Is Left Tackle or Edge Pass Rusher the More Critical Detroit Lions Draft Need?

Andrew Garda@andrew_gardaFeatured ColumnistApril 1, 2013

The NFL Draft is less than a month away, the bulk of free agency is done and we can now start to hone in on who each team will be looking for at what pick.

I've seen some pretty big splits between various Lions fans about what to do with the fifth pick, so in order to settle this once and for all (without blood) we are going to vote on this.

There will either be a win for "Team Left Tackle" or "Team Edge Rusher" but someone here will leave unhappy—or less satisfied because let's face it, either way to go is a reasonable one.

I'll state my case for both positions and then you guys can vote, then tell each other how wrong the other side is in the comments.

I'll give you my pick as well, so you know where I stand.

For the purposes of this, assume 1) that both a left tackle and an edge rusher are there at No. 5 and 2) they (and we) feel that cornerback has been addressed enough this off-season.

Also that the team won't do something insane like draft a wide receiver or running back.


The Case for Left Tackle

I was actually OK with this line at the end of the season. It had issues, which contributed to a season for Matt Stafford where he never looked right. That said, they played well, overall.

Then Jeff Backus retired and Gosder Cherilus left and things got a tad less stable.

Backus was on his last legs but had at least one more year in him, while Cherilus was a very solid right tackle who conceivably could have moved to left if they wanted him to.

To lose both at once is a blow which makes this a very critical need as the depth—as well as both guards—don't lend a lot of confidence.

There is the argument that after taking Riley Reiff at 23rd overall just last year with the idea he could be a left tackle, they wouldn't (and shouldn't) spend another first rounder on a left tackle.

Consider a few things though. First, many tackles taken in the late first end up as right tackles. The feeling was Reiff could play left but it's no condemnation of the pick if he doesn't.

Second, both Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher are much better prospects than Reiff. That's not a slight on Reiff—they're just more talented.

Also, consider that If either Joeckel or Fisher is available and the Lions take him, you have both tackle spots covered.

Even with a new running back in Reggie Bush, this is a pass-first team. As long as Calvin Johnson and Matt Stafford are there, it will remain so.

In order to be competitive then, you're quarterback has to remain upright.

The Lions have to fill two very big holes on the offensive line. You only get a shot at a legitimate, foundation left tackle early in the draft. If they wait  until the second, the best they can do is score a right tackle.

Meanwhile there is a lot of depth with the edge rushers and plenty of both outside linebackers and defensive ends in the early second round.

Left tackle is too critical to wait on and if Joeckel/Fisher (and maybe even Lane Johnson) are there, that's the need they have to fill first.


The Case for Edge Pass Rusher

While their overall ranking wasn't bad (14th vs pass and 14th in yards per game allowed) it wasn't all that good either.

The defense allowed the 6th most points in the league and were ranked a mediocre (on a good day) 20th in sacks. Quarterbacks completed an average of 63% of their pass attempts against this defense as well.

Sure, some of that is on the secondary, but as the Green Bay Packers will tell you, no pass consistent pass rush equals big yards.

Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley did a great job rushing the passer, but aside from the departed Cliff Avril, nobody else did.

Having sacks generated by defensive tackles should be the gravy, not the meat. If they're generating pressure inside there is almost no excuse for the outside pass rushers to be as unsuccessful as the Lions were last season.

Yes, the offensive line is a need since Cherilus and Backus will be gone, but the franchise did draft Riley Reiff to be a left tackle—it's time to have him step over.

I know people make a lot about his short arms, but they were never as short as advertised and beyond that, it hasn't effected his game.

Fisher and Joeckel are tremendous prospects, but are they once in a lifetime, can't miss tackles?

The Lions need a pass rusher and while, yes, there are many who could fall into the second round (or later), but the difference from a guy like Dion Jordan to an end like Damontre Moore.

The Lions should lock down someone who can generate sacks and pressure to help the secondary out by not letting the quarterback have all day to throw the ball.


My thoughts:

If I had all choices, I'd take Sifher or Joeckel. As much as I believe guys like Jordan are special, I love the talent depth at both outside linebacker and defensive end a ton.

Grab a tackle and then pick from Tank Carradine, Alex Okafor, Arthur Brown, and potentially even Alex Ogletree. And that's just a selection—there are more choices.

As much as I like guys such as Kyle Long, Menelik Watson and Terron Armstead, the drop to them from Fisher, Johnson and Joeckel is much more steep.

What do you think? Vote and sound off in the comments section.


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