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Sunday, April 26, 2009
As predicted, the Lions still have holes to fill

By Kevin Seifert
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Whether it was the luck of the (value) board or a conscious decision, Detroit wasn't able to substantially upgrade its interior defense during this weekend's draft.

From a pure need perspective, upgrading at defensive tackle and middle linebacker might have been at the top of the Lions' list after finishing last in run defense among NFL teams in 2008. But the Lions didn't draft a single man who played one of those positions last year, instead choosing the highest-valued players on their board regardless of position.

Third-round pick DeAndre Levy will shift from outside linebacker to the middle, and fourth-rounder Sammie Lee Hill projects as a defensive tackle after playing on the end last year at Stillman College. But Levy's 236-pound frame hardly addresses the Lions' need to get bigger on their defensive front, and Hill figures to have a steep learning curve based on his level of competition in college.

"We stayed with our board," coach Jim Schwartz said. "You don't want to strictly draft on need just to take players your scouts don't have a good feel for or your coaches don't have a good feel for. You'd rather take somebody that you like. We still have opportunities to fill some holes."

General manager Martin Mayhew has spoken repeatedly about improving the size of the Lions' front-seven defensive players, but the Lions also made no immediate strides in that department over the weekend. Hill is 330 pounds, but Schwartz acknowledged it is "unrealistic" to assume he'll be ready to contribute right away.

"We went into the draft saying, 'Let's not go into the draft saying we have to help this position,'" Schwartz said. "What you do is go in and say, let's grade the talent, let's take the talent and let's fit them into our needs."

Levy, meanwhile, is now in the mix on a very thin depth chart at middle linebacker. Incumbent Paris Lenon remains an unsigned free agent, and 2008 second-round pick Jordon Dizon has been considered too small at 230 pounds to vie for the position.

Levy isn't much bigger than Dizon, but Schwartz said he fits the primary job description regardless.

"Watch him hit," Schwartz said, noting that Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis was 228 pounds when the Ravens drafted him.

Mayhew said last week the Lions would still have some holes after the draft. He was right.

That's it for now. I'm headed to the Detroit airport, and I hope we've hit all the appropriate angles during the inaugural week of draft coverage for the ESPN Blog Network. Check back Monday morning -- er, late Monday morning -- as we ramp up another week in the NFC North.