With the 2012 season all but finished for the Detroit Lions, it's time for fans to utter that all too familiar, exciting winter refrain around the Motor City.
"Where will the Lions be selecting in the draft?"
Late last December, talk was about the playoffs and how the Lions could pull an upset against the heavily favored New Orleans Saints. National media outlets were tripping over each other lauding Jim Schwartz, Martin Mayhew and company for a rebuild well done. What a difference a year makes. Now, Detroit is simple road kill again, with coaching jobs in jeopardy and a team looking certain of doing enough losing the next two weeks to secure a top 10 pick next April
The second part of that equation is no big deal. In fact, this year, it might even be considered excellent. In 2013, the Lions will likely have their pick of several defensive difference makers due to a lousy 2012 and a draft which looks to be shaping up nicely at the top.
There will likely be the possibility of selecting Manti Te'o, Jarvis Jones or Barkevious Mingo, three players the Lions could slide in at linebacker which could give the next level of defense some much needed thump. This draft looks to be short on impact players in the secondary. If Dee Millner leaves Alabama, perhaps the Lions could deal down a bit to select him, shoring up a need at corner and picking up more picks in the process. There's not many glitzy skill position players looking to go early this spring, which will probably force Detroit's brass into making the right decision in the coming months. Te'o, with his heart, would be a particularly good choice.
In this aspect, the first round of the 2013 draft might not be unlike 2009's or 2010's from a Detroit perspective. Those years, the Lions faced obvious needs at quarterback and on the defensive line. Into their laps fell Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh. For all their problems and issues, Stafford and Suh have been responsible for the Lions brief turnaround and return to relevance. They're also two noticeable stars the Lions feature when before, their positions might have badly lacked that element. For his star players to be more successful, Mayhew needs to do a better job in free agency and in the draft's middle rounds to build the components of a team.
After what everyone hopes will be a simple one year hiccup from winning, one of the impact players mentioned above could quietly fill another void just as admirably and blossom into a super talent. For as good as Stephen Tulloch, Justin Durant and DeAndre Levy have looked at times, there's no doubt the Lions have needed their star at linebacker for a while. It just so happens that many might exist early next April.
Knowing that, the fan base should welcome whatever losing might come in the final two weeks of the season, however ugly or frustrating it may be. Once again, as an unintended consequence, it might accidentally set the Lions up with another major building block.
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