Before jumping into an analysis of the Lions’ #2 pick, it’s worth noting that as we make our way through the first round of the draft, we’ll get better and more reliable information closer to the draft date. Each team’s report should be considered in terms of when it was written and the information available at that point — and of course, as more information is revealed, we’ll do our best to update or append the earlier reports.
The reason this is on my mind is that just a few days ago when Doc wrote the draft report on the Rams, the best and most reliable NFL sources were saying that while St. Louis might be tempted by Bradford or Clausen, they were likely to still take Suh or Gerald McCoy as they were considered the best overall players available. On Thursday, however, ESPN’s Adam Schefter told a St. Louis radio station that he considers it a lock that the Rams will take Sam Bradford #1 overall. It’s still pretty early, so things can change, but Schefter has been an excellent source and not one to spread unfounded rumors.
Now, this might not seem like it would change the Lions’ draft plan, but I think it’s important for one reason — if the Lions consider either Suh or McCoy to be vastly superior, and the Rams had taken the DT the Lions coveted most, Detroit may have been tempted to trade down. If the Rams really are set on taking Bradford, then the Lions are free to take whichever DT they want most…or, if they consider them essentially equal, they may try to swap picks with the Bucs (at #3) and pick up an extra late round draft pick in the process.
As we saw last year, Matt Stafford, when healthy (and occasionally not), is capable of running the offense. Too often, though, they couldn’t keep pace with opposing teams because of the defense. As with most of the defenses at the bottom of the team defense rankings, there aren’t a lot of positions that couldn’t use an upgrade, but a dominant defensive lineman like Suh or McCoy can immediately make things easier on the linebackers and secondary.
If the Lions do take a defensive player in the 1st round, clearly there won’t be a huge fantasy impact. The biggest fantasy consequence of an improved defense may be more opportunities for the offensive unit, assuming the defense is more successful in getting off the field. Of course, with the number of easy touchdowns the defense gave up last year, anything other than a dramatic improvement may actually result in more prolonged drives for opposing offenses instead of quick-strike big plays. More important for fantasy purposes will be a healthy and more experienced Matt Stafford, and the opportunity to bolster the running back corps through free agency and the later rounds of the draft.