Free agency is where you supplement your draft picks and build a team. The draft is where you build your foundation and build depth. Luckily, the Lions didn't go crazy with free agency last year. Morris, Heller were nice additions but the others didn't shine as much as the rookies. I don't count in season waiver players and free agents for these purposes. I still would like to see the Lions be aggressive in free agency but we need to win more to get the quality players. I think some positions are best built in free agency. I don't want to see a spending spree but we need to sign people to speed up the rebuilding process.
We should target Cornerbacks, Running Backs, and Defensive Ends in free agency this year. Honestly, we could still go best available this year. Any depth or starter we could get would actually be helpful. We need to keep in mind the cap and we need to build with youth to make this project long term and that most of these free agents won't produce for more than a year or two. We need running backs (Reggie Bush wouldn't be too bad, as he could help our return game as well we would need to overpay a bust though) and corners and sometimes you can get a quick fix through free agency until we can draft somebody. We need pass rush bad as well you can find defensive ends on the market as well. We will probably have to sign a backup QB as well, and I don't want to to draft one at this point. Just sign a veteran or two and hope Stafford can stay healthy.
Last year the Lions went with more of a best available approach and this year they will go more into a biggest needs style of drafting. Suh is the obvious best player in the draft but St Louis might take him. It is a very long time until April and injuries, arrests, failed drug tests, awesome combines and Senior Bowls have to take place. Suh can bust as well, as can anybody. Remember when Robert Gallery was the best tackle prospect in a decade? Now he is a guard for the Raiders. You have to pick well here, as this draft is the most important for Mayhew and Schwartz.
First Round: With the second pick overall Detroit needs to take one of three players. Ideally I want Suh. He is a can't miss prospect and an absolute beast. He can get into the backfield and cause havoc all game. If St Louis takes him, we can go one of two directions. 1) Draft Gerald McCoy, a very talented DT from Oklahoma or 2) Russel Okung the monster left tackle out of Oklahoma State. I would be ok with either. Our defense is worse than our offense, but we need to protect Stafford. Both players will probably be very good pros. I would personally take McCoy.
Second Round: This pick is more flexible for the Lions. If Okung is taken, you almost have to go DT. There are a lot of very good players at DT this year and even if McCoy is taken, it could be smart to take another DT to help make an dominant defensive line. Other options are offensive line, wide receiver (Golden Tate or Arrelious Benn would be nice) or even running back. If you really like a corner here, take him. Any other pick wouldn't really make sense.
Third Round: This is where if you really like someone, regardless of what they play, you take them. Almost any pick makes sense here. Hopefully Detroit sticks with the OL/DL/CB trend.
Fourth-Seventh Round: You try and find hidden gems or depth players here. You can still find starting talent at this level, but its tougher. Special teamers can be found here too.
If you take Okung, then Backus will probably be moved to LG, not cut. The cap hit wouldn't be worth it because he may be a solid LG and we sure don't have one right now. Cherilus may be moved inside too if a suitable RT can be found. Having good offensive and defensive lines can cover up a lot of other problems and help your best players flourish.
That should make the Lions a 5-8 win team. They would need a little luck and have Stafford take a big jump for them to be good. If Schwartz sticks to his philosophy and drafts well again along with Mayhew, this could turn around quicker than we thought.