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10 QUESTIONS WITH TWENTYMAN: Will Lions be players in free agency?

From time to time during the offseason Tim Twentyman will answer 10 good questions from his Twitter account @ttwentyman in a feature we call "10 Questions with Twentyman."

20man: I can only speak to who I'd take, and the first thing I'd do is call the New York Giants at pick 23 and see if they'd like to move up. That way I'm guaranteed at least one of those players, and get some extra picks in the deal.

If I didn't have a trade partner, boy, that's a tough one. The Lions need pass rushers and playmakers on defense, which Charlton and Peppers both are.

But, a chance to improve Detroit's struggling run game, and have an one-two-three punch of Cook, Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick in the backfield is hard to pass up.

It will be interesting to see how all three perform in the pre-draft process.

20man: The Lions have a lot of needs they need to address. I only move up for Cook if I think he's Ezekiel Elliott, and there's a limit to how far I move up and what I give up, because of those other needs.

Elliott was a can't-miss prospect coming out of Ohio State after rushing for 3,699 yards (6.7 average) with 41 touchdowns his last two seasons in Columbus. He then went to the Combine and ran 4.47 at 6-foot and 225 pounds.

Cook's numbers his last two seasons at Florida State are pretty similar to Elliott's. He rushed for 3,456 yards (6.7 average) with 38 touchdowns on 45 fewer carries. He ran for 145 yards and a score against Michigan's top-ranked defense in the Orange Bowl.

If Cook goes to the Combine and runs a low 4.4 or 4.3 at 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds, the Lions might just have to move up if they want him.

20man: My Top 5 positions of needs are:

  1. Pass rusher – The Lions ranked 30th with just 26 sacks in 2015.
  1. Improving run game – This could be via the running back position or with continued upgrades to the offensive line. GM Bob Quinn will have to decide his course of action, but Detroit's run game was 30th this past season.
  1. Linebacker – No sacks, interceptions or forced fumbles from the position in 2016. Defense needs more impact and more playmakers at the position.
  1. Cornerback – When Darius Slay missed games due to injury, and when Quandre Diggs was lost for the season, Detroit's depth at the position was exposed. Nevin Lawson improved in 2015, but competition is a good thing.
  1. (tie) Receiver with speed – This offense could use a receiver with speed to help take the top off the defense. I'm talking one of those 4.3-second 40-yard dash blazers.
  1. (tie) Three-technique defensive tackle – Haloti Ngata isn't getting any younger.

20man: It sure does.

Just look at the Lions over the last eight seasons. Let's call it the Matthew Stafford era. When was their best season and best opportunity to win a playoff game and make a run? It was 2014. What was significant about 2014?

Well, in 2014, Detroit had a historically stout defense against the run (69.3), and ranked No. 2 overall on defense. They were 11-5 that year and had a good chance to beat Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.

It's for that reason I believe there will be a big focus on adding playmakers and improving that side of the ball this offseason in Detroit.

20man: I'm always hesitant about drafting cornerbacks in the first round. It always scares me. Too many don't pan out. They really have to stand out to me.

I believe the biggest need on defense is more playmakers along the front seven, so I'd be more apt to take the best defensive lineman or linebacker available. This is a good class for both groups, so I'd say best available on my board at DE, DT or LB.

20man: Well, Mr. K., they have the cap room to go and sign some help if they think it fits, but I'll remind you what Quinn said about free agency following the season:

"Yeah, I mean, I'm not opposed to free agency," he said. "I think you have to pick and choose your spots. Last year we did a few things in free agency, some of those guys worked out, some of the guys didn't.

"That's kind of how free agency goes, you're never going to bat 1,000 in free agency. Ideally, I think I said this year ago, that I believe in building the team through the draft and then you supplement through free agency. We've looked at a lot of the free agents, I've looked at a number of them myself. If we feel there's a good fit there we'll go ahead and do that."

That being said, there is some help available on the market that could fit. Last year, Quinn saw a need at receiver and went out and signed the best one available in Marvin Jones Jr.

Just a few names that jump out to me at positions of need are: DT Kawann Short (Carolina), OLB Melvin Ingram (Los Angeles), DE Calais Campbell (Arizona), CB A.J Bouye (Houston), G T.J. Lang (Green Bay) and T Ricky Wagner (Baltimore).

20man: I kind of use the Atlanta Falcons as the model here.

The Falcons were 19th in rushing in 2015 at 100.4 yards per game. That was with running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman on the roster.

The addition of veteran center Alex Mack last offseason solidified the Falcons offensive line and helped turned them into an elite unit. Atlanta was also the only team in the NFL who had all five starters play all 16 games.

So, a quality veteran addition, young guys getting better, along with great health and playing with the same running backs, helped Atlanta jump from 19th to fifth in rushing.

Quinn could decide the Lions need both a running back and a boost upfront to improve the running game, or just one or the other.

Who knows, maybe he looks at the first two games of the season, when both Abdullah and Riddick were healthy and the Lions run game was productive, and decides he only needs better depth.

It will be interesting to see which way the Lions decide to go, but it sure would be a change of pace for the Lions to have a consistent run game for the first time in the last 20 or so years.

20man: It's always a blend of both, though I think Quinn takes need into account more than former GM Martin Mayhew did.

The first two picks of the Quinn era in Detroit – Taylor Decker and A'Shawn Robinson – were both among the best players available and positions of need.

After that, Quinn looked to build depth and competition in areas of need like center, guard, safety and linebacker.

The fact that Detroit has a lot of different needs on either side of the ball will allow Quinn to continue to blend best player available and position of need. We'll have to wait until this is a deeper roster with less needs to see what the philosophy is then.

20man: I don't see that happening.

If anything, I could see them keeping all three and adding someone else to that mix. Quinn said after the season that he has a lot of confidence in Abdullah and Riddick, but in the same breath said he's always looking to upgrade and create the depth behind them.

Abdullah, Riddick, Zenner and maybe an addition via the draft would be a quality top four with good depth. I'd be more apt to hang on to that, given the injury history at the position.

20man: It's hard for me to really say without being in the meeting room or on the practice field to see how those interactions and progressions went, but it's certainly a valid question.

It's not like he didn't have opportunities here in Detroit. Yes, he was injured his first couple seasons, but in the seven games he started in Detroit in 2016 – fully healthy – he recorded 21 tackles, no sacks, one defended pass and no interceptions or forced fumbles.

He went to New England's No. 1 ranked defense, which means he had a better collection of talent around him, and made a few plays. He had 29 tackles, a sack, an interception and a forced fumble.

Sometimes players just fit into a different scheme better. They run a 3-4 over there in New England, and Van Noy was a sub-package player for the most part (two starts). Maybe what New England asked him to do better fit his skillset.

I just think it's a situation where he found a scheme and coaching staff that's a better fit. It happens all the time in this league with a lot of players.

I'm glad it worked out for Kyle. I always liked talking to him, and I'm glad he got a chance to play in the Super Bowl and win it.

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