2017 NFL Draft, Detroit Lions: Top needs, suggested picks, current outlook

2017 NFL Draft Reset: Lions building wall to protect Stafford

Frank Cooney,
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) is sacked by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril (56) in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington on January 7, 2017. File photo by Jim Bryant/UPI
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) is sacked by Seattle Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril (56) in the Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington on January 7, 2017. File photo by Jim Bryant/UPI | License Photo

The Detroit Lions are trying to be protective of quarterback Matthew Stafford, so they are working harder than President Donald Trump to build a wall.

Last year, the Lions used two of their first three draft picks on offensive linemen who started as rookies -- left tackle Taylor Decker and left guard Graham Glasgow.


When free agency started this year they began working on the right side. The Lions signed Rick Wagner to a five-year, $47.5 million deal to replace Riley Reiff at right tackle, and added veteran T.J. Lang for three years and $28.5 million to take over for Larry Warford at right guard.

Travis Swanson is the only holdover starter from the Martin Mayhew era at center.

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The Lions opted to focus on the offensive line at the start of free agency rather than replenish their undermanned defense for several reasons, the most important being that 29-year-old Stafford is in the prime of his career.

Also, they want to fix a running game that ranked 30th in the NFL last season, which is why they also signed blocking tight end Darren Fells to a one-year deal.


Here is a closer look at where the Lions are, how they got here and a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft, No. 21 overall.

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


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)


1. Linebacker: The Lions signed Paul Worrilow as a potential DeAndre Levy replacement, but still need an infusion of playmakers in the middle of their defense. For now, Worrilow, Tahir Whitehead and Antwione Williams are the projected starters at linebacker. While they also added Nick Bellore (49ers), it's possible the Lions use a first-round pick on an upgrade, and almost surely will draft a linebacker by the end of Day 2.

2. Wide receiver: Anquan Boldin is a free agent and could return at some point this spring, but the Lions need another pass catcher at a minimum as insurance for Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. For now, Keshawn Martin, Jace Billingsley and TJ Jones are Nos. 3-5 on the depth chart; that is not an inspiring trio.


3. Defensive end: Ziggy Ansah should be better after he struggled most of last season with a high ankle sprain, but the Lions don't have a clear-cut starter at left end. Cornelius Washington, Kerry Hyder, Armonty Bryant and Anthony Zettel also are on the roster, but Ansah is the only proven pass rusher of the bunch.



DE Armonty Bryant: UFA; $855K/1 yr, $40K SB.

LS Don Muhlbach: UFA; $1.08M/1 yr, $40K SB.

DT Khyri Thornton: Potential RFA; $3.3M/2 yrs, $325,000 guaranteed.


Nick Bellore: UFA 49ers; terms unknown.

TE Darren Fells: Not tendered as RFA by Cardinals; $1.5M/1 yr.

CB DJ Hayden: UFA Raiders; $3.75M/1 yr, $1M SB/$2.25M guaranteed.

DT Jordan Hill: UFA Jaguars; $855K/1 yr, $40K SB.

G T.J. Lang: UFA Packers; $28.5M/3 yrs, $8M SB/$19M guaranteed.

WR Keshawn Martin: FA; $855K/1 yr.

T Rick Wagner: UFA Ravens; $47.5M/5 yrs, $14.5M SB/$29.5M guaranteed, $3M injury only at time of signing.

DT Akeem Spence: UFA Buccaneers; $9M/3 yrs, $2.25M SB/$3.5M guaranteed.

DE Cornelius Washington: UFA Bears; $5.825M/2 yrs, $1.55M SB.

LB Paul Worrilow: UFA Falcons; $3M/1 yr, $750K SB/$2.75M guaranteed.


S Rafael Bush: UFA Saints; terms unknown.


DT Stefan Charles: UFA Jaguars; $4M/2 yrs, $400K guaranteed.

LB DeAndre Levy (released/post-June 1 designation).

T Riley Reiff: UFA Vikings; $58.75M/5 yrs, $11M SB/$26.3M guaranteed.

WR Andre Roberts: UFA Falcons; $1.8M/1 yr, $750K guaranteed.

DT Tyrunn Walker: UFA Rams; terms unknown.

G Larry Warford: UFA Saints; $34M/4 yrs, $8.4M SB/$17M guaranteed, $4.25M injury only at time of signing.

MOCK DRAFT analysts suggest (No. 21 overall)

Rob Rang:

Haason Reddick, OLB, Temple. The Lions addressed concerns along the offensive and defensive lines through free agency, but lost speed at linebacker with the decision to release DeAndre Levy. Reddick recorded 22.5 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks as an edge rusher for the Owls in 2016 before wowing first at the Senior Bowl as a more traditional linebacker and then at the Combine, recording a ridiculous 4.52 second time in the 40-yard dash and 11-foot-1-inch broad jump at 6-foot-1, 234 pounds.

Dane Brugler:

Jabrill Peppers, SS, Michigan. With Tavon Wilson and Glover Quin both in the final year of their contracts, the Lions could be in the market for an impact safety in this year's draft. Not without flaws, Peppers is a top-tier athlete with the potential to develop into a NFL defensive playmaker.


Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?

Based on the team's current status, those are our suggestions for that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see's full mocks and ratings.

--Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and, is in his sixth decade covering football and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. TSX team insiders contributed to this article.

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