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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

NetRat’s draft analysis.

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.

Monday, April 21, 2008

LionHawkeye's list of players the Lions have shown an interest in:

If The player has a star by their name I am still trying to verify source of contact with team. Otherwise the player has met with GM, Coach, Pro day Scout, Combine Interview, or had a Draft Visit with the Lions.
0. Jake Long OT Michigan

1. Keith Rivers OLB USC

2. Derrick Harvey DE FLA

3. Chris Williams OT Vandy

4. Rashard Mendenhall RB ILL

5. Jerod Mayo ILB TENN

6. Jonathan Stewert RB ORE

7. Brandon Albert OG/OT Virginia

8. Felix Jones RB ARK

9. Leodis McKelvin CB Troy

------------------1----------2------------------

10. Gosder Cherilus OT Boston Coll

11. Curtis Lofton ILB Oklahoma

12. Antoine Cason CB Arizona *

13. Carl Nicks OT Nebraska

14. Chris Johnson RB ECU

15. Jamaal Charles RB Texas

16. Cliff Avril DE Purdue

17. Anthony Collins OT Kansas

18. Xavier Adibi LB Virginia Tech *

19. Bruce Davis DE UCLA

-------------2-----------------3----------------

20. Geno Hayes LB Florida State

21. Kendall Langford DE Hampton

22. Letroy Guion DT Florida State

23. Jordon Dizon LB Colorado

24. Kevin Smith RB Central Florida

25. Andre Fluellen DE Florida State

26. Matt Forte RB Tulane

27. Jason Jones DT/DE Eastern Michigan

----------------3--------------4------------------------

28. Johnny Dingle DE West Virginia

29. Jo-Lonn Dunbar LB Boston College

30. Darius Reynaud WR West Virginia

31. Jeremy Geathers DE UNLV

32. Bryan Smith DE Mcneese State

33. William Hayes DE Winston Salem State

----------------4--------------5---------------------------

34. Joey Haynos TE Maryland *

35. Caleb Campbell S Army

36. Hilee Taylor LB North Carolina

37. Tim Hightower RB Richmond

38. Adrian Smith RB Bethel College

39. Landon Cohen DT Ohio

40. Nick Cleaver TE New Mexico State

41. Shawn McMackin OL Hofstra

42. Justin Tryon CB Arizona State

-----------------5----------?--------------------------------

43. Jerome Felton RB Furman

44. Jayson Foster RB Georgia Southern

45. Cory Boyd RB South Carolina

46. Dan Ziedman P Idaho State

47. Kalvin Mcrae RB Ohio *

48. Marcus Buggs OLB Vanderbilt

49. Brian Johnson DE Gardner Webb

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Some draft thoughts.

LB. The Lions "could" start the season with Lewis at SSLB and Lenon at MLB, similar to last year. They want to and need to upgrade at least one of those positions, but, Marinelli tends to not start rookies at key positions. Thus, I truly believe they will draft a LB that can start at SSLB assuming he can beat out Lewis for that job, then he will get moved to MLB next year. I truly believe that Lenon IS the MLB this year unless the draft pick is stellar and beats Lenon out (moving Lenon to SSLB). Mayo, Rivers and Connor seem to have "it" but I am not ready to bet the farm on that just yet.

DE. The Lions "could" play White, Smith, 5-0 and DeVries but that combo didn't get a decent pass rush at all last year. A pass rush is CRITICAL to this defense. Fixing the LB and CB spots won't matter if there is no pass rush. Again, Marinelli has a tendency to not start rookies, and rookie DEs tend to not be dominate their first year. I'm looking for a ready made immediate starter like Harvey, Gholston or Long... or someone who will be lucky to be activated and rotate in this year.

RB. Calhoun and Cason as depth behind Bell is a horrid thought. The lions must MUST get another RB and the guy HAS TO beat out either Calhoun or Cason for a job... then preferably be able to take the job away from Bell as well. Rookies can play RB fairly well (except for blitz pickups usually) and of any draft pick I would think the RB has the best chance of actually becoming a starter.

RT. The Lions are set at Guard. A drafted guard has almost no chance of making the roster. They like Raoila. They love Backus. That leaves RT. They have Foster and Scott. They may not play a rookie here anyway. The Oline is pretty much set (in the Lions' eyes, not mine) but they will get a tackle for depth and we can only hope the guy can earn a starting job sometime this year.

DT. I do not see a solid DT group on the team. I truly feel they need to draft a decent DT who can first make the team, then make the active roster for the games, then help in the rotation.

I see no reason to draft a TE, Guard, Center, WR, S or CB unless the guy has a reasonable chance of taking a roster spot away from someone who is more or less nearly guaranteed to make the team. That last WR or CB spot who can be the return guy does have some potential, and I hope they do try to go that route.

LB, DE, RB, RT, DT and a return guy. Potentially 2 starters (RB and Return guy) potentially 2 rotate in (DE, DT) and the LB will need to be VERY good to see the field (barring injuries).

I'm not trying to be "down" on the Lions. This is truly how I see it.