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Groan. I know. It’s early in the season. It’s all well and good to start talking about draft prospects as the year wears on, but do we really need to start looking at needs this early? There are so many factors that go into team needs at draft time: Injuries, regression, progression, free agency, draft position, about a thousand other things.
And yet, it’s still fair to look at the team’s potential needs with the understanding that those needs may change between now and season’s end; and will almost definitely change during free agency as the team begins addressing needs and planning. The point of looking at draft needs now is not to predict, but to prepare by looking at potential needs and speculating what the team might do to address those needs.
This position is a very polarizing one. Some fans are completely sold on the sudden emergence of journeyman George Johnson, the assumed progression of Devin Taylor, the expected development of Larry Webster, or for some reason the play of Jason Jones. To put this a different way, if you can talk about Johnson, Taylor, Webster, and Jones without using multiple question marks then it isn’t a clear need.
In this case, is George Johnson’s surprising play simply finding a niche, or a fluke? Is Devin Taylor improved enough to take over as a full time starter? Will Larry Webster improve enough to start in year two? Will Jason Jones stay healthy, and if so can he play at a high level? None of those questions have clear, obvious answers and what we’re left with is a need to fill a hole opposite 2013 first round pick Ziggy Ansah.
Free agency is unlikely for the Lions at this position as free agent defensive ends tend to cost a lot of coin. One of the most notable, affordable options is former Lions starter Cliff Avril, who has played about where his present contract has him and likely wouldn’t command much more. Oft injured Buccaneer Adrian Clayborn is another option with some level of risk. George Selvie of the Cowboys is an option for a questionable fill in, but might be a poor option at starter.
Outside of that, the Lions would be looking at the draft to fill this line position. The edge rusher prospects in this draft are largely underwhelming so far, but there’s always the chance someone impresses late or slips to the 2nd round. A closed end like Charles Tapper could fill a need at closed end opposite Ziggy Ansah.