Monday, September 17, 2018

Game 2, 2018, Detroit Lions @ San Francisco 49ers

Slightly better.

The now 0-2 Detroit Lions lost to the 1-1 San Francisco 49ers 27-30 proving that they were slightly better prepared to play a football game but still are not completely ready. Winning in the NFL takes a true team effort. One that the Lions are not yet ready to yield as of yet.

Matthew Stafford was 34 of 53 (64.15%) for 347 yards 3 touchdowns and no interceptions. A marked improvement from last week. Yet the Lions defense gave up 18 completions on 26 attempts (69.23%) for 206 yards and 2 touchdowns and no interceptions. The defense also gave up 190 yards rushing to the Lions offense of 98 yards rushing (8 yards from Stafford).

Every aspect of the offense, and the defense, suggests they were slightly better. Even special teams, slightly better.

There is nothing that I can type or report that can denote a marked improvement, nor is there anything that I can point to that can mark a material difference... yet at the same time... there is no one factor that shows a regression or a worse factor then what happened last week.

No, the Lions improved, but at the same time, they were only slightly better.

At this rate, they might win against head coaches previous team (the Patriots) next week, but I wouldn't hold my breath if I were you. In fact, until week 5 I wouldn't place any bets on the Lions as they are only now into week 3 of preseason, despite it being week 2 of the regular season.

So no, in my opinion, the Lions have improved, yet they are only slightly better then last week, and no where's near as good as they should be at this point in the year.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Week 1, 2018 - Detroit Lions vs New York Jets @ Home

Not ready at all.

The (now 0-1) Detroit Lions played Monday Night Football at home against the visiting (now 1-0) New York Jets and were soundly beaten 17-48. They were beaten in all aspects of the game and it was readily apparent they were not in the least bit ready at all.

I normally post blog entries after every pre-season game, but this year all the games were used for player evaluation and not for implementing game specific plays, so I didn't bother. I did go to Detroit from the 28th of July to the 1st of August to watch three open practices, and I did update my estimated depth chart as usual, but I didn't have the time or inclination to blog about the preseason games. Now I find it's week 1 of the 2018 season and I wish I didn't have to blog about this game either.

Matthew Stafford was 27 of 46 (58.696%) for 286 yards and one touchdown but also with 4 interceptions. This is horrible. Considering the core of his offense is back from last year along with the coordinator; but with new OL, RB, and QB coaches... who knows what went wrong here... but it is completely safe to say that Stafford was not ready at all to play week 1. (Not to mention the pain he was in due to the OL also not being ready at all to play).

Meanwhile the opposing QB, one Mr Darnold - the youngest QB to start ever in week 1 - was 16 of 21 (76.19%) for 198 yards 2 TDs and only 1 INT (the very first play of his career). Only 4 missed passes in a game as a rookie in his first ever game... inexcusable. The Jet were ready to play... the Lions... were not even close to ready to play.

The Lions had only 15 attempted runs for 39 yards, while the defense allowed 36 attempts for 169 yards and 2 TDs. Stop me if any of this sounds familiar.

Special Teams was also not ready... allowing 239 return yards to the Lions 37 yards. Then there were the 2 missed field goals for the Lions (none for the Jets)... and I didn't even go into the missed tackles, the drops (some in the endzone), or Cassels interception.

The Lions came out of pre-season pretty healthy and completely unprepared for the season. There were no aspects of their game that appeared to be ready to play. Golladay and Diggs did a few good things, and the rest of the team was in week one of preseason (readiness wise).

Blame whoever you want for the loss, me... I blame the coaching staff for not having the team ready to play, at all.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

2018 NFL Draft - Detroit Lions - Rounds 4 through 7+

DE/DT Da'Shawn Hand
OT/OG Tyrell Crosby
FB/QB Nick Bawden

Day 3, the final day, of the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books (fyi: that means finished). The Detroit Lions finally answered the question on how they were going to address the defensive line when only having picks in rounds 5 and 7 remaining. They didn't. Address the defensive line that is, with those picks, just like they didn't with the picks from the first two days. Maybe the whole issue with the DL in 2017 was the coaching after all? Maybe they plan to address it in 2019 instead? Ah, but see, they did, sort of. Yesterday they traded their 4th round pick to the Patriots to move up in round two in order to select RB Kerryon Johnson. So today, surprise (not really, I said they might both in my blog post last night and in the chat room in my forum today) they traded their 2019 third round pick in order to get back into the 4th round and then drafted DE/DT Da'Shawn Hand. Get this, they traded with the Patriots. So now you can say the Lions traded their 2019 third round pick to move up in the 2nd round of the 2018 draft, and be mostly accurate. That's a lot of capital to spend on a RB. But I digress. In fact, I'm all over the place here, so let's start this in a more orderly fashion. I mean, I could write thousands of words on just day 3 and not cover all the material, so time to do this NetRat style.

In the 2018 draft on day 3 the Detroit Lions started by trading their 2019 3rd round pick to the Patriots to select DE/DT Da'Shawn Hand. Da'Shawn has an RAS score of 8.74. That makes him an elite athlete. Since he weighs in at 282 pounds and can play defensive end, that kind of goes without saying. But wait, when they say he plays DE, they mean in a 3-4, which is a bit different then in a 4-3 style defense. So he is a classic tweener. Not quite heavy enough to play DT full time, not quite light enough to play DE in a 4-3. But should you put together a package of defensive plays that alternate him inside, outside, and with a blitzing LB then you have a versatile chapter in your defensive playbook. That is what I think the Lions were looking for all along. If not, they sure didn't find what they were looking for instead, so I hope this is what they desired to have in the draft. Mr Hand showed up in all 5 of my draft guides, plus he is on most all online rankings as well. He managed a 2nd round grade in one of the guides, a 3rd round grade in two of the guides, and 5th/6th round grades in the others that I looked at. Apparently those who reviewed his film (not those that work for the Lions) couldn't come to common ground on how he'll do in the NFL versus how he did in college. With his athletic score proving he is an elite athlete, and with at least some others outside of the Lions believing he was worth being drafted in either rounds 2 or 3... there is at least a chance this was not a waste of next year's 3rd round pick. As long as you ignore completely the trading up last night for Kerryon, but alas, I shall not go there.

With the Lions own 5th round pick they selected OT/OG Tyrell Crosby, who is ranked by some as a 2nd round type of player but with some medical concerns. One guide goes on to say they believe he will be a solid starter at left tackle in the NFL. Another guide says he could play left or right tackle, and there is no reason to believe he couldn't play guard if needed to. So I guess versatile is the word. Now this pick I can understand and get behind. Might even be a value pick since it was the 5th round. During the latter part of the draft I had received a text about an article from someone at that read he is as good as former first round pick Michael Oher. Only one guide was super critical of his play, mostly saying he is 'grabby' and isn't good in space. Which makes me wonder, if true, if he won't be a guard instead of a tackle. Perhaps he'll be depth only at tackle and guard for now, but as the 4th best OT in the draft (according to almost everyone) that isn't such a horrible thing for a 5th round pick.

The Lions didn't do any 'stupid GM tricks' in the 6th round, and then drafted in the 7th round Nick Bawden. Some of you caught in the beginning I put in he is a FB/QB and are probably trying to figure out why. Well, it seems Nick started out as a QB... I'll just insert a portion of Bruglar's Draft Guide Here (worth the $5 he charges each year by the way)... BACKGROUND: A two-star quarterback recruit out of high school, Charles Nicholas “Nick” Bawden was a two-year starting quarterback at Los Gatos, throwing for 1,622 yards and 14 touchdowns as a senior. He received only two Division-I scholarship offers out of high school and committed to San Diego State as a quarterback over Eastern Washington. He was thrust into action as a true freshman due to injury and made two starts in 2014, completing 34.2% of his passes with one touchdown and two interceptions. Aztecs head coach Rocky Long gave Bawden a choice of moving positions or transferring if he wanted to remain at quarterback and he elected to become a fullback. After not recording any statistics as a back-up in 2015, he started 11 games at fullback as a junior and recorded 15 catches for 137 yards in 2016. Bawden started 12 games as a senior and finished with 15 receptions for 103 yards and his only career touchdown catch. He accepted his invitation to the 2018 Senior Bowl.

So yeah, our 7th round pick is a Fullback, sort of, and a QB, sort of. I have no idea how the Lions plan to use him, most likely they plan to waive him and put him on the practice squad, but who knows, maybe they are going back to using a FB more often. I mean, they did say they wanted to fix the run game. They did fire the OL coach. They did sign a free agent running back. They did draft a running back in round 2. They did draft a guard (or is he a center) in round 1. If these moves don't fix the run game then there is something definitely wrong in Denmark (that's a saying by the way).

After the draft the Lions started signing undrafted guys, or are rumored to have. Not all these rumors will prove to be true, every year something ends up different, but at the moment they supposedly got:

DE Jojo Wicker, Arizona State (RUMOR)
G John Montelus, Virginia (Source)
DB Chris Jones, Nebraska (Source)
DB Antwuan Davis, Texas (Source)
DB Amari Coleman, Central Michigan (Source)
WR Teo Redding, Bowling Green (Source)
CB Mike Ford, Southeast Missouri State (Source)
LB Chad Meredith, Southeast Missouri State (Source)
S Anthony Sherrils, Missouri (Source)
OL Brett Kendrick, Tennessee (Source)
LB Al-Rasheed Benton, West Virginia (Source)
K/P Ryan Santoso, Minnesota (Source)

UDFAs invited to Lions minicamp
DL Michael Hill, Ohio State (Source)

None of whom are WR Brandon Bean who I truly thought they were going to draft in round 7 or sign after the draft... I mentioned as much last night, oh well, the Lions did a lot of unexpected things this week. Including repeatedly passing on many of the DT and DE prospects available, all through the draft and even after, with the noted exception(s). Like I said, they must have a DL plan that I am not aware of, or truly feel the only DL issue was the coaching.

So to summarize the draft, using my "big board" as a reference, and including each player's RAS scores from when I last updated my database of them, we have:

1st round, my 41st ranked player, taken at 20, C/G Frank Ragnow. RAS of 9.85 (anything over an 8.0 is elite, anything over 5.0 is above average). 319 pounds of OL muscle.

2nd round, my 68th ranked player, taken by trading away the 4th round pick and moving up higher in the 2nd, RB Kerryon Johnson. RAS of 6.93 (which I think went up slightly after his pro-day). 212 pounds of hopefully upgraded running back.

3rd round, my 181st ranked player, taken way too early by most accounts (other then the Lions account), FS Tracy Walker. RAS of 6.74 and if he can stay healthy and learn for year plus with a year in the NFL weight training program, could be our new starting FS sooner rather then later.

4th round, my 125th ranked player, taken with our 2019 3rd round pick, DE Da'Shawn Hand. RAS of 8.74. 282 pounds of tweener that is not called that any more, rather he is 'versatile'. Should he rotate in and produce he can be called whatever anyone wants.

5th round, my 45th ranked player, taken in potentially in a super value spot without any crazy trading, OT/OG Tyrell Crosby. RAS of 6.19. 320 pounds of huge potential as a quality OL player. My personal favorite pick of this draft (sorry about the jinx I just laid on you).

7th round, my 338th ranked player (okay, you caught me, I only ranked 337 guys, none were this guy), FB/QB Nick Bawden. RAS of 7.89 (very nearly elite). 244 pounds of the most bad-ass QB you ever saw (I hope). It makes the whole draft more interesting at any rate.

And a slew of undrafted guys, none of whom are the guys I had wanted the Lions to draft in round 7 either. The top one being DE Hercules Mata'afa who is rumored to be a Viking now. I haven't heard what happened to WR Bean as of yet either. Anyway, I'll go into more detail later, should it appear needed, after I allow this all to soak in a bit first. This is the kind of draft you need to give time to, so you can get over your own, even if not admitted, beliefs of who should have been drafted instead.

Edit: new information found less then an hour ago... this explains a few things from day 2!

Adam Schefter ‏Verified account @adamschefter Lions keep picking players before other teams can. Detroit drafted Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson at No. 43 with Washington preparing to take him at No. 44. Then Detroit drafted UL Laf CB Tracy Walker at No. 82 before Carolina could get him at No. 85. Always stories behind each pick. 8:20 AM - 28 Apr 2018

Friday, April 27, 2018

2018 NFL Draft - Detroit Lions - Rounds 2 and 3

Kerryon Johnson
Tracy Walker

The 2nd night of the 2018 NFL Draft is in the books, rounds 2 and 3 all settled, and the Lions have two new players to welcome to the team. Running Back Kerryon Johnson and Safety Tracy Walker will be donning Detroit Lions jerseys in the near future and will start to learn what the NFL is really all about. But just who are these players? Why did the Lions draft them? What's next? Allow me to attempt to provide some information on all of that.

Kerryon Johnson - RAS Card:

After the Lions surprised many fans by selecting a Guard/Center in round 1, they decided to completely stun the same fans by not only selecting a running back in round 2, but giving away a 4th round pick to move up a couple handfuls of spots to take him. That's right, at present the Lions no longer have their 4th round pick, and instead of defensive help they once again went offense. Now Kerryon was projected to go in the 3rd round, and some thought maybe he'd slide to the 4th round. Just exactly why the Lions moved up to take him has not yet be answered, at least, I haven't heard yet. But the most likely answer is, they had reason to believe some other team was going to take him before their original 2nd round pick. True or not, Quinn obviously targeted this player in the second round, and when you do that, you make moves to secure your target. As most know, I don't believe in that kind of draft, I would prefer the draft falls to me, but so be it.

Kerryon has the correct hand size for the position (9 3/4"). All the draft guides state he has fantastic vision. They also all say he doesn't have the extra gear to outrun pursuit. Some even go so far as to say he'll be a 3rd down back, a short yardage guy, one to pound it between the tackles. Basically, a younger version of LaGarrette Blount, who the Lions signed this past off season to a one year deal. However, Kerryon Johnson is about an inch shorter, 28 pounds lighter, 0.05 seconds faster (40 time), and Blount's RAS score is 4.88... so in some ways they are similar, and in others they are not. The biggest difference is, Blount is going to be 32 next year and a free agent... Kerryon will be 21 and will be signed through the 2021 season.

Kerryon RAS score (and his appeal to teams) would have been higher had he bench pressed more then 11 times, and if his 3 cone was quicker. I think, no I hope, that with proper NFL coaching, he will be able to use the rest of his better attributes to improve those deficit areas. The rest of his measurables are nearly elite. So that leaves game speed... and the draft guides are all over the place with that. I mean, one will say he has no next gear and the next says he can make moves that allow him to escape tackles. I'm not about to over rule any of them, so I'm forced to believe the Lions didn't use both their 2nd and their 4th round picks for a RB who is the same as a player already on the team, and leave it at that. Of course someone else will have to make me truly believe that is true, and that someone is Kerryon Johnson.

In round 3 the Lions were watching as at least three defensive tackles and three defensive ends that were on the Lions contact list (the list my forum creates to keep track of who the Lions have had contact with before the draft, and all 3 of the first 3 picks this year were on the list by the way... and a personal thank you to Captain19 for maintaining the list). So instead of finally addressing the DL after going offense in the first two rounds the Lions selected a Free Safety.

Tracy Walker - RAS Card:

Tracy Walker happens to have gone to the same high school as current cornerback Darius Slay. In fact, they are cousins (2nd or 3rd cousins that is, the reports are mixed on that). Slay is a bit more athletic according to his RAS sheet (Slay is a 8.76) but Walker is 1" taller and 14 pounds heavier and runs the 40 about .15 slower then Slay (4.36 seconds). Walker ran the 3 cone in an 7.0 seconds (Slay is 6.9). As I said, Walker is a bit taller and a bit heavier but just a bit under Slay's measurables, as you would expect.

The problem is that no one knows Walker. He's a small school stand-out. Only one of my draft guides even did a profile on him. It basically says that Walker needs time in an NFL training program, but that he was very productive in the class of competition he was in. Which makes sense. This could be a home run draft pick at Safety for the Lions, in a couple years. So while I don't think he was the right position to draft at this point, he definitely has a very high ceiling, so I can live with the pick, if he actually turns out to be as good as the Lions think he will be.

The bigger problem is how do the Lions fix the DL (defensive line) with only a 5th and a 7th round pick left? Well, they could trade away a 2019 pick for a 2018 player, they have two extra picks next year, but if they took a RB and a Safety over the currently available DTs and DEs then maybe they won't go that route. Perhaps they intend to use one of those two picks on Hurst, a DT who was diagnosed with a heart condition that has scared most teams away from him, despite his first round grade. Perhaps the Lions have trade thoughts after the draft or maybe they have guys who are free agents who they can yet get that we don't know about. We fans can only wait and see how they will address the DL, which in my opinion is their final piece of the puzzle for this year, except there is one more player they liked who might go post-draft, or in the 7th, to them. A punt returner. I won't name names publicly just in case. Just remember the letter "B" for now, I'll get back to that tomorrow night.

In the end, the perceived ability to fix an entire roster in one draft isn't a valid thing to even attempt, as the Lions well know, which is why they are trying to improve the roster where they can, with what resources they have. They probably upgraded the OL with a guard/center in round 1, with a RB in round 2, and a Safety in round 3. Four and six are currently non-options. These players could all be a significant part of the Lions roster, in 2019 and 2020 and after. Many fans, if they dig deep deep down, know that you draft for the future of your team, not the current year. It's just near on impossible to ignore perceived holes now for the future of the team. But then that's why they get the big bucks.

Am I good with the draft? I would have done it differently, for sure. I don't know if what I would've done would have made things any better, either in 2018 or 2020 or in any other year. Since I don't and can't know for sure, I have to accept the results that we have, and hope there is a plan for the rest that I just don't know about. If they're wrong, they won't get the big bucks any more. I'll still be a Lions fan.

2018 NFL Draft - Detroit Lions - Round 1

Frank Ragnow.

With the 20th pick in round 1 of the 2018 draft the Detroit Lions select.... Frank Ragnow [gasps] [shocked silence] That was the fans and various talking heads... but in the Cincinnati War Room it was all cussing. The Lions just selected their pick, so they went with Billy Price next instead (also a center). But wait a minute, is Ragnow a center? Sure he played it for 2 years, but the year before that he played Guard. And before that, in High School, he played Tackle. He's versatile.

Ragnow will be 22 on May 17th, so he's 21 now. I saw a graphic the other day that more players have success in the NFL if they start at a younger age, Ragnow will be on his 5th year option when other players who get drafted at that age (25) often do not succeed. So he is the right age. His RAS score (when I last updated my scores) was 9.85 (that's against all centers not just this draft class). So, he fits the suit. Unlike Tomlinson who scored below a 3 if my memory serves me, Ragnow is an elite athlete.

But can he play?! PFF who says they study more film on prospects then even NFL football teams do (and they might), ranks Ragnow as the 16th best player in the 2018 draft. They have him as their best center in this draft. We don't know if he'll play center, he might play guard, but yes, he can play.

He has played in a pro-style offense and should be more ready then most to start right away. It's entirely likely he will become the starter, at either left guard or center. My assumption is at left guard, but that depends on Glasgow a little bit, as in how well he does in pre-season and in the team activities. The problem is, is he really all that? Some of my draft guides had him as the 3rd best center. He was ranked 40th overall, 26th overall, 95th overall, 72nd overall, 33rd overall, 36th overall, and those are just the draft guides I have. My rank? He was the 41st on my board. But, not everyone watches every game, as I explained in my last blog post, you can't watch all the games of all the players for all the years they played the sport. Not enough hours to watch it all before they retire from the NFL (joking, barely). So some guides think he's worth the pick, and others don't. Kind of sounds like the fans.

Myself, I prefer to draft my centers in round 3 and my guards in round 4. But, the Lions weren't drafting someone to slowly bring up to starter ready (as in a few years), they were drafting to start. To help fix the dismal run game. To protect one of the most sacked QBs in the NFL last year. So why Ragnow? In two years he allowed no sacks. Zero. Nada. Also, in those two years, he only allowed 15 hurries. Total. That's like half a hurry per game and no sacks. Now that's protection! Get this, his run blocking is BETTER then his pass blocking. Almost all the guides agree on that.

Now don't get me wrong, I totally wanted a defensive line player in the first round. I was prepared to accept a Safety or an OLB who can be used to pass rush (though that is actually situational, and you don't normally draft situational in round 1 unless it's the last piece of your puzzle). I was even prepared to see them draft guard Will Hernandez, who has a RAS score of 8.79. Well that means Ragnow's RAS (athleticism) score is BETTER then Hernandez and Hernandez was not drafted in round 1 and is now still available in round 2. So are defensive players such as DT Hurst, OLB/DE Landry, RB Guice, WR Sutton, RB Chubb, and most of the TEs. There is something up with that. There is a reason. I don't know what it is, but for some reason these players are still available. Will they make it to 51? I've no more clue then anyone else. What it appears to me is, the players the Lions wanted ahead of Ragnow were taken, and the players taken later weren't ranked by the Lions as high as Ragnow. So that makes the pick okay.

It might be better then okay, but I just can't go there yet. We'll see. Looks promising. There is no reason to think or even have a gut feeling that things won't work out. Aside from the position he plays and the round he was taken in, there is nothing to complain about. It was a need. So I will shelve my objections to taking a guard or center that early, and assume, for now, that he is worth the capital spent to get him (the draft pick). The Patriots had two first round picks and they took an OT/OG (not sure which he will be, kind of short for a tackle) and a running back, and their defense was maybe worse then the Lions.

Quinn said he likes to build from the ball out. Meaning the trenches. Ragnow is a trench player. He just doesn't play defense. BUT if he can protect Stafford in pass-pro and help the run game, then I can forgive he's an offensive player taken in round one. It'll also be easier to take once I see the rest of the draft, as the Lions still have 5 more picks scheduled over the next two days, and all of them could be defense. (They could all be offense too, you know, but let's not go there).

If you are need of convincing yourself, then just think -0- sacks allowed and only 15 hurries in 2 years of college play. That will help if anything will.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

My 2018 Lions Draft Musings.

The NFL 2018 Draft starts on Thursday night (in two days). Before I get into my thoughts and explanations of that process some updates since my previous post (scroll down). The Lions currently have 70 players under contract and $9,431,709 in salary cap available. They also made the following roster moves...

04/04/2018 The Detroit Lions waive QB Alek Torgersen.
04/06/2018 The Detroit Lions waive CB Desmond Lawrence.
04/09/2018 The Detroit Lions sign QB Matt Cassel.
04/09/2018 The Detroit Lions re-sign WR TJ Jones. (Means he actually signed his tendered offer)
04/10/2018 The Detroit Lions place T Emmett Cleary on Reserve-Retired. (I didn't see this one coming, opens up a roster spot)
04/17/2018 The Detroit Lions re-sign DE Ezekiel Ansah. (Means he actually signed his franchise tag offer)
04/18/2018 The Detroit Lions sign CB Raysean Pringle. (The Lions doing the cornerback shuffle)
04/19/2018 The Detroit Lions waive CB Adairius Barnes. (and more shuffling)

Since I had Torgersen making the team and he was waived then Matt Cassel was signed, I shall change my roster review to say the Lions will keep 2 Quarterbacks, Stafford and Cassel. Rudock will, if he clears waivers, make the practice squad.

I also had Cleary making the team as depth at guard and tackle. Since he retired, that opens up a spot, one that could be added in the upcoming draft or in free agency after the draft. I think it makes the Lions taking a guard in the draft a slightly higher probability then it was before.

Now the draft its self. Some teams (and most mock drafters) try to fill a team's biggest need with a first round pick. That can lead to reaching for a prospect (say maybe an Ebron over a Donald for example) or some other undesired result. Some teams will rank the players from say 1 to 300 and pick from the top (or near the top) of the list for each round, regardless of need at all, and sometimes regardless of fit as well. Some teams (and mock drafters) will assign a round grade to players, and then pick from that group, trying to fill team needs (plural, not ranked, just holes in the roster) as much as possible. Problem is, many times there are fewer graded players for a round then there are picks needed. Say you have 25 guys ranked as draft-able in the first round, who does the other 7 teams in round 1 draft? Some of the round 2 graded guys? There are even more "systems" out there then that. So what's the right system, or draft approach, or whatever you want to call it? Well, first, who ever said it's the same method for the whole draft? Maybe there is one method used for one round, and another used in other rounds. Or, maybe, it gets even more involved then that... after all, the entire front office of an NFL team could end up fired in 5 years if some positive results aren't reached. Then, if a front office gets too successful, members of the team will end up getting hired to run other teams who hadn't had success. There are millions upon millions of dollars at stake, not to mention jobs... jobs of which there are only 32 of in the whole world. So while mocks might be a means of learning players, creating entertainment, even feeding the need to know RIGHT NOW what will happen later... teams are taking steps to make it right,and that never stops.

Now some will talk only about college production, "show me the film", and that is definitely a part of it, a large part of it. BUT, there is so much more, and I'm not talking just about projecting how a player will fare in the NFL surrounded by the best of the best of the best. Thought projecting is also a part of it. Okay, I mentioned team fit before, and that too is part of it... why draft a player at all if he can't play in the scheme you are implementing? Some teams do ignore that, or at least, believe they have correctly projected a player can indeed play in their scheme (incorrectly I might add), but most teams do have guys who are not on their draft board at all. Might be due to fit. Might be due to injury. Might be due to some measurable athletic attribute that is missing that they desire their players to have in that position. It could also be drug test results, interview results, even just scouts opinions who talked to teachers and fellow students (and family). It all gets added in. Then there is the hardest part, how hard is a 21 to 24 year old who has never had much money going to work when he suddenly comes into hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars? How hard will his ego get bashed when he finds out that every single person on his team is as good (or better) then he is? Not everyone makes a team, your teammates who you work with for months leading up to the final cut down day want your job (as in, your roster spot). But you are their teammate, not their opponent. Some just can't reconcile these things. Some can't take their work seriously after the money is received (forget that there is more coming, these are guys under age 25 here, and yes I'm projecting some of myself into that, because it's a real thing).

Anyway, you have grades, and schemes along with fits, you have holes in your roster, you have young stud players who have not had the money they are about to get, played with and against players their equal (or close to it), as in a full team of them, and you are risking your own job and livelihood if you get it wrong. Sounds easy right? [/sarcasm]

I believe the Lions will have a list of players they would be willing to draft in each round. I believe that every one of those players would fill some kind of need on the team, if not, they wouldn't even be on the list for that round. I believe they know the holes on their roster, but have not ranked them as the most needy position to fill to the least needy position, and so are free to not reach for anyone in any given round. I also believe they have players in each round they would particularly like to have, depending on who they already drafted and who they think other teams will draft before their next pick. Finally, I believe they know, in advance, there is no way they can get all the rosters "holes" filled... all they can do is try to improve their roster as much as each round allows them to... with good, hard working, football players. Ones that love the game and even if they do suddenly have more money then they have ever seen in their entire lives, will still work to make the team then make the team better.

So who will the Lions draft this week? I have no earthly idea. But I do know a few they will not. That won't help much since there are hundreds of players to pick from. In addition to that, there is one more curve ball. Almost no team (and it might be all 32 teams) has seen every play of every game a prospect has played. Mock draft guys do the same thing, and that is, to go through a few games... maybe in the case of the top guys, double that, which is still about half of one year's worth of football games played. Scouts and front office people, even mock drafters, may have missed great plays in great games that were never viewed. Or, a player may be scored on plays in 3 games that just happened to be his best games ever. So even when you think you got all the info, and know what is, it isn't. Why so few games? Due to the numbers. Say 500 to 1,000 players, at 12 or more games each. Who could possibly 6,000 or more hours of play in order to rank 500 players in one draft (there are only 8,760 hours in a year, if you don't sleep).

I do know teams want to win. I do know there are different ways to build a team, and to rank players for the draft, and even to strategize who to select and when. What I don't know is what the Lions know, and I don't know if they know everything there is to know, or in other words, what they missed. So good luck athletes, may your dreams come true this week, then may you work your butt off to keep them! (Especially the ones drafted by the Lions).

Monday, April 2, 2018

2018 Pre-Draft Roster Review

Time to review the roster as it sits today.

The coaching hires (and firings) have come and gone, so has the start of free agency when most of the action takes place. Now we can better see just where the Lions are at. With 72 players under contract (or tendered, or tagged) the Detroit Lions are sitting on $10,067,577 in salary cap space. They currently have 6 draft picks in the upcoming draft and they usually sign around 10 guys who go undrafted immediately after the draft ends. That means they have room for one or two more "vet" players they could sign in free agency over the next few weeks. Still, the roster is pretty much shaped up into what they will have in their OTAs and off season programs so let's take a look at it one position group at a time.

I shall preface this with a few thoughts though... the coaching staff and front office tend to favor players who are versatile over players who are not... and the front office (and not the coaching staff) have the salary cap to contend with so some guys just won't be going anywhere while others could. 53 jobs are up for grabs and the competition to work one of those spots is fierce. But, at the same time, teams need a modicum of depth so if an injury happens they have someone, who may not be quite as good at it, who can take over. Teams are also dealing with a set number of roster spots, so a few assumptions have to be made.

Let's start off the quarterback. The Lions have under contract their starter, who is lock to make the 2018 team, in Matthew Stafford. They also have carried only one other QB on the roster these past couple years and tried to stash the 3rd on their practice squad. That didn't work out so well in 2017 as Brad Kaaya was signed off their squad and is no longer under the teams' control. Their 2nd string QB (Stafford's backup) could be either Jake Rudock (last year's backup) or Alex Torgerson, who they signed right after the 2017 season ended to a future/reserve contract. It's also possible they could select another QB in the upcoming draft to compete with these two. It's possible they keep 3 on the roster so they don't lose their practice squad QB to another team. It's also possible they will gamble and only keep 2 again. They want that 3rd QB to help with film study so if there isn't on the 53 roster their must be one on the practice squad. My 2018 Roster Estimate at QB is: Matthew Stafford (lock) and both Rudock and Torgerson make the roster. The 4th camp arm might be an undrafted player they sign after the draft is over or an unsigned vet to a vet minimum deal.

At Tight End they ended Eric Ebron's contract and signed two veterans to go with their 4th round pick in last year's draft Michael Roberts. Roberts started the year in the dog house having some issues being late to meetings and so on, but nothing a better alarm clock won't cure. Luke Willson had a $900,000 signing bonus and $500,000 of his 2018 salary is guaranteed and he's about to be paid $100,000 for attending the workouts that start in a week... so $1.5 million of his $2.5 million contract is guaranteed. That makes him a lock. Roberts is in his 2nd year of his rookie deal, as a 4th round draft pick he's also a lock. Levine Toilolo signed with $400,000 in a signing bonus and is also about to make $100,000 in workout bonuses, so a third of his $1.5 million contract is guaranteed as well. That doesn't make him a lock, but it does make him hard to get off the roster if you are Brandon Barnes, Hakeem Valles, a draft pick or an undrafted player (the first two being signed to contracts right after the 2017 season ended). My 2018 Roster Estimate at TE is: 3 make the roster, Roberts and Willson are locks and Toilolo won't be outplayed enough to move him. Up until Toilolo was signed I figured the Lions were looking to the draft for their 3rd, but no longer.

At Running Back they are returning the entire 2017 corp and then added LaGarrette Blount in free agency. Blount had a $1 million signing bonus and was the 11th ranked RB in yards per attempt last year, he is a lock. Speaking of ranking in the yards-per-attempt category, I find that stat to be the most meaningful as far as rushing goes. There are 32 teams with 32 QBs and 32 OLs and 32 coaching staffs... just about every variable or combination of such is in that group of 32... and with teams having from 3 to 6 running backs, well, rushing yards per attempt would be the only stat that you can use to see how your players stacked up (and that includes your coaching staff, your OL, your QB, and all the pieces that go into making a run game work). You'd think the Lions would have a runner in the top 32 (before Blount was signed)... nope... the top 50?... nope... the top 100? well, yeah, at 99 Jamal Agnew, the corner back, managed to rank there. The Lions were so bad at running that not only don't they have a runner in the top 100, but you have to go to 155 to find the first one on the roster that is in fact a running back... Tion Green. The OL coach was fired... and the OL is being worked on and hopefully will be healthier, but the RBs themselves are not safe either... not a single one of them. Oh sure, they can do this or do that, but most of them would find it hard to make the roster of another team and actually be a starter. Here is how they ranked in 2017:

99 Jamal Agnew
108 Golden Tate
155 Tion Green
201 Theo Riddick
202 Matthew Stafford
206 Ameer Abdullah
241 Dwayne Washington
257 Zach Zenner

The Lions will keep 4 or 5 running backs, probably five but I'm going to say four for now. Blount is the lock. Riddick is also a decent receiver and gets yards after the catch, he has the next best chance to make the roster. Ameer did some good stuff before his Lisfranc injury, if he can come back full speed from that this year he probably has the next best chance... and by virtue of being better then the rest of the roster, Tion Green has a shot. I fully and completely expect the Lions to draft a running back in the 2018 draft, day 2 (2nd or 3rd round). My 2018 Roster Estimate at RB is: Blount, Riddick, Draft Pick, and Green. There is no salary cap reason to keep the others, and there is no production reason to keep them either. Zenner, Washington, Abdullah and whoever else the Lions sign after the draft will compete against Tion Green for that one roster spot, unless they keep five... then those two roster spots.

At Wide Receiver they are returning most of the 2017 corp as well. Golden Tate III and Marvin Jones are locks to make the roster. Kenny Golladay is as well, through virtue of his size, draft pick status, and rookie production. That leaves two spots for TJ Jones (who is set to make $1,907,000 but it is not guaranteed so he's really got to prove he is worth that much, as so far, he has not done that), Jace Billingsley, Andy Jones, Bradley Marquez, and Dontez Ford. Those 5 guys will find themselves also competing against the Lions draft pick I expect them to make at WR, and perhaps other undrafted players and veteran signings in free agency after the draft. I also expect the draft pick will be some kind of special teams ace, either gunner or punt returner, so he'll most likely be the 4th lock. That leaves all of them fighting for one spot (barring injury... knock on wood). My 2018 Roster Estimate at WR is: Tate III, Marvin Jones, Golladay, draft pick, and TJ Jones (unless anyone else comes mildly close to his ability, then they are in and he is out).

Last but not least on the offense we have the Offensive Line players. The Lions will keep 9 or 10, most likely 9, so here we go. The locks to make the team are; LT Taylor Decker, C/G Graham Glasgow, RG TJ Lang, and RT Rick Wagner. Vet pickup Kenny Wiggins has the inside track on the 5th and final starting spot on the OL, but it is not guaranteed. The other 4ish spots have no less then 7 guys fighting for those jobs and there will likely be a draft pick added to that fight. Depending on when drafted, the draft pick would also become a lock. Last year's 5th round draft pick Joe Dahl has a small inside bonus for his draft status, and a couple of the backup tackles did half way decent in relief last year so the race is really going to be something. Versatility might be key, as will draft status (they didn't draft them if they didn't like them) and salary cap... so my 2018 Roster estimate at OL is: Decker, Dahl, Glasgow, Lang, Wagner, Draft Pick, Wiggins, Cleary, and Mahalik. The last 3 will face stiff competition from Koloamatangl, Wesley Johnson, Corey Robinson, and Dan skipper.

We all know who the special teams players to make the roster are; Martin, Prater and Muhlbach are here for another year, so it's off to the defensive side we go.

The Lions have spent draft picks on guard, wide receiver, and running back (see above)... so we need to mix in three more with the next 4 corps. At cornerback the Lions have their locks in Darius Slay (production), Nevin Lawson (contract), Teez Tabor (draft status), Jamal Agnew (returner), and DeShawn Shead (contract and free agent status). That leaves 3 guys hoping for an injury as I don't think there will be an open roster spot for another. Charles Washington, Desmond Lawrence, and Adairius Barnes will be joined by some undrafted players so that some may make the practice squad. Obviously my 2018 estimated CB corp is: Slay, Lawson, Tabor, Agnew, and Shead. I don't anticipate a draft pick being used on a cornerback this year, unless he can play safety as well.

Speaking of corners who can play safety, the 2015 6th round pick Quandre Diggs is one my locks at Safety, since he can also play corner. My other locks at Safety are Glover Quin (production), Killebrew (draft status and production), and Tavon Wilson (past production and contract). That leaves one roster spot open for the draft pick I assume they will select and Stefan McClure and Rolan Milligan. Needless to say, the draft pick would likely make the roster over the other two barring injury and off field stuff. My 2018 Safety corp is: Diggs, Quin, Killebrew, Wilson, and a draft pick.

Now Linebackers have 8 guys signed for what should be 6 spots. The Locks are Christian Jones (free agent status and contract), Devon Kennard (free agent status and contract), Jarrad JD Davis (draft status and production), Jaleen Reeves-Davis (draft status and ceiling), and you guessed it - Nick Bellore (can play full back and LB and special teams). That leaves one spot for Steve Longa, Brandon Chubb, and Jonathan Freeny. I don't expect a draft pick for this group any longer with the vet pickups in free agency. So my 2018 estimated LB corp is: Davis, Kennard, Jones, Bellore, Reeves-Maybin, and Longa (sorry Freeny, but Longa on special teams takes your spot).

At Defensive End the lock is Ziggy Ansah. I would say Hyder as well but less then half of all athlete's can come back from the injury he had last year so I'm not able to say he's a lock, or even if he'll make the roster. Zettel could be a lock due to his being a 6th round pick in 2016, but he has to show at least more then the rest. Cam Johnson, Jeremiah Valoaga, and Alex Barrett may or may not ever develop. I have never understood the Cornelius Washington signing and saw nothing that should suggest he automatically has a roster spot. I'd almost bet anything that a DE will be drafted in the first two days of the draft this year, and that means the pick will be a lock. Just about anyone who shows something could make the final roster, so it's all up for grabs really. The Lions usually keep 5, though 4 and a DT who can switch back and forth, or even an OLB who can switch back and forth, are possible. My 2018 estimated DE corp at this time is: Ziggy Ansah, a high Draft Pick, Kerry Hyder (50/50 he can do it), Anthony Zettel (draft status), and and and... ah... oh heck, Jeremiah Valoaga (cool name).

At Defensive Tackle the Lions will probably keep 5 and the locks are A'Shawn Robinson (draft status), Akeem Spence (a little of the production and free agent status), Jeremiah Ledbetter (draft status and ceiling), and Sylvester Williams (contract this year in free agency... ala $2 million signing bonus). That leaves one spot open for Toby Johnson and Christian Ringo and an early Draft Pick that I assume will also, like the DE, be in the first two days of the draft... which would make him the final lock and roster spot barring injury or some kind of super human effort by the last two. My 2018 estimated DT corp then is: Robinson, Spence, Ledbetter, Williams and a Draft pick.

The link to my estimated depth chart (and salary cap chart) is to the upper right. My next blog entries should all be on the 2018 draft. Obviously I'm looking for the Lions to pick:


Not everyone agrees with these but that's the way I see it, for the reasons given above.