Earlier moves won’t have huge impact on Lions’ draft

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Josh Katzenstein of The Detroit News ranks DeForest Buckner of Oregon as the best interior defensive lineman in the draft.

The Lions have signed three defensive tackles since March and added reinforcements to their group of wide receivers, cornerbacks and safeties.

But, don’t be surprised if general manager Bob Quinn addresses any of those positions again when the draft starts Thursday.

“Just because we signed a few guys in free agency, (that) would never preclude us from drafting a guy at that position in the draft,” he said.

Since the Lions hired him in January, Quinn has said he’ll look for the best players available in the draft, but won’t completely ignore need. The example he provided was that he wouldn’t draft a running back in the first round if the team already had a starting-caliber back.

Last week, Quinn said the goal is to mesh need and best player available approaches to “take the best player for the Lions.”

The “best player for the Lions” is obviously up for debate. Going into the offseason, though, defensive tackle looked like a pressing need as the unit underperformed significantly last season following the departure of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.

However, Quinn re-signed Haloti Ngata to a two-year deal and Tyrunn Walker to a one-year deal last month. Then, the Lions gave a one-year contract to Bills free agent Stefan Charles. With that trio, along with Caraun Reid, Gabe Wright and others, the Lions would seem to have their tackle rotation set for 2016.

If that is the case, the Lions would miss out on what many analysts have described as the best defensive tackle draft class in recent memory. But, with Quinn saying the Lions’ free-agency moves wouldn’t preclude them from adding to a position, there’s still a chance the team adds a long-term option at defensive tackle, especially with Walker, Ngata and Charles on short-term deals.

“You always consider the strength of the draft when you’re evaluating the free-agent market,” he said.