Lions likely looking for defense help with No. 2 pick
DETROIT (AP) — The Detroit Lions have been so bad in recent years, winning an average of four games since 2018, that they desperately need an influx of talent in many positions on both sides of the ball.
Help may be on the way.
The Lions enter the NFL Draft with the No. 2 pick, the final first-round berth and eight overall selections.
Detroit’s defense seems to need more than its offense, with problems on the line, at linebacker and in the secondary.
When the Lions have the ball, they have a chance to be at least OK with veteran quarterback Jared Goff surrounded by solid players on the line, tight end and running back.
What Detroit will do, however, with its first pick is a mystery after Jacksonville likely takes on former Michigan star Aidan Hutchinson.
Drafting an edge rusher, perhaps Georgia’s Travon Walker or Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux, would make sense and fill a void.
At least one former NFL general manager can argue that the Lions picked LSU cornerback Derek Stingley Jr. to bolster their defense.
And even though the offensive line is already the strength of the team, the Lions might want to strengthen it even more by taking Ikem Ekwonu from North Carolina State.
Sophomore general manager Brad Holmes, of course, wasn’t interested in shedding light on his thoughts before the draft kicked off Thursday night with the Jaguars first, followed by Detroit.
“It’s not just about sticking to your first two,” Holmes said Thursday.
“We’ve reduced it, and we’re sure where we are with how we’ve reduced it.”
Detroit averaged just 1.8 sacks last year, finishing ahead of only Atlanta. The lack of a passing rush led the Lions to give up 5.9 yards per play and 27.5 points per game, two other categories in which they ranked 31st of 32 NFL teams.
As much as Hutchinson would be a great fit on the court and in the community as a hometown guy and former Wolverine, the Jaguars will likely drop him from the roster. If the Lions want to improve their chances of affecting quarterbacks, Walker or Thibodeaux should be able to help them right away. Thibodeaux was a college teammate of offensive tackle Penei Sewell, whom Detroit drafted 7th overall last year.
Former Tampa Bay general manager and SiriusXM analyst Mark Dominik said if Hutchinson was unavailable, he would take LSU cornerback Stingley if he was in charge of Detroit’s draft. Dominik said while the Lions have invested heavily in the position, selecting former Ohio State star Jeff Okudah with the No. 3 overall pick in 2020.
“He’s tall, but quick and athletic with ball skills,” Dominik said of Stingley. “I don’t hate Jeff Okudah, but they are completely different guys.”
Okudah suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury last September after injuries limited him to nine games in his first year.
IN THE FRONT
Dominik said another direction Detroit could go, if Hutchinson isn’t available, is Ekwonu. The team would likely move him from tackle inside on a line that includes Sewell and Taylor Decker at tackle, and 2020 Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow.
“You could put (Ekwonu) on guard and he could have a gold jacket,” Dominik said, suggesting he could potentially become a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. “You could tackle him, and he’s still going to play 10 years.”
TAKE A FLYER
The Lions struggled to stretch the field in the passing game last season because wide receivers failed to separate, and throwing deep isn’t one of Goff’s strengths.
With the final first-round pick, which Detroit acquired from the Los Angeles Rams as part of the Matthew Stafford trade, the team could try to help one of its weaknesses. Drafting a wide receiver like George Pickens from Georgia or Christian Watson from North Dakota State is a possibility late in the first round or early in the second.
Holmes said he didn’t get many calls from teams asking what it would take to acquire the No. 2 pick overall.
“I think there’s an opportunity for a little more chatter and a little more dialogue could go up,” Holmes said. “But so far there hasn’t been much.”
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