Analyst Mike Mayock sees left tackle, corner and linebacker as Detroit's biggest needs

Posted Feb 15, 2012

The three biggest needs for the Lions come April's NFL Draft are left tackle, corner and linebacker, according to NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock.

Mayock prefaced those needs, though, by gushing about the Lions offense.

"Offensively, you can probably make the case they're not too dissimilar to the New Orleans Saints at the skill positions," he said in a conference call Wednesday. "Their quarterback is very good. The wide receivers they have match up with the New Orleans wide receivers. They have a tight end, actually two tight ends, maybe not one who's as good as Jimmy Graham, but they have a couple tight ends that can play.

"The running back situation is one where you'd say it's a little different than New Orleans, but hopefully with the return of injured players like Mikel Leshoure and Jahvid Best, that should be comparable also."

Mayock said the biggest need for the Lions on offense is left tackle and finding an eventual replacement for Jeff Backus, 34.

"(Jeff) Backus is older and you have to protect your quarterback," Mayock said. "I think if you're talking about offense, that's where you have to start."

The top two left tackle prospects – USC's Matt Kalil and Iowa's Riley Reiff – probably won't be available to the Lions at No. 23, according to Mayock, but he believes Stanford's Jonathan Martin could be there, and would be a terrific pick for the Lions.

"Jonathan Martin, to me, is a prototypical left tackle," he said. "He's gifted athletically and a lot of things I said about Kalil, you can say about (Martin). He needs to get a little bit stronger, but he can protect the quarterback."

Ohio State tackle Mike Adams was also cited by Mayock as a pick of good value for the Lions in the first round. Adams was suspended two different times by the Buckeyes for off-field issues, but is still climbing up draft boards.

"I spoke to his offensive line coach the other day and he really helped himself at the Senior Bowl and I think he will continue to help himself at the combine," Mayock said of Adams. "Most people had a second round grade on him but I think he's a logical guy for you to keep an eye on as we get closer to that 23rd pick."

Despite the talk about tackle, it's still about defense when it comes to the Lions and the draft, according to Mayock.

"I think what they have to do is get better on defense," he said. "I would be looking at corner and linebacker because you have to feel pretty good, especially if they sign Cliff Avril, about the front four.

"I think when you're talking about corner, (Morris) Claiborne (LSU) will probably be gone and I think Dre Kilpatrick from Alabama could be gone at that point. So, you're looking at Janoris Jenkins from North Alabama, one of the ultimate boom-or-bust guys in this draft."

Jenkins spent last season at Division II North Alabama after being kicked off Florida's team because of repeated brush-ins with the law and team rules violations. He is regarded by some to be the second-best cover corner in the class behind Claiborne.

"He has great ability but he's slid a little because of off-the-field (issues)," Mayock said of Jenkins.

At linebacker, Mayock liked Oklahoma's Ronnell Lewis as an outside linebacker who has a late first round, early second round grade, who could help the Lions.