With a new general manager in Brad Holmes and a new head coach Dan Campbell, the Detroit Lions hope that a new regime can help them exit the NFC North cellar and win their first playoff game since 1991.
There is talent on Detroit’s roster, but there’s obviously still plenty of work to be done before they can be considered a playoff threat.
Here are some of their biggest needs for the 2021 NFL draft:
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Kenny Golladay only played in five games in 2020, but when he’s been on the field, he’s been one of the best wide receivers in the NFC. Unfortunately for the Lions, he’s on track to hit free agency this offseason, and they don’t have much at the position outside of him. Their next two receivers on the depth chart, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola, both have expiring contracts. The former turns 31 in March, and the latter is already 35 years old. Whether the Lions are able to keep Golladay around going forward, they are in desperate need of a young receiver to help give their offense some spark.
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To former Lions GM Bob Quinn’s credit, he was aggressive in trying to fix the linebacker position. Unfortunately for Detroit, the moves he made were often the wrong ones. 2017 first-round pick Jarrad Davis has been a disappointment and is unlikely to be brought back with his rookie deal expiring this offseason. 2019 second-round pick Jahlani Tavai has also failed to live up to expectations through his first two seasons, and Jamie Collins alone is not enough to boost the Lions’ linebacker group into respectable territory. With a top-heavy linebacker class upcoming in the 2021 draft, they could look to target one with an early selection.
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The Lions have some talent along their defensive line. Trey Flowers is a quality pass-rusher whose impact was lessened in an injury-plagued season, and Romeo Okwara is one of the most underrated sack artists in the NFL. With the latter slated to hit free agency, though, he could prove to be too pricey for the Lions’ comfort. Even if Detroit keeps Okwara around in the long run, they still have a sizable hole at the defensive tackle position. The absence of Damon Harrison was apparent this year, as the Lions had the fifth-worst run defense in the league by yardage and allowed 27 touchdowns on the ground: the highest total in the NFL. Whether it be a replacement for Okwara or a run-stuffing tackle, expect the Lions to bolster their defensive line in some capacity in the 2021 draft.
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Matthew Stafford has put together one of the more underrated careers for an NFL quarterback in recent memory, but with him turning 33 years old in February and still offering plenty of trade value, the Lions could end up trading him and kicking off a true rebuild. Whether that move is the right one is up for debate, but with the consistent trade rumors over the past few years, it’s a possibility. Considering the Lions have the No. 7 overall pick, it’s not out of the question that a top quarterback prospect will be available when it’s their turn to pick. It’s far from a certainty they take a signal-caller in the first round, but doing so could give them some long-term hope that the team has lacked for some time.
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The Lions would be wise to remain patient with 2020 first-round pick Jeff Okudah. Though the No. 3 overall pick didn’t live up to expectations in his rookie year, he still offers plenty of upside and only turns 22 this February. Outside of him, Detroit’s cornerback position lacks a true direction. Desmond Trufant played in just six games this year, while pricy 2019 free-agent addition Justin Coleman only played in nine. Amani Oruwariye showed some promise in his second season, but the Lions could likely find an upgrade to him in the starting lineup. It might not be out of the question to see Detroit add another cornerback in the draft this year to help boost their secondary.