By Ashley Scoby
It doesn’t take a genius or a multimillion-dollar contract to figure out where the Lions’ biggest needs are heading into 2016.
During a 7-9 season – and even during the much-celebrated 6-2 finish to the year – the offensive line was terrible. Detroit accumulated fewer rushing yards (1,335) than any other team in the league in 2015, and the line had consistent trouble protecting Matthew Stafford (sacked 44 times).
So with the NFL draft on the horizon (April 28-30), the offensive line seems like a logical choice to bolster.
Decker started 28 games for the Buckeyes at left tackle, and was named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year for the 2015 season.
The Lions’ problems in the trenches weren’t limited to the offensive side, though. Detroit struggled to replace lost defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley during the 2015 campaign, and could use more depth in the middle. The team currently only has three defensive tackles under contract – Gabe Wright, Caraun Reid and Kerry Hyder (although Hyder was primarily a practice squad member).
Reed tallied 56 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and a sack for Alabama this year and is strongest against the run, which the Lions could use help with.
Outside of the trenches, the Lions’ needs will depend on whether Calvin Johnson officially decides to retire. Drafting a receiver will become a top necessity, should Johnson announce he’s done. Laquon Treadwell, from Mississippi, is largely considered the best wideout in the draft, although he could be off the board before the Lions are even on the clock.
Linebacker depth could also be addressed in the draft. The Lions and Stephen Tulloch could eventually part ways, and Tahir Whitehead is a free agent. ESPN’s Todd McShay, in his latest mock draft, predicted the Lions could select Alabama linebacker Reggie Ragland.
Ragland won SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors last season, after collecting 97 tackles (6.5 for loss) and six pass breakups for the national champions.