The Detroit Lions retooled their offensive line in free agency, but still have some work to do shoring up the other side of the football.
They added Akeem Spence and Cornelius Washington in free agency to help build their depth along the defensive line. They did the same at linebacker with Paul Worrilow and at cornerback with DJ Hayden.
But Detroit could still use more playmakers on defense. The Lions were outscored 116-57 during their four-game losing streak to end the season, and they didn't force a single turnover during that stretch. Their 26 sacks were the second lowest in the NFL last season.
View photos of players the Lions signed in 2017 free agency.
ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay projects that defensive help is on the way next month via the NFL Draft in his latest mock draft. He has the Lions picking Missouri defensive end Charles Harris at No. 21.
"A twitchy athlete off the edge, Harris is just scratching the surface as a pass-rusher," McShay wrote of Harris. "He led the SEC with 18.5 tackles for loss in 2015 and finished this past season on a tear (5.5 sacks, six quarterback hurries and a forced fumble in his final four games). Ezekiel Ansah can't be the only pass-rushing threat in Detroit."
Harris measured in at the NFL Scouting Combine at 6-foot-3 and 253 pounds, which is considerably lighter than the players Detroit typically employs up front on their edge. Those numbers have some analysts wondering if Harris is better suited to play 3-4 outside linebacker in the NFL than be a true 4-3 defensive end.
The talent evaluators will ultimately make that assessment, but there's no question the Lions still need to find a young playmaker opposite Ziggy Ansah.
McShay took part in a national conference call to coincide with the release of his latest mock draft, and touched on a couple other subjects that might interest Lions fans:
- This draft class is loaded at running back, and McShay thinks it could rival the 2008 class of runners that produced eventual Pro Bowlers in Jonathan Stewart, Chris Johnson, Matt Forte, Jamaal Charles and Ray Rice.
- "We've talked about how loaded this class is from top to bottom," McShay said. "And I really think it's got a chance to be as good a class at running back that we've seen since probably that 2008 group that had five first rounders. I think this group has a chance to be as good down the line when we look back on it." Along with the running back position, McShay thinks this is a very deep class at tight end, cornerback and safety. When it comes to the tight ends, he believes there's a chance three are drafted in the first round with five or six more coming off the board in Day 2.
- "I would say on the defensive side corner and safety are both really strong positions," he said. "You're talking about nine or 10 corners and another seven or eight safeties that could go in the first couple rounds of this draft. The secondary is really a position of strength."