The Detroit Lions football team had a disappointing season in 2015, to say the least. Losing is nothing new to this franchise in the modern NFL, however fans expected the team to at least be competitive the year after making the playoffs. However, similar to the Atlanta Falcons, the Lions never seem to keep it together for more than one year at a time. This is something that can be changed.
Yes, the Lions were the subject of some very bad calls this year. And, some poor coaching cost them games (the game ending hail mary play against Green Bay, among others). Finally, their schedule was one of the most difficult in the NFL this year.
Despite this, they could easily have made the playoffs if their poor second half play hadn’t doomed them. Several times their first half leads ended in ugly comeback losses. A lot of this can be blamed on the defensive side of things. They ranked 23rd overall, and did not turn any heads.
In addition, offensively, the other teams in the NFC North took a step forward this year. The Green Bay Packers have arguably the best QB in the league, and their offense is always a high-scoring machine until the last few weeks of the season. Jordy Nelson will be back next year. The Vikings have really stepped up their game, with Adrian Peterson and second year QB Teddy Bridgewater. The Bears won some games down the stretch, and had a few players on offense (Jeremy Langford, Kevin White) that can do some damage if developed.
In the upcoming draft, the Lions surely need some big playmakers on defense. The Lions have the 16th pick overall and should try to grab an elite corner and/or a defensive end. Their passing and running yards allowed (236.8 per game 15th and 112.8 19th) were not competitive. If the Lions get lucky, perhaps DeForest Buckner (Oregon) could be up for grabs. The guy has a massive frame who could overpower offensive linemen, or jump up to swat passes. If available, CB Desmond King out of Iowa could also make sense.
If the Lions decided to go in a different direction, looking for more offense, most mock drafts predict that Ezekiel Elliot, the running back out of Ohio State will be there at 16. Their running game was ranked dead last in 2015 and this pick could really make an explosive difference in 2016. If Calvin Johnson is not back next year, as has been hinted at, the Lions will need another playmaker on offense to pick up the slack. If they do get their back, they could potentially grab Josh Doctson out of TCU in the second round to complement him and keep their draft trending upwards.
Overall, the Lions are most likely better off drafting defense and grabbing high-value offensive players in free agency. Matt Forte and Ashlon Jeffery are possible free agent pick ups that would definitely boost their offense. After picking up some monster defensive picks in the first round, they could grab some offensive linemen in the later rounds to also bolster their running game, and try to develop the talent they have. This strategy could ensure their offense stays competitive and that their defense can put pressure on offensive powerhouses in their division, not to mention the Panthers, Cardinals, and Seahawks who also have high-powered offenses.