LIONS INSIDER

TWENTYMAN: 5 positions of need for Lions

Posted Mar 15, 2017

Tim Twentyman takes a post-free-agency look at the Lions' five biggest positions of need.

Free agency has a way of changing the needs for teams leading up to the draft.

This past week in Detroit is a perfect example of that. Offensive line was a position the Lions needed to upgrade this offseason either through free agency or the draft. Lions GM Bob Quinn made those upgrades in free agency by signing Rick Wagner and T.J. Lang. Now it looks to be a position of strength with good depth.

A week into free agency, at what positions do the Lions still need to improve?

1. Pass rusher

Detroit ranked 30th in sacks last season and their edge rushers accounted for just 18.5 sacks combined. An ankle injury nagged Ziggy Ansah all last season and was part of the problem, but still the Lions need more production from that group.

They signed veteran defensive end Cornelius Washington in free agency, and return their leading sacker last season, Kerry Hyder, but I don't believe they’re done adding to this group.

This draft class is loaded with pass rushers. NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock recently said this class is so loaded that players taken in the fourth round this year would be off the board in round two in other years. I expect the Lions to get themselves a pass rusher early in the draft, potentially at pick 21.

2. Linebacker

The team released DeAndre Levy at the start of free agency. Injuries zapped Levy’s production the last two seasons, and it was time for the team to move on.

Paul Worrilow, who was signed in free agency, was a former starter in Atlanta, and should compete for a starting role again in Detroit.

But as it stands right now, Worrilow, Tahir Whitehead and Antwione Williams are the only linebackers currently on Detroit's roster with any significant playing time.

It was a position that lacked playmaking ability last season, and still needs an infusion of talent and depth.

3. Receiver

The Lions are still thin at receiver behind Golden Tate and Marvin Jones Jr. ESPN's Jim Trotter reported Monday afternoon that Anquan Boldin, who led the Lions with eight touchdowns last season, will indeed return in 2017 for a 15th NFL season. Where that will be is yet to be determined.

Andre Roberts, who was Detroit’s primary kick return man and fourth receiver last year, signed with the Atlanta Falcons as a free agent.

Detroit signed Keshawn Martin in free agency. He could fill a role similar to Roberts’ last season. The team also has Jace Billingsley, Jared Abbrederis and TJ Jones in the mix, but they could certainly use another playmaker, preferably one with elite speed, to add to the position. The are lacking a true deep threat with speed at the position.

4. Running back

The Lions are much better upfront along their offensive line with the additions of Wagner and Lang. Their arrival, along with the signing of veteran blocking tight end Brandon Fells, should help the run game significantly.

Ameer Abdullah will no-doubt have a lot to prove after missing nearly all of last season with a foot injury. He was playing well, and the Lions run game was thriving, before the injury. The Lions could look to add another runner, probably a bigger back, to pair with Abdullah, Theo Riddick and Zach Zenner.

5. Cornerback

The signing of D.J. Hayden adds depth to the unit. He’s likely to compete for a starting spot with either Nevin Lawson on the outside or Quandre Diggs in the slot. Diggs wasn’t having the same kind of season he had as a rookie in the slot last year. The Lions could be on the lookout for even more competition there.

This is a very good draft for cornerbacks. Cornerbacks are kind of like pass rushers in that a team can never have enough good ones. It’s historically the most injured position on the field, so having great depth is a must.