Friday Focus: How will Detroit's free agent acquisitions affect the draft?

Posted Mar 15, 2013

With a speed back, top corner, safety and pass rusher secured, will the Lions change direction when it comes to the draft?

Free-agent fallout: what Chris Houston expects Reggie Bush to do for the Lions, how this week's free-agent signings should affect the Lions' draft plans, comparing Bush to Jahvid Best, and a last look at Cliff Avril's contract:

Houston – "offenses, you'll have a problem": Chris Houston has firsthand knowledge of what it's like to play against Reggie Bush. In college at Arkansas, Houston faced Bush when he was a college star carrying the ball for Southern Cal, and they met again in the NFL when they were in the same division – Houston with Atlanta, Bush in New Orleans.

Adding Bush to a Lions offense that already features Calvin Johnson will put more pressure on defenses to prevent big plays. After his press conference Thursday, Houston talked about the matchup problems Houston can create.

"With Reggie Bush split out, one-on-one against a cornerback, one-on-one against a linebacker, it changes everything," Houston said. "If he's one-on-one with the safety, he's going to beat the safety. If he's one-on-one with the linebacker, he's going to beat the linebacker.

"If you throw him the ball on a little slant, he can take it to the house. Like Percy Harvin."

Houston smiled when he said Harvin's name. Harvin left Minnesota to sign with Seattle as a free agent, leaving Houston one less playmaker to worry about in the NFC North.
Bush vs. Best: Comparisons have been made between Bush and Jahvid Best since Bush signed as a free agent on Wednesday. Bush can give the Lions the breakaway playmaker that Best provided in 2010 and again in 2011 before he sustained a concussion in Game 6 against the 49ers. Best has not played since, and his career is likely over.

Reggie BushObviously, Bush's career as a Heisman Trophy winner at Southern Cal was similar to what Best achieved at Cal, but their workouts going into their respective draft years were pretty similar.

Following are the workout results from the archives of NFLDraftScout, which is a respected site for draft information but not considered the bible by NFL personnel people:

Bush: 5-10-7, 201 pounds; 4.37 in the 40-yard dash; 24 reps of 225 pounds; 40.5-inch vertical jump; 10-8 standing broad jump. Bush was ranked the No. 1 running back and the No. 1 prospect overall. He was drafted second overall by the Saints after he and the Texans could not agree to terms on a contract before draft day.

Best: 5-10-1, 199 pounds; 4.34 in the 40 with a low time of 4.28; 18 reps of 225 pounds; 32.5-inch vertical jump; 9-5 standing broad jump. Best was ranked the No. 3 running back and the 39th prospect. The Lions drafted him 30th overall in a pick they got in a trade with the Vikings.

Feeling the draft: The free agent signings – new additions, and the players they kept – should add clarity to the Lions' draft plans.

GM Martin Mayhew said at the combine that the Lions need their draft picks to play. That doesn't mean that the picks in every round have to start. That's never going to happen. But the top picks have to come in and play, and free agency has put the Lions in position to take players who can do that.

In this year's talent pool, offensive tackle, pass-rusher and cornerback – one cornerback, Dee Milliner of Alabama – occupy the top five spots.

My pick would be a pass-rusher – Dion Jordan of Oregon, or Barkevious Mingo of LSU, who might be rising to the top as the best outside rusher in the draft.

Cliff Avril: After turning down the Lions' offer of a three-year, $30-million contract to take a shot at free-agency this year, Avril came up short – but not as much as some seem to think.

Avril played last season for the Lions on the franchise tag that paid him $10.6 million. He signed a two-year deal with Seattle Thursday that will pay him $15 million.

The net result is that Avril gets $25.6 million over three years instead of $30 million. That's $4.4 million less than he would have gotten had he taken what was offered last year. That's a big chunk of dough, but it's not like he's going broke.