The NFL teams that consistently draft well year over year have a terrific understanding of how to mix best available player while also filling some needs. Teams sometimes get into trouble when they look only to draft for need, while passing up a potentially better prospect in the process.
Trusting the draft board and selecting the best available player is usually the best strategy. Teams want to come out of the draft filling some needs, but blending best talent and need is somewhat of a science the good teams always seem to master.
Here's a look at Detroit's most pressing position needs after free agency and with the draft just days away:
1. WIDE RECEIVER
The Lions lost their top two wide receivers, Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones Jr., in free agency. They signed Tyrell Williams, Breshad Perriman, Kalif Raymond and Damion Ratley in free agency, but all those signings were one-year deals. There's still a long-term need at the position. Detroit also returns Quintez Cephus, Tom Kennedy, Victor Bolden and Geronimo Allison, but only Cephus caught a pass in a game last season among that group.
The Lions could certainly stand to add a young receiver to the group and give quarterback Jared Goff an explosive youngster to grow with in Anthony Lynn's new offense. The good thing for Detroit and all receiver-needy teams is this is a terrific receiver class in the draft this year. If the Lions opt to select one at No. 7, they could potentially choose from Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith. Those three are at the top of the class.
If the Lions opt to address the position on Day 2 and beyond, they'll still have a ton of terrific options. The Athletic's Dane Brugler has a first or second-round grades on 12 receivers in this class. Some names that could interest the Lions on Day 2 include: Rashod Bateman, Elijah Moore, Terrace Marshall Jr., Rondale Moore, Amari Rodgers, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tylan Wallace and others.
Don't be surprised if the Lions add a couple receivers from this stacked class.
Detroit still has some work to do bolstering their talent level and depth at linebacker.
This offseason the Lions restructured the contract of Jamie Collins Sr., whose versatility allows him to play a numbers of spots, signed free agent Alex Anzalone from New Orleans, and re-signed Jalen Reeves-Maybin. The group also returns Jahlani Tavai and Anthony Pittman.
This was one of the more underperforming units on Detroit's defense last season, so it could use an injection of talent and athleticism.
Penn State's Micah Parsons and Notre Dame's Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah are the top linebackers in the class. Parsons and Owusu-Koramoah could be in the mix at No. 7, and certainly in the mix if the Lions move back a few spots in a trade.
This is a pretty strong class of linebackers with players like Zaven Collins, Jamin Davis, Nick Bolton and Jabril Cox potentially being nice options early on Day 2. NFL media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said in a recent conference call that this year's class of off-the-ball linebackers is so deep that teams will be able to select one in the third and fourth rounds that is able to come in and be an immediate contributor.
3. DEFENSIVE TACKLE
The trade for veteran Michael Brockers was one of the more underrated transactions Lions general manager Brad Holmes made this offseason. Brockers is a terrific leader with plenty left in the tank on the field. He's expected to team up with second-year tackle John Penisini inside. Penisini had a solid rookie season.
Nick Williams, who had just 23 tackles and one sack in 13 starts last year, took a pay cut this offseason to return to Detroit. Da'Shawn Hand, Kevin Strong and John Atkins (opted out of 2020) are rotational pieces coming back. Seventh-round pick last year, Jashon Cornell, also returns after suffering an Achilles injury in camp last season. But there's definitely room to add some young talent.
This isn't a great draft for defensive linemen, but there are players like Christian Barmore, Levi Onwuzurike, Milton Williams, Marlon Tuipulotu and Jay Tufele who could help teams late in Day 1 or into Day 2.
4. OFFENSIVE TACKLE
Lions head coach Dan Campbell said veteran Halapoulivaati Vaitai will likely shift over to right guard, which means the one starting spot expected to be open at the start of camp is right tackle.
Tyrell Crosby and Matt Nelson are good internal candidates to fill the role, and the Lions also have veteran Dan Skipper on the roster, but this is a very strong class of tackles.
There are 15 tackles in this draft with at least a third-round grade, via The Athletic, so the Lions will have no trouble finding one on Day 1, Day 2 or even into Day 3. Oregon's Penei Sewell and Northwestern's Rashawn Slater are the clear top two tackles in the class and potential candidates for the Lions to select at the top of the first round.
The Lions added veteran cornerbacks Corn Elder and Quinton Dunbar and safety Dean Marlowe in free agency this offseason. Those moves give the Lions a nice mix of experience to go with some talented youth at cornerback with Jeff Okudah and Amani Oruwariye and safety with Tracy Walker and Will Harris.
Still, Elder, Dunbar and Marlowe are on one-year deals, and Walker is entering a contract year, which means there's still room to add some long-term rookie talent to the mix. This is a nice class of corners and safeties, which means Holmes will have options to add youth and competition to Detroit's secondary in this draft.