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2015 NFL Draft Primer: Detroit Lions

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Team needs: Offensive line, Defensive tackle, Running back, Wide receiver and Cornerback.

Lions’ Selections

Round 1 – 23rd overall

Round 2 – 54th overall

Round 3 – 88th overall

Round 6 – 200th overall

Round 7 – 231st overall

Round 7 – 240th overall

Good fits early:

T.J. Clemmings: Offensive line was a major problem in the ‘Motor City’ this past season. Quarterback Matthew Stafford was sacked 45 times, which tied for 4th most in the league. While Detroit could go in different directions at pick No. 23, the best value pick that would also address a major need would be Pittsburgh’s T.J. Clemmings.

Clemmings is an unique athlete. He was the number one rated defensive end in New Jersey out of high school, according to Scout. He also played basketball in high school.

As you could expect, Clemmings is very athletic and has tremendous foot work. His ability to run out and get ahead of the running back is special.

However, Clemmings made the switch to offensive line after his sophomore season, so he’s still very raw, but there’s no denying the talent he possesses.

Todd Gurley: Balance is something Detroit hasn’t seen on offense in years. During the past two seasons, Stafford has ranked in the top five in pass attempts. Stafford led the NFL in pass attempts in 2011 and 2012, and this past season he ranked fifth with 602 balls thrown.

Those daunting numbers is why Detroit should strongly consider Todd Gurley with their first round pick. Gurley would bring a rare combination of speed and strength to Detroit. The downer with Gurley is that he’s injury prone. He missed three games in 2013 due to an ankle injury and he tore his ACL this past season.

Detroit’s leading rusher was Joique Bell, who only averaged 3.9 yards per carry. Gurley just may be worth the risk.

P.J. Williams: From one risky guy to another. Former Seminole P.J. Williams was arrested last week for a DUI. Most mock drafts had Williams going in the late 1st round to early second round, but this latest arrest may affect his stock, which could turn out to be a good thing for Detroit.

If Williams is available at No. 54, the Lions should pounce. The numbers may suggest Detroit’s secondary was solid in 2014, but those numbers are skewed to say the least. Ndamukong Suh is no longer there to harass opposing quarterbacks, which puts more pressure on Detroit’s secondary to cover for longer periods of times.

Williams possess the desired speed, height and swagger to play cornerback at the next level. He’s a bump-and-run specialist that’s also able to run toe to toe with speedy receivers down the field.

With the losses to Suh and Nick Fairley, its definitely logical to believe Detroit could go defensive tackle with one of their early picks. Look out for Henry Anderson, who is a guy that can play in the middle or at the defensive end spot. He’s listed at 6-foot-6, 295 pounds, but he can also beat you with his speed on the edge.

Don’t be surprised if the Lions go outside the box and take advantage of the depth of this wide receiver class and take a receiver early on, despite having Megatron and Golden Tate.

Potential late-round targets:

Cedric Reed: Replacing the grit and toughness in which Suh played with won’t be easy to replace, but going with Cedric Reed in the middle rounds is a step in the right direction. The former Texas Longhorn stands at 6-foot-5, 272 pounds. Size like that is just simply hard to ignore.

Reed will have to become stronger at the point of attack, but he’s a guy that takes this game very seriously. Effort will never be a problem here.

Kenny Bell: Detroit is still trying to figure out ways to take some pressure off Calvin Johnson. Golden Tate had a monster year, snatching 99 balls for over 1,300 yards.

The down side is after Johnson and Tate, their next three leading receivers were running backs (Bush, Riddick and Bell). Nebraska product Kenny Bell could be a steal in this year’s draft.

Bell wowed scouts at the combine, posing a 4.42 40-time, 41.5 vertical jump and 129 inch broad jump. This young man has a knack for making the highlight catch and he’s someone who could stretch the field for Stafford.

Shaquille Mason: The Lions parted ways with veteran center Dominic Raiola back in January. So, in order to restore some quality depth at that position, expect for Detroit to take a hard look at Shaquille Mason from Georgia Tech.

Mason is aggressive off the snap, which allows him to use his size and leverage. His technique with his hands could see some more polishing up, but you can say that for nearly any rookie offensive linemen.

Talent has never been an issue in Detroit. Its rather a matter of can they stay discipline and execute down the stretch of close games. As the years go by, the pressure on Stafford continues to rise, which is why if they’re able to gain some balance with the running game, Stafford would look ten times better.

After an 11-5 season, in which they made the playoffs. The question will always remain, when will Detroit take that next step forward?


About Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.