The NFL off season is in full swing for 28 of the league’s 32 teams. Unsurprisingly at this juncture of the season, the Lions stand as one of those teams looking ahead to the 2017 season. For now second-year general manager Bob Quinn, who has publicly made is clear that free agency is a secondary priority, the ultimate task is winning in April at the NFL Draft. The Lions’ biggest needs are obvious: the defensive line, linebacking core, and secondary all need work in order for the team to win a division title in 2017. Yes, a division title. It’s time for Detroit to expect that from its football team. Here’s the breakdown:
HOMEGROWN D-LINEMAN CAN STEAL THE SHOW
Two of the big names that have circled the Lions in the latest NFL mock drafts are Michigan’s Taco Charlton and Michigan State’s Malik McDowell. Both would turn out to be quick fan favorites, but their talents will conclusively steal the show for the Lions. Charlton wreaked havoc all season long for the Wolverines, totaling 40 tackles and 10 sacks in his final season. McDowell, on the other hand, had a more difficult season for Michigan State; however, much of the shortcomings can be blamed on the Spartans’ lack of experienced talent on the defensive line, leaving opposing teams to line up in two or three offensive lineman on McDowell. He registered 34 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Mock drafts before the 2016 college football season had McDowell as a top 5 pick, so if he falls all the way to 21 the Lions may be getting a steal. Both players are expected to go in the late teens and early twenties of the first round, and both could bring an immediate impact on the defensive line.
DEFENSIVE BACKS CAN WIN THE LIONS GAMES IN 2017
Lions fans all witnessed it this year: a great corner back can win a big ball game. Just ask the 65,000 fans at Ford Field on Thanksgiving against the Vikings, when corner Darius Slay sealed the victory against the Minnesota Vikings with a huge interception. Or you can ask the 76,500 at the Mercedes Benz Super Dome that saw Drew Brees picked off three times en route to a Lions victory. If the Lions can add one more big time playmaker to the defensive backfield, they can be very formidable in 2017. All eyes should be on Marshon Lattimore, the Ohio State corner back with 41 tackles, 4 sacks, and 9 pass breakups in his final year for the Buckeyes. He could be a huge bargain at 21. Or you can look at Marlon Humphrey, the Alabama corner back with 34 tackles and 2 interceptions. Both could be big for the Lions.