Friday, April 8, 2011

Lions needs and the 2011 draft

Time and again I see mock drafts with the Lions taking an offensive tackle at pick 13, usually with a remark about how Stafford needs to be protected. Time and again I cringe, leave the site, perhaps email the author, make posts in my forum against the very idea of it, and then get rebuffed by others who happen to agree that the Lions will take an offensive tackle at 13 (never mind that no two of them choose the same dude). Almost every draft site on the planet that lists a teams needs show the most needy need for the Lions being an (you guessed it) offensive tackle.

Now, it depends on what site you go to for stats, but the one I went to showed the Lions as tied for 6th BEST in the league at protecting the Quarterback. Not worst, best. There is obviously room for improvement (still got 5 spots to go) but is taking an offensive tackle the most critical need? Will taking a tackle in round 1 help keep Stafford on the field? Sorry, don't think so, especially since none of the 2011 options are NFL ready to seal the edge for a Quarterback in game 1, perhaps not even by game 16, of this year.

Then I hear how old Jeff Backus is. Yet how many starts has he missed? In 10 years he's missed fewer games then most of the draft options have in their 2 or 3 years of college play. Is age a factor? Well if it is, the Lions have critical needs at Kicker, Defensive End, and Center... as those guys are not spring chickens either. Why is Jeff Backus being the victim and none of the others?

Probably because he played average to poorly for years as a Lion. Never mind the continual rotation at coach, scheme, fellow players, etc. Heck, for 8 years I begged for him to be replaced. Now I'm sitting here typing and defending him (almost surreal actually). That's how much better he has played with these coaches in charge, with their schemes, and with his fellow players. Coach Schwartz even said he'd have voted Jeff to the Pro-Bowl had he been allowed to. ESPN North picked Jeff Backus just a couple of months ago as the top LT in the NFC North. Yeah, he sounds like he MUST BE replaced right this moment!!!

Then I get the arguments that Gosder Cherilus had micro fracture surgery, they have to do something just in case he can't play. Many seem to think his career is over. Others think the team doesn't want him (even though he improved so much last year before getting injured). So once again, the Lions must take an offensive tackle to start at RT and eventually move to LT to replace the ancient Jeff Backus who surely (don't call him Shirley) will fall completely apart the day after his next birthday.

The team said they expect Goz to fully recover. The team said they were happy with his improvement last year. The team even had some decent play out of the backups when Goz went down, but no, the man MUST BE REPLACED in 2011, for sure! Perhaps the Lions are indeed covering it up, that his career is over, or that they fear he won't be ready in 2011 to play. Sure, that could be accurate, and I'm sure there are going to be NO Free Agents (whenever free agency starts) that could help out if that were true. Since there is not one single other option and since Goz is next to total invalid status the Lions must draft a tackle, and while they are at it, take a guy who can play RT now and move to LT later... as they are all so very talented and any or all will be able to do this no problem!!!

They (the 2011 tackle draft class), or even just one of them, may very well be that talented. Ahhh... which player is it again? No three draftniks can agree on 1 name.

From there I hear all about how Hilliard is not signed (and of course, never can be later). Fox isn't ready (ahem, neither are the draft picks). Tony Ugoh (who has starting experience) won't help at all. Later round draft picks never develop into starters who can protect the Quarterback (I won't even bother to research that one).

So let me help out all of you who demand the Lions biggest need is a left tackle.

Each and every thing being argued is indeed possible, I will not deny it. But do you know the odds of Backus suddenly being unable to play, Gosder never healing, Hilliard getting picked up elsewhere, Ugoh and Fox being unable to fill in at all ever - even at RT, and all in the same season? I know what the odds are of that all happening... I do! They are exactly the same as the odds of the Lions picking the exact right tackle in the weak 2011 draft class and getting a immediate starting right tackle who can move to left tackle and solely keep Stafford upright forever and ever amen. That's what the odds are.

Oh, I forgot Tom Kowalski's reply to my email about my stance... something to the affect that who says Jeff Backus will actually sign with the Lions once he's a free agent? Well, if he sucks so much and is so old then who would take him? Or how about this one... No team has ever gotten their players to sign an extension in season, even if it's only for another year or two. Lions have half the team who will be free agents next year... what makes offensive tackle trump the other half of the team? (answer, because Stafford has to remain upright... yeah yeah, I know).

Okay, so if you haven't guessed it yet, I do not believe that the Lions biggest need is a left tackle. I also do not believe they even have a roster spot for a starting tackle, and the first round pick SHOULD BE an immediate starter. Finally, I do not believe any of the options in this draft are immediate starters. The Lions do not draft the BPA if there is no roster spot for him, they go to the next name.

By my math then, they Lions will not be drafting a left tackle in round 1 of the 2011 draft. Could they? Sure. My likelihood meter says 10% and that's me being generous.

So what really are the Lions needs then? They could use upgraded starters (that is, they have a potential roster spot for...) an Outside Linebacker, Cornerback, 1 or 2 of the 4 Defensive Ends (should I mention the age and injuries to KVB? nahhh), backup Guard, backup Center, Slot Wide Receiver (or a #2 if Burleson gets moved to slot) and a Running Back to go with Best and Morris. They don't have that many draft picks... and even if they did, who's to say the draft will fall to them in such a way as to pick one of each.

If I were to rank the needs, my ranking would be CB, OLB, DE then WR, G/C, and RB. (notice, no Tackles, on O or D, no QBs or TEs either)

But the Lions don't draft the neediest need first and the least need last... they do look to see if they have a need (a roster spot) for the guys who currently ride the top of the draft chart (BPsA... Best Player(s) Available), but they could fill needs in any order, they could even double up on a spot just to be safe. They would then use free agency to round off the roster and let the camp battles for jobs begin!!! (this is where all the players I and everyone else disses, intentionally or unintentionally, get to prove us wrong and WIN that ROSTER SPOT!!!).

Now, I may have missed a point or two here and there, so feel free to visit my website, you can find a way there to email me if you so wish, or click on the link to my forum, pick up the discussion there if you choose. New forum members are always welcome (even those who still think the Lions will go LT in round 1 this year).

Just remember, when you mock the Lions this year (I made a funny), KVB has been injured more then Jeff Backus, the Lions defense relies totally on getting pressure from the front 4, KVB is aging as fast as Jeff (minute for minute in fact), and if a first rounder was to be picked that plays DE, he would get time on the field without killing our Quarterback whereas a tackle might not get on the field in 2011 at all, or if he does, I can't see it going 100% perfect for Matt or anyone else playing QB.


Ty said...


Great piece! I responded over at my own blog, but ultimately I both agree with you and don't. I DON'T think there is a burning need for an OT right now; in fact I'm positive that a 1.13 OT would sit at least this season out.

However, it would be awful if the Lions' championship "window" opens this year, just to have Backus finally break down and leave them scrambling for a replacement (and no high draft pick to do it with!). Given the premium you have to pay to get an elite protector, and the unlikelihood that any of the Lions' immediate needs (CB, OLB) could be filled at 1.13, I don't see why OT should be ruled out.


NetRat's Lions Blog said...

As I see it, taking a tackle just for the sake of taking one (same applies to QB by the way) is going to hurt your team, not help.

I do not like this class of tackles (the ones most think will go round 1), I like Tyron Smith at RT and the rest of these developmental guys in round 2. If this draft had the top 3 tackles from any of the previous couple drafts in it, none of these guys would be talked about in the top 25 (same goes for Quarterback).

Yes, they all have potential, some even pretty great potential, but they all have an extra high bust factor this year... I'd rather take my chances and wait then pick the risky pick.

When I gamble at the casino I only take the amount of money I'm willing to lose... when I draft I have to look at what I'm losing out on to gamble on another.

I would much prefer the Lions have the best dline in the NFL then a potential left tackle sitting on the bench wondering why he's not playing.

- said...

A lot of people are saying Detroit's OL did a great job in 2010 based on the sacks-allowed stat, but what's the stat on hurries? Times flushed out of pocket that resulted in an inc or int? I don't think sacks-allowed tells the whole story.

I'm not sold on picking an OT at 13 - not thrilled with what's out there - but our OL needs to get a lot better. In terms of our OL, there's no way are we in the top half of the league, much less top six. The 2010 sacks-allowed stat may look good (and it's an enormous improvement on 2009 to be sure), but both our pass protection and run blocking are sub-par, in my opinion. We've got to get better at both in order to get to the next level.

Just my US$0.02, which is worth less today than it was yesterday.

Ty said...

"I would much prefer the Lions have the best dline in the NFL then a potential left tackle sitting on the bench wondering why he's not playing."

This is interesting, because to me it's two sides of the same coin: whether we take a DE like Robert Quinn, or an LT like Tryon Smith, neither one is going to have a clear path to start (barring, God forbid, major injuries). DEs obviously play more rotationally than OTs, but between KVB, Avril, and Lo-Jack, even a first-rounder is going to have a tough time making an impact.

Unless you believe having a strong, deep defensive line is fundamentally more desirable a strong, deep offensive line, I don't really follow your reasoning.


NetRat's Lions Blog said...

The Lions got a little better as the year went on, as I predicted due to the influx of new players (takes time to integrate new bodies into a team, be they rookies or vets). However, they did even better when you consider the O was playing with 2nd and 3rd string QBs all season... and with a RB with TWO turf toes and another with a rebuilt leg (and not yet 100% ever, all season). How would that o-line look with the #1 QB and one healthy starting RB? (answer: a lot better).

As for the D-Line, a non-stop DE attack with 3 or 4 superb DE lineup helps the defense tremendously... plus, KVB is only 1 year younger then Jeff Backus, so even though KVB is needed (desparately) in the locker room and on the field, he is no longer a 50 snap DE. Backus meanwhile has yet to miss his first game.

Will I take KVBs eventual replacement over Jeff Backus' replacement this year? Yes! In a heartbeat... faster then I can say YES!