Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lions 2012 Draft, Day 3, Rounds 4 - 7

With the 117th pick in the NFL 2012 Draft the Detroit Lions... trade their pick to San Francisco for pick #125 (moving down 8 spots in round 4) and acquiring pick #196 (a 6th rounder). With pick number 125 the Detroit Lions select OLB/DE Ronnell Lewis from Oklahoma.

At 6'1.6" tall and weighing in at 253 pounds Ronnell has some work ahead of him. However, with a 4.65 40 time and a great motor he has the tools to become a good NFL DE in the wide 9 defense. Had he excelled at school and applied himself to developing his talents a little more he may have been drafted in round 2. With good coaching and a good locker room he should blossom mentally and physically in a couple of years... which is about how long it takes a DE to learn the NFL position and start to excel at it.


#10 on the list here:

You're going to like this one on "the Hammer"

I should note here that I had Ronnell Lewis ranked 61 on my top 100 board, higher then their 2nd or their 3rd round picks.

The Detroit Lions trade their 2013 4th round pick and their 2012 pick #219 in the 7th round to the Minnesota Vikings and acquire pick #138 in round 5 and pick #223 in the 7th round (moving down 4 spots in round 7). With the 138th pick the Lions select OLB Tahir Whitehead from Temple.


#19 on the list here:

The Detroit Lions trade up to pick #148 in round 5, giving the Oakland Raiders pick #158 (moving up 10 spots) and giving away pick #230 in round 7. With the 148th pick the Lions select CB Chris Greenwood from Albion


The Detroit Lions use their 196th pick in round 6 (acquired from San Francisco) on DB Jonte Green of New Mexico State University.

Links: Okay, so, I'm not finding much on Jonte. Not sure if this was a flyer or a good investment of a draft pick. For whatever reason the Lions had him ranked and didn't want to risk losing him in the 7th round, so we'll have to go with that for now.

The Detroit Lions use their 223rd pick acquired from the Minnesota Vikings to select LB Travis Lewis from Oklahoma (this is the 3rd player from Oklahoma drafted by the Lions this year).

Travis was expected to be drafted as high as the 4th round. He's just over 6'1" tall, weights in at 246 pounds and projects to be a weakside or middle linebacker in the 4-3 defense. He played his entire senior year with a broken toe wearing a special shoe to be able to do it. Holds the tackling record at Oklahoma.


I should note here that I had Travis Lewis ranked 96 on my top 100 board, higher then the Lions 5th and 6th round picks and higher then their 2nd round pick.

The Lions took players from small schools and some others with questionable off field personalities on day 3, all in an effort to find a diamond or two, or so it would appear to me. Based on how teams, and I mean all of them not just the Lions, reached for players throughout the draft it would seem that many front offices weren't entirely impressed with their options this year. Gunny is going to have his work cut for him but if half or more of the defensive draft picks turn out this could end up being one of the best drafts the Lions have had in years if not decades. However, if most or if all of these players selected to play defense fail to make the grade, this could easily end up as one of the worst. The talent is there... now it's up to the players and the coaches to form the clay into NFL football players.

Lions 2012 Draft, Day 2, Rounds 2 and 3

With the 54th pick of the 2012 NFL Draft the Lions select Oklahoma Wide Receiver Ryan Broyles.

And the crowd goes wild. Not because everyone wanted Ryan Broyles. Not because everyone wanted a wide receiver. But because everyone expected something else, anything else or should I say, anyone else... no, that's not it, any defensive position. Some were bracing themselves just in case the Lions went running back, or better yet, guard or center but most expected some kind of defensive help. Instead the Lions stayed true to their board and drafted the injured Oklahoma wide receiver.

I had him ranked 107th. Probable 4th rounder. But, truth to tell, almost all the teams drafted waaayyyyy outside the rankings this year. At one point early in the 3rd round I watched as 5 guys, in a row, were drafted, that I had ranked as undrafted free agents or at most, 7th rounders (none of those 5 were to the Lions). One scout had Broyles ranked at 48, that was the highest I saw him ranked. The Lions had him ranked as the best player at that point in the draft. Probably due to his versatility (wideout and returner). One profile compares him to Wes Welker in as far as the type of player he is. If you think of him as just the 4th Wide Receiver on the team replacing Rashied Davis then he's not exactly worthy of a 2nd round pick. If you think of him as the eventual replacement for Burleson (in a few years) he still wouldn't be worthy of a 2nd round pick this year. If you think of him as a punt returner and possibly replacing Logan this year or next, he still isn't worthy of a 2nd round pick. If you think of him as all of these added together, he just might be worthy of a 2nd round pick. Throw in just one injury to any of the other wide receivers and he becomes very critical for 2012 (and for those who believe in the Madden curse, this year depth is going to be needed big time!).

Ryan Broyles is one of the top collegiate receivers of all time production-wise. He did for Oklahoma what Calvin Johnson did for the Lions last year, holding the record for catches, yards and touchdowns. He's apparently a very good route runner and good at YACs (Yards after the catch). Not afraid to and pretty efficient at playing slot. Tore his left ACL November 11, 2011 and is just now starting to get back into practicing. NFL conditioning and rehab will probably bring him back the rest of the way before camp starts. Had he not injured his ACL his draft stock would've been upper 2nd round easily. So, in one reality, he was not a reach, he was not a bad choice, he just wasn't the expected choice... especially considering who was still on the board (other people's boards, not the Lions board) at that point in time. Many of those supposedly better players went in round 3 not 2 and some still aren't drafted as I type this.

So, some links:

#12 WR:

6th best WR here:

Confession time. I didn't see this pick coming. Wasn't happy at the time of the pick either. But, like most of the Lions player moves, it's growing on me. I think I would've still drafted Vinny Curry but they didn't ask me so we'll see how this works out.

With the 85th pick of the 2012 NFL Draft the Lions select Louisiana-Lafayette Cornerback Dwight (Bill) Bentley.

Immediately after this selection I was thinking I had never heard of this guy. Who is Dwight Bentley? Part of that was that he goes by the name of Bill... Bill Bentley. Part of it was I wasn't paying attention to my board because once again I was expecting a different pick by the Lions. I had 3 cornerbacks on my board that were on the list of Lions contacts and I was expecting one of those to be picked. One was ranked 51, one was at 70, and the other was at 99. I never noticed the guy sitting at 93... one Dwight aka Bill Bentley.

The Huddle Report had him at 67, Sideline Scouting at 78 and NFP at 117 just to name a few. I have no doubt he was also the top dude on the Lions draft board at this point in the draft, though I'm not sure why he was ahead of players such as RB Jamal Miller and the like, but all the other teams are passing on these guys too, so there must be a valid reason even if I'm unaware of what that reason is.

Dwight's contact with the team was pretty much his Senior Bowl film. He showed skills that were mostly never used in college and impressed the Lions greatly. His 4.43 speed is impressive. His ballhawking skills are fairly well developed though he does need to control his angle of attack a bit better. He needs coaching but the potential and the speed is there. This is probably a better pick then it seemed at first... no, I'm quite sure this is a better pick then it seemed... now it's up to Gunther and company to get him NFL ready... the guy has a very high ceiling.

Now for some links:

11th CB:

One more confession. Wasn't expecting this pick but not upset with it either, especially after reading the above links (plus others I can not post a link to). Since I have enough players on my board remaining to fill the entire 4th round with picks without taking a player ranked 4th round (in other words, I have almost 32 second and third rounders on my board left to be drafted) this draft is turning out to be one of the most confusing ones ever. Lions still need or might end up with a defensive end, running back, clipboard holder (ie: 3rd QB), and maybe a linebacker... along with some more OLine help. Look for guys who are versatile, can play special teams or multiple positions, because so far, ALL the Lions picks are one or the other!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Lions 2012 Draft, Round 1

With the 23rd pick in the 2012 NFL Draft the Detroit Lions select Iowa Offensive Tackle Riley Reiff.

I'd have to really dig, but I think most pundits have been assuming the Lions would take a left tackle in the draft in the first round for almost a decade, most definitely for the past few years, and the Lions never did. When the Lions re-signed Jeff Backus this year to a 2 year contract many thought they might go in a different direction this year... so surprise! They take who they say they had ranked as the 2nd best tackle in the draft (and I believe them). Neither the Lions nor I expected Reiff to be there at 23 and drafting an offensive tackle isn't the sexy pick that a cornerback, defensive end, or even a running back would've been... but adding talent is what the draft is all about and the Lions now have added talent to the offensive line corp.

But what kind of talent is he? Unless you watched Iowa play for the past few years or live in South Dakota and visited him at his farm you probably don't know any more then I did and thus you get your information from the internet and television. As I have found out, that's all well and good, but the various sources aren't exactly saying the same things. Heck, one source posted the measurables from his pro day and the combine and the measurements of the dudes hands and arms, height and weight are all different. Now I can understand a persons weight changing over a couple of weeks time, but I thought only OJ Simpson could change his hand size at will (sorry, had to throw that in there for some reason). If the measurables aren't even the same what do you suppose the rest of the immeasurables are like? Yeah, that's about it too... way different depending on who you read or listen to. One site will say he has long arms, the next will say short arms, in reality... they are at or just slightly below average (say within 3/4"). One site says he's been well coached, another says he may not take to coaching very well. Some sites were obvious that they maybe watched one or two games and wrote a player profile, while others watched multiple games and were a bit more thorough. Near as I can tell from the mess I went through, Riley Reiff is a tenacious, hard working, versatile offensive lineman who could use some NFL coaching but is also ready to start if need be. He is no stranger to the film room. He is no stranger to the weight room. He's also not afraid to play any position on the line if he's asked to. He also apparently doesn't like to be beat on a play, not at all. In other words, he is very talented if a bit raw and has an attitude to match.

When you think about it, what more could an offensive line coach ask for? Here is some highlights of his play:

And now, some links to some of the non-pay profiles I've read. This isn't all by any means, but I can't post the pdf's I've paid for or the material on the pay sites I subscribe to, perhaps you have others you have found. I wouldn't take any as gospel though, read them all and try to formulate your own thoughts from it... I think you'll find that the Lions have some quality material to work with.

Josh Norris scouting report can be read here (2nd best OT):

Now this one, which is the complete opposite of most regarding arm length and strength and such... no two sites are describing him the same... and after I read it I noticed the date posted, prior to combine by a lot:

Then there's PFW's which may be a little more accurate:

Another scouting report:


Other aspects of the pick which isn't helping fans get enthusiastic for the Lions choice is; where will he play? How does it help the team? Where is the upgrade or who is he replacing?

The answer is... they don't know yet. Oh, I'm sure they have an idea, and if it works out that way great, but until the OTA's and camps are over, they can't possibly know for sure if he'll be doing plan A, or plan B, or plan C, etc.

Riley Reiff will be tried out at both tackle positions, both guard positions, maybe even center... but I'm pretty sure the plan is to play him at tackle if he's able to handle the duties. Now, will he be pushing (or replacing) Gosder Cherilus at right tackle or just learning the left tackle position to be Jeff Backus' eventual replacement is uncertain. I assume, if he's talented enough, he could supplant Goz at RT either permanently or temporarily until Backus retires. Being that Reiff is versatile and willing to play any position he has a lot to learn, then it will be up to him to earn his roster spot. Right or Left, Tackle or Guard, Now or "Down the Road".

He has a ton of drive... sitting on the bench isn't going to be his idea of fun... so the current starters best go all out as Reiff is going to be in their rear view mirror and he'll definitely be closer then he appears.

We fans also get to do something we're not comfortable with... watching our team develop an offensive lineman. It's not sexy, it's not thrilling, but it's a very necessary evil.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Lions Draft Board

The Pro days are over, player visits are done, teams are now preparing in house for the draft which is less then a week away. The Lions are compiling their notes and preparing to mock draft scenarios out to determine a game plan that will probably be thrown out within an hour after the Draft starts.

No one knows who the Lions will draft or who will be available when they pick. Will they target a player and trade up or will they trade down... the sheer range of options is, well, intriguing (not quite overwhelming, ha!).

Too bad there isn't a way to trim the list of options down a bit. Well, it just so happens there might be a way to do that.

For the past couple of years I've been working out various methods to rank players just to see if I can get closer to possibly how the Lions rank their players. At the same time, someone from my forum named LionHawk has been creating a contact list each year. Last year, every single player drafted by the Lions was on that contact list. He can explain how he comes up with the contact list better then I, but it accounts for pro-days, Combine, Allen Park visits, and Senior bowl. It is roughly 100 names long.

Sometimes a contact is made to verify health issues. Sometimes to ask about another player. Sometimes the team sends a DB coach to actually watch WRs. There is almost a science to it, determining who is a potential Lions draft pick and who is not. Plus, you never can tell if you have all the information or not. But since that's all I have to work with, and since it was 100% accurate for the 2011 draft, I'm ready to go with it.

What can this contact list tell us this year? A lot of things really. In no particular order we got...

The only Long Snapper (1) and Tight End (1) on the list are expected to be UDFAs.

Just about every Running Back expected to be drafted in the top 3 rounds are on the list (only exception appears to be Bernard Pierce from Temple, if he's considered a 3rd rounder).

Just 2 Safeties that will get drafted are on the list, with 4 more UDFAs.

All 7 of the LBs on the list are expected to be drafted.

There are as many DEs on the list as CBs, WRs, OTs, and RBs. Many of each position in the first 3 rounds. However, while DEs, CBs, OTs and RBs have 7 each in the top 100 only 3 WRs made the list leaving 11 WRs for rounds 4 through Undrafted.

QB does not appear on the list, however, I suspect they may have done that on purpose so no team will know who their hopeful project QB is... but that's just my guess.

There are 16 on the list who could go in round 1, 13 from round 2 and 13 from round 3. That's only 8 shy of half the entire list. 30 are not expected to get drafted and will become UDFAs (undrafted free agents). That leaves less then 30 names on the list for rounds 4 through 7.

6 of the possible 16 first rounders on the list are in my top 15 and thus shouldn't be there when the Lions pick at 23... if the Lions stay put at pick 23.

Of the 10 first rounders not in the top 15 you have (1) Safety, (2) Cornerbacks, (1) Defensive End, (1) Center, (1) Guard (1) Guard/Tackle, (1) Tackle, and (2) Running Backs. Or if you prefer; (3) DBs, (1) DE, (4) OLine, and (2) RBs. Most say the (2) RBs will fall into round 2 or at least the very bottom of round 1 (trade down?).

That's enough of my interpretation of Lionshawk's list, you can visit the forum to discuss it further if you wish. However, that's not going to stop me from using it and my top 100 ranking to give up 5 names in each of the first 3 rounds that I envision the Lions drafting if they are still there (and don't trade out of their spots).

1st Round
Mark Barron SS Alabama
Stephon Gilmore CB South Carolina
Janoris Jenkins CB North Alabama
Riley Reiff OT Iowa
Nick Perry DE USC

2nd Round
Amini Silatolu OG Midwestern State (Texas)
Vinny Curry DE Marshall
Zach Brown OLB North Carolina
Brandon Boykin CB-KR Georgia
Kelechi Osemele OT-OG Iowa State

3rd Round
Isaiah Pead RB Cincinnati
Marvin Jones WR California
Zebrie Sanders OT Florida State
A.J. Jenkins WR Illinois
Ben Jones C Georgia

As an FYI, I'm all for any of these players being drafted, plus some names not listed here... but I got to say, a draft of...

Janoris Jenkins CB North Alabama
Vinny Curry DE Marshall
Isaiah Pead RB Cincinnati
Devon Wylie WR Fresno State (round 4)

...would pretty much make my day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Detroit Lions' Draft Plan

Most draftnics and Lions fans continue to mock draft for the Lions based on need, or based on depth of the draft, or based on value for a pick, or any of a number of other incorrect methods that won't get them close. Others will simply say BPA (Best Player Available) and then try to wedge someone onto the roster still based on need but insisting that "such and such player" IS the best player available for the Lions to pick. Still others will say they (the Lions) can get a -insert position here- later in the draft and won't draft this or that player at this or that draft spot. And finally, there's the group that says the Lions won't draft this or that player because they don't need a player at that position or that particular player because of his history.

Somewhere in that mix there are a few who realize that the Lions won't draft certain players because those specific players don't fit what they do or if they do fit what they do, there is no roster spot for the player. Now even though that small group is closer to correct then the rest, they are still off on one thing, if a high enough ranked player drops to the Lions and they can't get decent value to trade out of their spot they will take said player. Should you have read all my blog posts you would probably figure I fit into this last group (and you would be right) and you would also know I got caught being wrong when the Lions DID in fact draft a defensive tackle last year despite my insistence they would not.

Hold up, say the BPA crowd, taking Fairley was what they should've done. But BPA means they won't package picks and trade up to target LeShoure, or Jahvid Best the year before. The Lions did not wait until it was their turn and then take the BPA, they targeted a specific player and went after him. How does that fit in with BPA?

Just what is the Lions draft plan?

In order to figure that out, you need to change the way you think about the draft.

The Lions do not see the draft as a way to fill a need, the Lions see it as a way to add talent to the roster... the entire roster.

Unlike free agency the salary cap isn't a part of the equation and so the Lions are free to add whatever talent they can acquire. They want the best they can possibly get whenever they draft a player.

You also have to drop the notion that the Lions aren't set at a position. That they have holes in the roster. As far as the front office is concerned, the Lions can and would field a team based on their current roster. That doesn't mean the current roster are guaranteed jobs, in fact, they are not (well, most of the players are not anyway). Some contracts guarantee certain players will in fact make the final roster but the majority of the team have no such guarantee. So while they would field a team of 53 from their current set of contracts they aren't against upgrading anywhere they can.

Then, you have to drop the notion that the Lions ARE set at a position. As far as the front office is concerned, any position is upgradeable and will attempt to give a player a chance to win a job from another be that player a free agent or a draft pick.

This is the part most do not get. The Lions are perfectly happy with their roster as is, right now, without more free agency and/or without a draft. The Lions are also perfectly happy to upgrade any position on the team right now, no matter what player would have to fight for his job or risk being cut (or traded). Because they are happy with their current roster they will often times take the best player available (based on their ranking criteria) and allow that player to compete for a job. However, because they are perfectly willing to upgrade any position on the roster they will target certain players who they have ranked substantially higher then their current roster and position themselves (via trade) to take that player.

Either way, they are in fact adding talent to the roster. Someone gets added, someone else doesn't make the final roster (or gets traded away). The team as a whole improves.

Yeah, that might mean they draft a DT, a RB, and a WR when they "need" a CB, OT, and LB. In the end though, the team as a whole improved talent-wise even if a specific position group did not. You keep doing that and you keep fielding a team with talent... instead of a team with no talent who goes 0-16.

The players on the roster have been ranked. The players in the draft are being ranked. The Lions will be looking to add talent to their roster in the draft, whether they target a specific player and go get him or take the BPA that falls to them at their draft spot remains to be seen. At some point it is simply not worth trading (up or down) if the "dance partner" wants too much (or is offering too little) so the "plan" is somewhat dependent on what others will do (and who others take).

When the draft is over, the Lions will continue to add to the roster with players who can compete with the current roster of names in an attempt to further upgrade any and every position, even if that position is 3rd string QB or 5th string WR. An upgrade is an upgrade, the 51st through 53rd ranked guys on the roster will never ever be safe... the Lions will always be looking to get better, even if one position group suffers (a little) for a season while they build on another.

No team has a perfect roster. No team has 53 pro-bowlers. Every team has holes. As long as your team is constantly upgrading, constantly improving, they will do better then they did before. If you draft the very best player you possibly can every time you pick in the draft, you get better as a team as well. In the end, what more can you ask for?

Okay, back to the 2012 draft. Applying the Lions "draft plan" to the hundreds of draftable players and what do we get? First, the Lions may target a specific player and try to trade up to get him. If the "cost" is too high they will not pull the trigger. If the "cost" is acceptable, they trade up and pick the guy they really want. You can bet that player is an immediate starter and a definite upgrade to the current starter if it's in the first round. Someone who will be an improvement to the team for years to come. Since it's very rare to get that great trade or player in that way, it's more likely the Lions will have a group of 4 to 8 guys they want at pick #23 and will wait to see who is still there when they are on the clock. If all 4 to 8 guys are there, they will entertain offers to trade down... 3 to 7 spots... so that they can still get one of their guys. If no trades look decent, they pick... the BPA out of the group they predetermined they want. As so it'll go for each round. If it's later in the draft, the draft pick will be an option to upgrade a backup position. ALL backup positions are supposed to constantly be competing to be the starter, both right now and eventually on down the road.

The things that help a potential draft pick be ranked higher include (in no particular order) a hard worker, a strong guy, a fast player, a smart player, a leader, someone who gets along with others who are hard workers, and of course... talent. Health, be it physical or mental, are negatives. Talent still trumps physical and mental health though, so at some point even a player with negatives becomes the best player available. Some players are simply not suited to the Lions style of play and are more or less exempt from consideration.

Find a player who is very talented, a hard worker, who is strong and fast and smart, someone who is a leader and fits the Lions scheme and you probably found a player the Lions will try to move up for in order to draft him. If the cost is too much, they will simply wait and take someone else who is nearly ranked as high. If you can figure out what the other teams will do and who is left then continue looking at talent and effort and strength and speed and leadership and of course one who fits the Lions schemes and you have the pick... you had better have completely forgotten about what position that player plays as you can be sure the Lions did... at least as far as need goes. The one caveat here is that the pick must be ranked as high or higher then the current player on the roster... so unless the 23rd pick is a QB ranked higher then Stafford that QB isn't going to be picked... or a TE higher then Pettigrew... or a WR higher then Calvin Johnson... etc.

What I mean is, at pick #23, the player taken could be a CB, or a Safety, or a LB, or a DE, or a Guard, or a Tackle as long as said player is ranked higher then the current Lion holding that position. The 1st rounder is considered to be a starter, later rounds, a backup, so the ranking must match the player the draft pick will be competing against for a roster spot. What position is needed more then another is irrelevant.

The Lions draft plan is to increase the talent level of the 53 man roster. Nothing more, and most definitely, nothing less.