seek a difference-maker at running back. Despite the retirement of wide receiver Calvin Johnson prior to the 2016 season, quarterback Matthew Stafford remained productive in the passing game. A dynamic runner should be at the top of Detroit's wish list.

A middle-of-the-pack defense could be helped on the line and at linebacker, but that ability to run the ball also would aid the defense.

THE BREAKDOWN

2016 finish: 2nd in NFC North (9-7)

STATISTICS

TOTAL OFFENSE: 338.8 (21st)

RUSHING: 81.9 (30th)

PASSING: 256.9 (11th)

TOTAL DEFENSE: 354.8 (18th)

RUSHING: 106.3 (18th)

PASSING: 248.4 (19th)

NEEDS, SHOPPING LIST

&=Released

*=Option not expected to be exercised or expected to be released

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TOP 3 NEEDS

LINEBACKER

With no depth whatsoever at the position and DeAndre Levy's future in question, the Lions need a three-down linebacker.

UFA TARGETS (Age, 2016 salary)

OLB:

Chandler Jones, Arizona (27, $2.04M)

Nick Perry, Green Bay (27 in April, $5.05M)

Melvin Ingram, L.A. Chargers (28 in April, $2.1M)

DeMarcus Ware, Denver (35 in July, $10M)

Julius Peppers, Green Bay (37, $8.67M)

ILB:

Dont'a Hightower, New England (27 in March, $1.93M)

Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh (31 in May, $9.6M)

Malcolm Smith, Oakland (28 in July, $3.5M)

Akeem Dent, Houston (30 in September, $2.25M)

DRAFT TARGETS (Rating pos/overall, Player, School, Ht., Wt., 40 time, Proj. Rd.)

OLB:

1/18 Zach Cunningham, Vanderbilt, 6-3, 230, 4.74, 1 (underclassman)

2/26 Takkarist McKinley, UCLA, 6-2, 258, 4.58, 1

3/27 Tim Williams, Alabama, 6-3, 252, 4.76, 1

4/31 Haason Reddick, Temple, 6-1, 237, 4.54, 1-2

5/48 T.J. Watt, Wisconsin, 6-4, 243, 4.76, 2 (underclassman)

ILB:

1/7 Reuben Foster, Alabama, 6-1, 236, 4.72, 1

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2/41 Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State, 6-2, 240, 4.78, 2 (underclassman)

3/44 Jarrad Davis, Florida, 6-1, 238, 4.78, 2

DEFENSIVE END

Outside of Ziggy Ansah, who battled an ankle injury much of the year, the Lions have no one who consistently gets pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

UFA TARGETS (Age, previous contract's average annual salary)

Jason Pierre-Paul, N.Y. Giants (28, $10M)

Calais Campbell, Arizona (DT; 31 in September, $11M)

Jabaal Sheard, New England (28 in May, $5.5M)

&Mario Williams, Miami (32, $8.5M)

Charles Johnson, Carolina (31 in July, $3M)

DRAFT TARGETS (Rating pos/overall, Player, School, Ht., Wt., Proj. Rd.)

1/1 Myles Garrett, Texas A&M, 6-4, 268, 1 (underclassman)

2/3 Solomon Thomas, Stanford, 6-2, 275, 1 (underclassman)

3/17 Derek Barnett, Tennessee, 6-3, 265, 1 (underclassman)

4/28 Taco Charlton, Michigan, 6-5, 272, 1

5/32 Charles Harris, Missouri, 6-3, 255, 4.74, 1-2 (underclassman)

RUNNING BACK

The Lions ranked 30th in the NFL in rushing, and their top two running backs (Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick) finished the season on injured reserve.

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UFA TARGETS (Age, 2016 salary)

Le'Veon Bell, Pittsburgh (25, $1.03M)

*Adrian Peterson, Minnesota (32 in March, $14M)

LeGarrette Blount, New England (31 in December, $1M)

Latavius Murray, Oakland (27, $567K)

Eddie Lacy, Green Bay (27 June, $848K)

Darren McFadden, Dallas (30 in August, $1.5M)

DRAFT TARGETS (Rating pos/overall, Player, School, Ht., Wt., 40 time, Proj. Rd.)

1/5 Dalvin Cook, Florida State, 5-11, 206, 4.43, 1 (underclassman)

2/9 Leonard Fournette, LSU, 6-1, 230, 4.45, 1 (underclassman)

3/24 Christian McCaffrey, Stanford, 6-0, 202, 4.48, 1 (underclassman)

4/60 Alvin Kamara, Tennessee, 5-10, 215, 4.62, 2 (underclassman)

5/86 Joe Mixon, Oklahoma, 6-1, 226, 4.50, 3 (underclassman)

UFA KEEPERS

WR Anquan Boldin (37 in October, $2.75M)

T Riley Reiff (29 in December, $2M)

G Larry Warford (26 in June, $769K)

ROSTER REVIEW

DEPTH CHART

Starters and backups are listed according to their status at the end of the season, but players who were starters before being injured are included.

* Indicates player who ended 2016 season on reserve.

& Indicates player released since the Super Bowl.

QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Matthew Stafford. Backups -- Dan Orlovsky (UFA), Jake Rudock.

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RUNNING BACKS: Starter -- *Ameer Abdullah. Backups -- *Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Joique Bell (UFA), FB Michael Burton.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Eric Ebron. Backups -- Matthew Mulligan (UFA), Clay Harbor (UFA), *Tim Wright (UFA), *Cole Wick.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Anquan Boldin (UFA). Backups -- Andre Roberts (UFA), T.J. Jones, Jace Billingsley, Ryan Spadola.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Taylor Decker, LG Graham Glasgow, C Travis Swanson, RG Larry Warford (UFA), RT Riley Reiff (UFA). Backups -- *T Corey Robinson, T Cornelius Lucas, G Laken Tomlinson, G/T Joe Dahl, G Garrett Reynolds (UFA).

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- RDE Ziggy Ansah, DT Haloti Ngata, DT A'Shawn Robinson, LDE Devin Taylor (UFA). Backups -- DE Kerry Hyder, DE Anthony Zettel, DE Brandon Copeland, DE *Armonty Bryant (UFA), DT Tyrunn Walker (UFA), DT Khyri Thornton, DT *Stefan Charles (UFA).

LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB DeAndre Levy, MLB Tahir Whitehead, LB Josh Bynes (UFA). Backups -- Antwione Williams, Thurston Armbrister, *Jon Bostic (UFA).

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- CB Darius Slay, CB Nevin Lawson, FS Glover Quin, SS Tavon Wilson. Backups -- *CB Quandre Diggs, CB Johnson Bademosi, *CB Asa Jackson, CB Crezdon Butler (UFA), CB Adairius Barnes, CB Alex Carter, *CB Ian Wells, S Miles Killebrew, S Rafael Bush (UFA), S Don Carey.

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SPECIAL TEAMS: K Matt Prater, P Sam Martin, KOR/PR Andre Roberts (UFA), LS Don Muhlbach (UFA), *LS Jimmy Landes.

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