Prior to the draft, back in mid-March, I updated my estimated Lions roster to reflect the changes that occurred in free agency and identified 8 “needs” the Lions had to address.
The link to that page is http://www.thenetrat.com/2008%20Depth%20Chart.xls
There you will see that the first three needs were starters at running back, middle linebacker, and defensive end. The next was a starter at right tackle who could eventually push Backus for the left tackle position. Number 5 was a defensive tackle to push Cody for his job and play in the DT rotation (and contribute in that role). The 6th need was a fullback to work with Bradley but the guy would have to take Fitzsimmons job to make the roster. The 7th was someone to challenge Cason for the punt or kick returner job. And finally, a cornerback to challenge last years backups for a job.
Most people agreed with my assessments at the time, maybe not in the order I presented them, but the general needs were pretty much agreed upon, not just by forumites but by the various “professionals” in the field of football.
So the draft begins. The Lions had visited with 50 guys prior to the draft (either at pro-days, at the combine, or invited them to Allen Park). The list (created by LionHawkeye of Mlive.com Lions forum) can be found in my blog at http://thenetrat.blogspot.com/
(where this analysis will also be posted for future reference just like last year’s draft analysis is). The name of the 50th player on this list was not added because prior to the draft it could not be verified…. a WR named Moore. (post-draft we find he met for a long time with Lions officials at his pro day).
The Lions had a list of first round prospects they wanted to draft, ranked in order of desire on their draft board (what their ranks were we will never ever know for sure). DE Derrick Harvey… gone. LB Keith Rivers… gone. MLB Jerod Mayo… gone. OT Chris Williams… gone. Then at pick 15 the Lions are sitting there with the next guy on their board Gosder Cherilus (the Lions rank heavily in favor of hard working, non-stop motor type guys… which makes their board look different then many other teams’ boards… then again, every team ranks heavily in favor of something or other, no two teams are alike). They manage to move down just 2 picks and gain 10 spots in round 3 AND a 5th round pick. With no more trades and the ever increasing threat that Cherilus could be taken by another team, the Lions draft him. Was it a reach? Many think so, but the reality is, another team WAS going to draft Cherilus in round one and the Lions next pick was at #45… Cherilus certainly was not going to make it to that pick. Was it the best player available at the time? Some do not think so, but the Lions ranking is different then “some” others, to them it was the best player available. Cherilus has a very nasty attitude on the football field, takes it personally upon himself to safe guard the QB, and will not quit on a play, ever. I say it was a good pick and the O-Line will be better for it (though Foster may not say the same).
Cross need #4 off my list.
Round 2, the Lions planned on taking any one of a number of players here and they had met many offensive tackles who were likely to be taken in this round but with Cherilus already drafted the need for OT drops those names down the list… they had expected to take Mayo in the first round and there are only 5 linebackers left on their board they have an interest in, most of whom are projects and would not be of immediate help. When the Lions draft LB Jordon Dizon he was one of the best players on their board and he was the player they felt could start this year. It was the right pick. Cross need #3 off my list.
Round 3, the lions made some moves to target guys on their board they wanted. You can’t say they reached for any of them since they meant to move to those spots to take those guys. Right or wrong. The first choice is RB Kevin Smith. This guy was only sixty some yards short of breaking Barry Sanders college single season yardage record. He did break Marcus Allen’s carries record by a good margin. He has great vision, great balance, has a little bit of an ego (very un-Barry like) and has produced results repeatedly. He is likely to be a very special addition to the team. A great pick and cross need #1 off my list.
The further drafting of DT Andre Fluellen and LB/DE Cliff Avril takes care of needs 2 and 5. They still have to challenge vets for jobs and win them. But these two are both high motor, hard working football players. I do not expect them to have any trouble unseating the vets in front of them (who really haven’t produced squat).
The Lions continue with 2 picks in both rounds 5 and 7. The FB Jerome Felton will challenge Fitzsimmons for FB and probably win. The return guy Moore can play WR or RB as well as return kicks. He could take a roster spot away from either Ellis or Cason, depending on how well he does and how poorly the previous return guys do this preseason (one of them is likely to stay as a backup returner should Felton make the team). Needs 6 and 7, off the list. (notice the list says draft someone to challenge them, not necessarily to win the job outright or have the position given to them). The final round brought in another DT Landon Cohen who at least make the practice squad if not the team and a special teams demon and Safety Caleb Campbell who’s services may be needed in Detroit after Pearson recent legal trouble. Campbell will also try to take away the backup SSLB spot from either Lenon or Lewis. He may or may not make the team but he is going to be given a number of chances to do just that.
The Lions didn’t do anything for the backup CB position (my 8th listed need) but I think all things considered I can live with that. My overall grade for this draft is an A-
They got real football players who have produced results. They will work hard for the team and their teammates. They all have a chance to make the team and contribute THIS year. They addressed the first 7 and my 8 listed needs. They did not reach into another round for a player… and they managed a few trades that worked perfectly for them every time. A blue chip draft for a team who didn’t draft in the top 10 finally this year. I applaud them all for getting it right. Now it’s up to the players to win those jobs and play.