The NFL teams that consistently draft well year over year have a terrific eye for talent while understanding how to mix best available player with filling some needs.
Trusting the draft board and selecting the best available player is always the best strategy. Teams want to come out of the draft with multiple players who add overall talent to the roster, while also filling some needs.
Lions general manager Brad Holmes did a terrific job of that in his first draft in 2021. Tackle Penei Sewell (first round), nose tackle Alim McNeill (third) and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (fourth) were impact players as rookies and have become core pieces for the organization moving forward. Holmes also got a lot of contributions from other rookie draft picks and undrafted free agents. With eight picks total and five in the Top 100 this year, Holmes will be on the lookout for more impact players in his second NFL Draft with the Lions.
Here's a look at Detroit's most pressing position needs with the draft just days away:
1. PASS RUSHER
Detroit's 30 sacks were the third fewest in the NFL a year ago, they had the second lowest pass-rush win rate, and their 124 quarterback pressures were more than only Indianapolis (120) and Atlanta (105).
But the Lions could certainly be in the market to snag one of the top pass rushers in this draft with the No. 2 overall pick.
With Harris, Romeo Okwara, Julian Okwara and Austin Bryant, adding a young, hungry and dynamic rusher at the top of this draft will go a long way into securing stability along the edge of the Lions front for years to come.
The Lions re-signed Tracy Walker to an extension this offseason, and the team also signed veteran safety DeShon Elliott, who is expected to compete for a starting spot next to Walker. Is Will Harris a safety or cornerback this season? Lions head coach Dan Campbell said the team hasn't determined that yet.
After Walker, Elliott and Harris, the Lions don't have a lot of experience between C.J. Moore, Jalen Elliott, Brady Breeze and JuJu Hughes at the position. Elliott is on a one-year deal, and he's had a history with injuries over his first few seasons in the league. What happens if Walker or Elliott gets hurt?
This is a talented and deep class of safeties in the draft. Picks No. 32 or 34 could be about the range to grab one of the top safeties in the class if Holmes' draft board falls that way. Or he could wait a little later and still benefit from a deep group of safeties.
Holmes did a lot of work on this unit this offseason, adding veterans Jarrad Davis and Chris Board, and re-signing Alex Anzalone, Shaun Dion Hamilton and Josh Woods, but just observing those collective careers so far, there isn't a Pro Bowl player in the group. Some good, veteran experience, but not a proven difference maker.
Derrick Barnes, a fourth-round pick in last year's draft, had a solid rookie season. The Lions will be looking for a big leap from him in his second season. If they get that, they'll be in a much better spot at the position.
This isn't a deep class of off-the-ball linebackers, so it will be interesting to see how Holmes values the need when looking at best available player. There are some impact players in this draft on Day 1 and Day 2 that could come in and immediately give the Lions a boost in athleticism and speed at the position.
4. WIDE RECEIVER
The Lions have some depth at receiver after signing DJ Chark in free agency and re-signing Josh Reynolds and Kalif Raymond. They join St. Brown and third-year receiver Quintez Cephus as Detroit's top five at the position heading into the offseason training program.
Lions wide receivers coach Antwaan Randle El was pretty clear when speaking to media members at the Senior Bowl this offseason he'd like to sign an impact player in free agency, but would also like to see the team draft one or two more receivers in the draft to really boost the competition.
This is a loaded class of receivers, which is consistent with the last few drafts. The Lions signed Chark to be their "X" receiver and vertical threat, but it's always nice to have a couple of those players. I could see the team look to add another big-bodied, speedy outside receiver who can stretch the field.
Jared Goff, 27, is the starter heading into 2022, and the Lions have a lot of confidence in him after the way he finished 2021, but this is a prove-it year for Goff's long-term future.
This isn't a great class of quarterbacks with Malik Willis (Liberty) and Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh) probably the consensus top two. The Lions coached Willis at the Senior Bowl. Campbell loves his skill set and potential, but it seems to me like Detroit is looking for more impact right away with the No. 2 pick. Maybe with picks 32 or 34 the Lions could have some interest in the position. Backup quarterbacks Tim Boyle and David Blough are young and talented, but they are winless (0-8 combined) as starters in this league.
Will the Lions choose to draft a young signal caller to work with under Goff? Could they wait a year with some elite signal callers expected to be in the 2023 class?