Lions can address glaring need at 5th in NFL draft
3:14 PM, Apr 22, 2013
By LARRY LAGE
AP Sports Writer
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) -- Martin Mayhew wasn't giving away any hints.
The general manager of the Detroit Lions Martin Mayhew coyly declined to discuss the franchise's needs and how they might affect who he chooses with the No. 5 pick in Thursday night's NFL draft.
"You can look at our roster and see places where we might add a player," Mayhew said.
The Lions clearly could use a lot of help at offensive tackle and defensive end, and can address one of those voids early in this NFL draft. Detroit's starters at those spots from last season are gone. Left tackle Jeff Backus retired and right tackle Gosder Cherilus left in free agency to join the Colts. Defensive end Cliff Avril signed with the Seahawks and his counterpart, Kyle Vanden Bosch, was released.
"Offensive lineman obviously are hard to come by, especially tackles," Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch said.
If Detroit adds a player to help protect its investment in quarterback Matthew Stafford and give him time to throw to star receiver Calvin Johnson, it might take Central Michigan's Eric Fisher or Oklahoma's Lane Johnson -- assuming Luke Joeckel of Texas A&M is off the board. Then again, all three could be gone by No. 5.
The Lions have spent a lot of time evaluating Fisher, who is from Rochester, about 30 miles north of team headquarters.
"Well, there's one thing I know about him -- he definitely would like to be here," Mayhew said. "I had an opportunity to spend some time with him and he's excited about the Detroit Lions and excited about the possibility of being able to stay home.
"From a talent standpoint, he's a very talented guy. I think he's come a long way from the beginning of last season in terms of his perceptions around the league."
If the Lions draft someone to play alongside defensive tackles Ndamukong Suh or Nick Fairley, they may choose BYU's Ziggy Ansah.
"The BYU defensive end is a heck of a player," said Tulloch, who said he's "always" on the Internet reading predraft stories.
While two starters are missing at offensive tackle and defensive end, Detroit might determine that 6-foot, 201-pound Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner is too good to pass up to play opposite Chris Houston, who was retained this offseason with a five-year deal.
"He's the elusive, big corner -- everybody's trying to find that guy," Mayhew said. "We've been here for years talking about these guys and trying to find a guy with some size and he certainly fits that mold."
The Lions attempted to address other needs this offseason, signing running back Reggie Bush because the once-speedy Jahvid Best doesn't look like he'll be coming back to play because of concussions; safety Glover Quin to start next to re-signed safety Louis Delmas; and defensive end Jason Jones to perhaps start in Avril's or Vanden Bosch's place.
Detroit added two kickers, veteran David Akers and Havard Rugland, a Norwegian sensation on the Internet, to compete to replace retired kicker Jason Hanson, who spent the last two decades as a Lion.
A year ago, the Lions were coming off their first postseason since 1999 and with the No. 23 pick, they drafted Iowa's Riley Reiff to be a rookie reserve. Mayhew said Reiff can play anything but center on the offensive line, giving him value to a team without three starters from last year.
"He can play a lot of different spots, which really helps us in terms of having some flexibility in this draft," Mayhew said.
The Lions flopped to 4-12 last year, closing the season with eight straight defeats to move back to their usual slot early in the draft.
After selecting for depth with Reiff and Fairley, who was taken No. 13 overall in 2011, Detroit desperately needs to land a starter to boost hopes of bouncing back.
Mayhew said there are six or seven top-quality players he projects will be available when Detroit goes fifth overall, and he doesn't expect the first-round selection to be on the bench this fall.
"You certainly expect to get a guy to come in and play a major role for you," he said.