Sunday, April 28, 2013
The 2013 Detroit Lions draft strategy this year appeared to be all about upside. Not so much on what they already did but what they can do for the Detroit Lions in the NFL.
The players selected were all, to a man, your prototypical size, height, weight, speed or whatever measurable you care to use, correct for their position in the Lions schemes used. Failure of a draft pick this year will not be due to a player not having the measurables to do the job.
Every player also appears to have sound mental faculties. None of their profiles even hints at this being all about the paycheck. In fact, it would appear that they are all a little hungry to excel in the sport. Failure of a draft pick this year will not be due to a player not having his mind on football.
Every player appears to be more or less physically fit. Oh sure they may have suffered some bumps or bruises playing football but nothing to suggest any ailment will keep them from competing in training camp.
Every player appears to be lacking the reputation of being a party animal. Something could still come up, they are all 21 to 24 years old after all, but perhaps this draft class will be more or less law abiding citizens.
The Lions drafted 9 players in 2013, their individual measurables are in the post immediately below this one. Many reports have already been written, most of you reading this have read or heard multiple things about each player and everyone who is reading this will either be for, against or neutral on each prospect. I'm not going to try to change your mind, nor am I going to just rehash the same old stuff, but perhaps I can throw a new twist in on each player as I present my own beliefs as it pertains to them being a Detroit Lion.
DE Ezekiel (Ziggy) Ansah will be tried at both the left and right side to determine where he best fits at and so that he is exposed to playing both positions. Ziggy doesn't have a lifetime of football to fall back on so he's got to develop his style as he's being coached and find for himself what works and what does not. His coaches including his present one state he has the best instincts of any player they've seen. I've read that in his scouting profiles quite often as well. This will go a long ways in him seeing snaps this year. A typical drafted DE can take until his 3rd year before he is able to really excel in the NFL. They display an upwards trending curve in results as they learn the NFL version of being a defensive end. Many readers are concerned that Ansah because of his lack of experience will not progress like others do, some are quite adamant that he will fail completely. It is my belief that Ansah will succeed even though he is starting from a lower point in the arc. I believe his upward learning curve will within the same 3 years that others top out be quite extraordinary, passing many of them somewhere in year 2. There really isn't anything to stop him other then experience and that he is about to receive, in large doses. He'll make mistakes, especially early in his career, but if you are waiting for him to fail you may be waiting for a very long time. I wasn't adamant that the Lions draft Ansah, but I really hated the thought of them losing out on his abilities to change the game, and that is exactly what the coaching staff, front office, and even little ole me is looking for, game changers. Should you chose to read only 1 profile on Ansah then I would suggest this one, it pretty much covers everything good and bad. http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/college_player_scouting_report.html&player=45999. If I'm wrong? If he does in fact fail? Then the Lions will be in need of a new DE, and probably a new front office and a new coaching staff. But no pressure aye Ansah? Just do your thing, you'll fine.
CB Darius Slay was not my favorite draft pick. In fact, there were many who I would rather the Lions had drafted instead. Every scouting report I have ranked him as a 3rd rounder. To me he was a reach. But. He is the exact type of cornerback the Lions covet. Tall, strong, fast (very fast) and capable. He too is green and will require time to be all he can be and I have no reason to suspect he won't achieve becoming a very good corner. Drew Boylhart at the Huddle Report gave him a 2nd round grade and suggested strongly that playing Slay at free Safety would play to his strengths the best and that he could become an all pro safety. That would be fine, the Lions need another top quality safety, but it would appear Drew is the only one who believes that as I could find no one else that says it. Even the NFL must believe that Slay was going to be a top of the 2nd round guy as they had him in the green room during the draft. I was 99% certain the Lions would not draft a cornerback in the 2013 draft so it only took them until the 4th pick in round 2 to make me out a liar. If I'm going to be wrong then please ole football gods let me be so dead wrong that Slay becomes one of the best corners in the NFL. Really, I won't mind. Slay will play special teams and be worked into the defensive backs corp and once he achieves enough points with the coaching staff will likely start opposite Houston (which could easily be by game 1 this year). One or two of the other corners will also see a lot of time as the Lions are in nickel and dime packages (meaning more corners and fewer linebackers) nearly half the time on defense on average. For another look at Slay here's the link to his profile from the same site that I posted on Ansah above: http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/college_player_scouting_report.html&player=55213
OG Larry Warford also needs time with the coaching staff and with the guys in the gym. Both of which he'll get. Most of the scouts I know believe that Warford would get drafted in round 2 which is where I had him ranked as well. He's as much a value as Clay was a reach (according to what I researched and to various scouts). He'll win the starting job this year and after the initial errors should grow into a very good to great starting guard for the Lions. I've read conflicting reports as to his ability to stunt and in screens, but I think part of that is due to his conserving energy to finish the game. Once the Lions training staff has his stamina up to par his ability to move around should also increase. He's going to be one tired pup for awhile, but if the training staff is able to do their jobs with him the sky is the limit on what this guy can achieve (as far as what any guard can in fact achieve). He definitely promises to improve the Lions run and passing game by solidifying the middle right of the Lions offensive line. It was the right pick in the right round filling a definite need for the Lions. Most fans would give this single selection an A+ grade even if they disliked one or both of the previous players taken. Warford's scouting report from the same site as above can be found here: http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/college_player_scouting_report.html&player=47546
DE Devin Taylor needs good coaching. He was projected to be drafted in round 4 and he was, barely. Physically he can play the position although he's so tall he actually needs to gain another 10 pounds or so of muscle, thus the trainers for the Lions have work to do with this pick as well. I do not believe he'll be starting any time soon but he will be rotated in to create what havoc he can and to gain experience with what snaps he can earn. Once he has had the NFL coaching he needs and the training room time he needs (along with a proper NFL diet) he should begin to show more at defensive end than he has so far. In other words, Devin exemplifies the word "project". But he is a worthy project and he will actually be able to earn snaps during games to help the team and to gain experience, so he's in a pretty good spot to learn. Being he's a 4th round pick there are no expectations for him, thus no pressure, and that will allow him to learn the job at a proper speed. I look forward to watching him improve his game. His profile is found here: http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/college_player_scouting_report.html&player=44622
P Sam Martin was selected by the Lions in round 5. I'm sorry, I'm not a proponent of taking punters (or kickers) early in a draft (I apologize to Jason Hanson and his fans and yeah, round 5 isn't all that early, but). He obviously was not the best player available or even in a group of them. He was targeted, plain and simple. But, he may (or should I say most likely will) win the starting punter job so it gives the front office the means to say they drafted 3 (or more) starters in the 2013 draft. Most scouting material doesn't include kickers and punters so providing a link here won't happen. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed with this pick either but who knows, maybe the Lions are now set at punter for the next 15 years, and perhaps he is just slightly better at punting then the next guy. Stay tuned (on the edge of your seat) for more on this as the season progresses.
This was also the round that the Lions traded down in for an extra pick, apparently they had no projects they wanted to draft earlier in round 5 and felt the best way to get value was to trade down, get that extra 6th round pick, and to draft a punter. While I can argue about whether there were any projects to pick from I can't argue with getting value for the pick in whatever way you can.
WR Corey Fuller is in the same boat as the rest of the Lions draft. He fits the part he was drafted to play but is in need of an NFL training staff and NFL coaching. His size and speed suggest the Lions hope he will develop into what they are looking for as their #2 wide receiver opposite Calvin Johnson. That's a tall order for a 6th round pick. As a rule, rookie wide receivers do not produce all that well in the NFL and take a year or more to learn the task. Fuller is a little greener then most but he might be on the same learning curve as other draft picks at this position are, it depends on how hard he works at it. How much playing time he sees this year will depend on his speed of development and how desperate the Lions are for help at wide receiver. I suspect we will see him more and more as the year goes on. His profile can be read here: http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/college_player_scouting_report.html&player=50818
RB Theo Riddick was probably at the low end of the scale as far as the measurables go for his position. His height and weight is fine (for what the Lions want) but his speed is not quite there and his hands are a quarter inch too small for me to consider drafting him (and may be why he is noted to have a slight issue with ball security). His time playing wide receiver though will help him to make the team (being versatile) and he may end up winning the job of kick returner (if he can do the job properly). The Lions were looking for a RB to backup Bush if anything goes wrong and despite Riddick's slower speed he can probably handle the duties required given time... if just barely. Perhaps his desire to play will raise his floor and ceiling and provide him (and the Lions) with a good running back to have on the roster. While I won't say that Theo will ever be said to be worth his weight in gold (pause for the old timers to chuckle or roll their eyes) his utility man status should provide him with a comfortable living. http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/college_player_scouting_report.html&player=40505 But hold on, an utility man such as Theo is should be allowed a 2nd profile link, so here it is: http://www.cbssports.com/nfl/draft/players/1664502/theo-riddick
TE Michael Williams will be filling the Will Heller role on the team. In fact, he's nearly a Will Heller clone, but he'll be playing for a little less then half the money that Heller would get based on his veteran status. This pick is the Lions getting younger at a specific role, the blocking tight end slash full back role who can leak out from time to time to catch a first down pass. Hard to argue the need or the pick, as he was ranked to go nearly a round earlier. His profile is found here: http://www.nationalfootballpost.com/college_player_scouting_report.html&player=40827
LB Brandon Hepburn was not predicted to be drafted. Most sites have no profile on him. He was what you would call a "flyer"... that is, a draft pick a team makes near the end of the 7th round when everyone you wanted is pretty much gone. Perhaps there was interest in Brandon from other teams as an undrafted free agent so the Lions chose to draft him instead of waiting, or perhaps he was the top man on their board remaining, or perhaps he was targeted to fill a special teams role. He definitely fits this year's draft motif, that is a raw (read as green) project. Perhaps the best link to put here is one from his local paper http://www.tallahassee.com/article/20130427/FAMU03/304270028/Detroit-Lions-nab-Hepburn I think I shall call him the Professor, Professor Hepburn has a nice ring to it, maybe the nickname will stick.
So there you have it, a tidbit or two on each of the 9 draft picks. Six of which were on the Lions LH List, one they coached at the Sr Bowl and so did not need contact, one they may perhaps have been trying to hide their interest in so didn't make the list (WR Fuller), and then the flyer pick at the end who wasn't on the list either.
The Lions also signed or invited 14 undrafted free agents to the team, 3 of whom were on the LH list and several that I had ranked, 2 with draftable grades. I don't think the Lions are quite done trying to improve their roster so look for some deals in free agency to come (not high priced deals, perhaps some vets with a year or two left in the tank) and perhaps other moves as well. Who knows, they could even try to talk Jeff Backus to come out of retirement for one more go.
The team (Lions front office) has already tried to improve by drafting 9 players with upside, and signing some undrafted guys who also have upside, after selecting and signing a few key players in free agency. Their draft strategy appeared to be more focused (for good or bad we will have to wait to find out) as was their signings in free agency, so perhaps their self-evaluation this off season will produce desirable results. I can neither say I loved this draft nor can I say I hate it, but in analyzing it I can't say I disagree with the direction attempted. I wouldn't necessarily call it a swing for the fences so much as a strategy, to draft guys with the proper measurables for their respective positions with the proper upside for their draft slot. The higher the draft pick, the higher their upside. I can't say for sure, but isn't that what the draft is supposed to be about?
Good luck to the Lions drafted and to those trying out, make us fans proud and we'll make you kings.
Posted by NetRat's Lions Blog at 10:13 PM
Saturday, April 27, 2013
2013 Detroit Lions Draft Class
(DE) Ezekiel [Ziggy] Ansah: Round 1, Pick 5, 5th pick overall. Brigham Young. 6’ 5 ¼” 271 lbs 4.63 in the 40 35 1/8" arms, 21 bench reps. Ranked 9th place in my ranking, was on the LH Lions list.
(CB) Darius Slay: Round 2, Pick 4, 36th pick overall. Mississippi State. 5’ 11 7/8” 192 lbs 4.36 in the 40 32 1/4" arms, 35.5" vert. Ranked 65th place in my ranking, was on the LH Lions list.
(OG) Larry Warford: Round 3, Pick 3, 65th pick overall. Kentucky. 6’ 3” 332 lbs 5.58 in the 40 33 3/8" arms, 28 bench reps Ranked 44th place in my ranking, was not on the LH Lions list but was coached by the Lions in the Senior Bowl.
(DE) Devin Taylor: Round 4, Pick 35, 132nd pick overall, comp pick. South Carolina. 6’ 7” 266 lbs 4.72 in the 40 36" arms, 14 bench reps Ranked 101st place in my ranking, was on the LH Lions list.
(P) Sam Martin: Round 5, pick 32, 165th pick overall, traded down with Ravens. Appalachian State. Did not place in my 475 player ranking, was on the LH Lions list.
(WR) Corey Fuller: Round 6, pick 3, 171st overall. Virginia Tech. 6’ 2 ¼” 204 lbs 4.32 in the 40 31.5" vert, 12 bench reps 9 ½” Hands Ranked 192nd place in my ranking, was not on the LH Lions list.
(RB) Theo Riddick: Round 6, pick 31, 199th overall. From Ravens trade. Notre Dame. 5’ 10 1/8th 201 lbs 4.68 in the 40 32" vert, 9'10" broad, 4.40 shuttle, 6.99 3-Cone 8 ¾” Hands Ranked 244th in my ranking, was on the LH Lions list. Plays some WR.
(TE) Michael Williams: Round 7, pick 5, 211th overall. Alabama. 6’ 5 ¾” 269 lbs 5.19 in the 40 25.5" vert, 8'0" broad, 4.90 shuttle Ranked 193rd in my ranking, was on the LH Lions list.
(LB) Brandon Hepburn: Round 7, pick 39, 245th overall, comp pick. Florida A&M. 6’ 2 ½” 240 lbs 4.68 in the 40 32 3/4" arms, 19 bench reps Ranked 420th in my ranking, was not on the LH Lions list.
Rumored undrafted free agents (UDFA):
Alex Carder, QB
John Laub, QB
Steven Miller, RB
Cody Wilson, WR
Travis Tarpley, WR
Joseph Fauria, TE
Allen Skyler, C
Trevor Marrongelli, G
Austin Holtz, OT
LaAdrian Waddle, OT
Michael Brooks, DT
Alex Elkins, LB
Jon Morgan, LB
Martavius Neloms, CB
More to come including my analysis of the draft.
Tryouts Marvin Booker John Laub Trevor Marrongelli UDFA's LaAdrian Waddle Austin Holtz Alex Carder Alex Elkins Jon Morgan Steven Miller Michael Brooks Martavius Neloms Trevor Coston Joseph Fauria Cody Wilson Travis Tarpley Andre Snipes-Booker Allen Skyler The above list is more accurate then the previous one I put in when I made the original blog (updated 4-30-2103)
Posted by NetRat's Lions Blog at 10:32 PM
Sunday, April 21, 2013
Many months of work by many people went into preparing for this blog entry. Not in writing it, but in obtaining and organizing the information it contains.
Thousands of hours of work were performed by many people who create NFL Draft Big Boards. These individuals watch film on many players, detailing their pro's and con's, write profiles, give players grades and otherwise rank players. Some are former front office personnel who now do it for various websites or news outlets, some are trained in scouting by the same schools that employed scouts went to, others do it for themselves with no formal training. If I left anyone out I apologize. The end result is, after many hundreds of hours of film study multiple people have rankings of players entering the draft. These are not mock drafts, but big boards, similar to what real NFL front offices create. Some are, of course, better at it then others, and you will find a very wide range of opinions on various players, but in the end many players names end up near the top of the lists and many others closer to the bottom. Some of these boards are free to look at it and others charge for access. I pay for some and visit/read many of the free versions. I do not have formal scout training nor do I study film the way these people do. What I do is take a number of these big boards and average out the rankings of every player creating my own big board... the sites I use are random, I do not pay them for the use of their information nor do I steal it and call it my own.
This year I used the information from 11 sites (kind of like hiring 11 scouts for my front office) and compiled the names and numbers into one big board then sorted it by the average rank of each player. Unlike real NFL front offices with real paid scouts who rank players based on scheme fit and other important factors specific to each team, my information is more generic out of necessity. It took a rather large number of hours to compile this information as well but I'm not complaining, it does however give me a great appreciation for the man hours involved for the 32 front offices in the NFL to prepare for the upcoming draft. My board is not for sale and the entire list of 487 names are for my own personal use during the draft, I have however posted the first 160 names on my website at http://www.thenetrat.com/draft.html (equivalent to the first 5 rounds) should you wish to see the results.
At the same time that would be scouts are creating their draft boards a member of my forum that goes by the name of LionHawk scours the internet, radio and press for news and photos of the Lions meeting with various draft prospects. The easy ones, the 30 visits to Allen Park are included, as are any combine interviews, proday interviews, and other major (versus minor) contact the Lions may have had with various players. After many months and hundreds of hours he creates a contact list. In the past, there were drafts where every draft pick the Lions made were on the list. There were a couple years when the Lions were a bit more secretive and got a few prospects that were drafted who were not on the list, but for the most part, every Lions draft pick this year is likely to be somewhere on the LionHawk list, as well as most if not all the undrafted guys they pick up after the draft.
When you go to my website link above and view the top 160 names on my big board you will notice that some of the names are in bold. Those are the players on the LionHawk list. That doesn't mean those not in bold won't be drafted by the Lions, but the odds do favor those that are in bold. The rest of my blog entry here will be using the information from the compiled lists I have made mention of, hopefully it's as accurate as I think it is, it's certainly as accurate as I can possibly make it.
The first thing I notice when studying the combined lists is that even though the Lions have the 5th pick in round 1 they have made contact with a lot of players who ranked between 11 and 24. That tells me they are very hopeful of trading down to the upper middle of round 1. Most fans I have talked with also hope the Lions will trade down in this draft which is obviously the direct opposite of what Mel Kiper recently said the Lions should do. I'm good with that.
So if I combine what I stated in my blog entry Part I with the information above I end up saying that if the Lions don't trade down they will likely select at pick #5 in the draft one of the following players if they are still there:
LT Luke Joeckel
LT Eric Fisher
DE Bjoern Werner (a late addition due to being a late visit to the Lions)
DE Ezekiel Ansah
G Chance Warmack
Now guards very rarely get drafted in the top 15 but it could happen, not the salary cap nor any other factor prevents them from doing so, it's just less likely. I left off the list CB Dee Milliner because as I stated in Part I it is in my opinion that the Lions won't be drafting a CB at all this draft. I also left off Dion Jordan because he does not exactly fit the profile for a 4/3 DE and the Lions don't need a 3/4 OLB. Could they draft him in the hopes he can add 2o pounds without losing speed and play a 4/3 DE? Sure. The odds are against it but they could.
Now if the Lions do trade down a little ways in round 1 a number of names can be added to the prospect list, assuming for a moment that both Ansah and Warmack drop if the Lions don't make them their pick, and assuming the Lions don't trade down too far, the list now looks like this (also keeping in mind my 3 positions from part one of this blog entry; WR, DE, OLine):
DE Bjoern Werner
DE Ezekiel Ansah
G Chance Warmack
DE/OLB Barkevious Mingo
G Jonathan Cooper
T Lane Johnson
WR Cordarelle Patterson
WR Tavon Austin
Out of this list I think Mingo is a long shot for the same reasons as Dion Jordan. I also think Tavon Austin isn't exactly the tall powerful bookend type WR they are looking for to play opposite Calvin Johnson. I didn't even mention S Kenny Vaccaro, OLB Jarvis Jones, TE Tyler Eifert for the reasons given before. When all is said and done, it appears to me that the Lions will be drafting DE Ansah, one of 3 offensive tackles, or one of 2 guards for their first pick, and it may or may not require a trade down to do it. The long shot being WR Cordarelle Patterson.
By now you can see my line of thinking so to quicken up the pace a little, my Lions 2nd pick in the draft comes down to these players:
DE Cornellius (Tank) Carradine
WR Robert Woods
WR Justin Hunter
Or possibly one of the players I mentioned for the first pick if they slide down. They could also trade down, or as has been their M.O. in most Mayhew drafts, trade up, to take another player. The options for their 2nd round pick do appear limited, so either they have someone ranked higher then I do, have other plans then sitting still, or plan to take a position that goes against my thinking (as I said in Part I of this draft blog). It's also obviously possible they had made contact with a player that escaped LionHawk's list, I wouldn't count on that though.
The 3rd draft pick might be made from this list:
C Travis Frederick
WR Aaron Dobson
G/RT Brian Winters
DE/OLB Cornelius Washington
DE William Gholston
DE Devin Taylor
I think I shall wait to see who they do take in round 1 and if they trade down before making any more predictions for the last day of the draft, or perhaps just a day or two to see what feedback I get from this blog entry. I will make up one more list right now though, well three actually, which of these three draft results do you prefer (assuming no trades)?
Draft Results #1: LT Fisher, DE Tank Carradine, WR Aaron Dobson
Draft Results #2: DE Ezekiel Ansah, WR Robert Woods, G/RT Brian Winters
Draft Results #3: G Chance Warmack, WR Justin Hunter, DE/OLB Cornelius Washington
There are obviously many other combinations that are equally good (or bad) options, I just threw 3 out there for discussion sake. I myself am good with either of the first 2 results. What I wouldn't like to see is going off from my calculated thinking and ending up with a draft like this: CB Dee Milliner, LB Manti Te'o, RB Johnathan Franklin... all guys also on the LionHawk list.
For you who don't have the link to my forum and would like it, it can be found here: http://badnetrat.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general
Posted by NetRat's Lions Blog at 10:30 PM
Saturday, April 20, 2013
With less then a week to go before the 2013 NFL draft let's review exactly where the Detroit Lions are at.
The coaches, scouts and front office have reviewed all the players play from last year's Lions' roster and graded them... assigning each a dollar value (this was back in January and February). From that information various moves were made including making some roster cuts (such as Peterman and KVB); some players were asked to take a pay cut (such as Raiola); some were offered contracts that they eventually signed (such as Levy, Delmas, Young and others); some have offers but haven't yet signed (such as Lawrence Jackson); a number of free agents weren't made any offers (such as Avril, Cherilus and others); and a couple players retired (such as Jeff Backus and Jason Hanson). In addition, a number of Lions players took the majority of their 2013 salary as a signing bonus (the salary cap for which gets spread over the remainder of their contract) to free up 2013 cap space (but costing future cap space in the same amounts).
The Lions scouts and front office (with perhaps a little coaching input) also updated their grades (and dollar value) of every NFL player in the league on other teams... especially the players that were expected to make it into free agency. I highly recommend reading this article by a former front office guy about this exact process, it explains, in detail, how many front offices grade and pay free agents http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1583998-how-nfl-teams-determine-a-players-value Once free agency started the Lions quickly added to their roster a few players presumably for around the cap/salary amounts they targeted. This included running back Reggie Bush, defensive end Jason Jones, safety Glover Quinn and a little later on defensive tackle CJ Mosley and kicker David Akers (along with a few other players).
The Lions currently have $7,089,579 in cap space available and 67 players signed (by my calculations). This is pretty much exactly how much they will need to sign their draft picks and have enough cap to go into the season with (to replace guys who get injured and the like). However, they can still make some free agency moves if they so desire as only the top 51 contracts count until the season starts and there are more salary cap saving moves they could make if they really needed to. They are also working on a contract extension for Matthew Stafford which if successful would lock him up for more years and likely reduce his 2013 and probably his 2014 cap numbers (freeing up more salary cap space in those two years). Even if this doesn't happen the team will need to add some players after the draft to finish filling out the roster but they won't be big names or big contracts, perhaps players nearing the end of their careers who the Lions can get one more good year out of (for example). Who they will need to sign will depend on the results of the draft, for the Lions do not have any idea how the draft will fall or what needs will fail to be filled during it. The Lions will not rank their needs and target players to fill them in any kind of order during the draft, do not expect the biggest need to be filled in round 1, the 2nd biggest need to be filled in round 2, etc. When the Lions are on the clock they will have anywhere from just a couple to maybe a dozen players ranked similarly and will choose who to draft from that group... and it will be someone who has a good chance of making the final 53 roster (meaning they won't draft a player if there is no roster spot for him to fill). Some members of my forum call this BAPTFAN (Best Available Player That Fills Any Need).
To illustrate this, the Lions have at Quarterback their starter Matthew Stafford and his backup Shaun Hill. Neither are going anywhere and so neither a starting QB or 2nd stringer will be drafted (which is what you would attempt to get in the early rounds of the draft). The 3rd string QB is Kellen Moore and it's entirely possible the Lions will draft a developmental QB later in the draft to compete with Kellen Moore for that roster spot. It would have to be someone who is ranked higher then Moore and the draft would have to fall in such a way that that player ended up as one of the best players still available... and it would be in a very late round. If it happens it happens, if it doesn't then Moore remains the 3rd sting QB but might still be pushed for his roster spot by an undrafted free agent or some vet player the team picks up after the draft. The point is the Lions won't draft a QB early to compete against Moore as he's a 3rd stringer, won't draft a QB if he isn't at some point a member of the highest ranked group when they are on the clock, and won't draft a QB if he has no chance of beating out Moore for the roster spot.
At running back the Lions have Reggie Bush, Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell. Bell can take over for Leshoure if injured (and still get in playing time as part of the rotation) but the Lions have no one to take over for Bush if he's injured (in the role they have him playing, which is a speedy RB able to catch the ball and make yards on his own). They do have on the roster Devin Moore and Shaun Chapas but if during the draft a RB should find himself as a member of the highest ranked players they are looking at when on the clock, if it's later in the draft where you might find value for a 4th string RB, and if the RB has a chance to beat out Moore and Chapas for a roster spot, then a speedy RB with big/good hands will be drafted. If it doesn't fall that way the Lions may look at undrafted players or stick with what they have.
At wide receiver the Lions have Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, Ryan Broyles, and Mike Thomas. Mike makes the roster by virtue of his salary being guaranteed, the only way he doesn't make the final roster is if someone really shows a ton more promise then him and can't make the roster any other way. That still leaves one and probably two spots open. The Lions will want to draft a player for the 5th spot who can compete and stand a good chance of earning the #2 WR spot opposite CJ at some point during 2013 (maybe not week 1). This means early in the draft. The potential 6th WR spot would have to be a special teams demon, or preferably a kick returner (since Logan also didn't receive a Lions contract... yet). On the roster are 9 guys already fighting for these roster spots but I fully expect that if the draft falls right a wide receiver will be selected in the first 3 rounds to add to that group and maybe even another later in the draft.
On the offensive line the Lions currently only have 8 guys signed. They will not go into training camp with only 8. But the draft and the make up of the OLine might not be anything like so many think. True, if Fisher or Joeckel are there to draft at pick #5 I expect the Lions to turn in their card and make the pick for a LT... however, if those two guys are gone I am not all that positive anyone in the draft will be ranked higher then Jason Fox and Riley Reiff, one of whom would win the starting left tackle spot (probably Fox). That is not a popular line of thinking but it is the way I see it. If the Lions draft a starting caliber guard then I see Reiff playing right tackle this year, but if they do not Reiff could end up playing right guard and Hilliard might play right tackle with another right tackle drafted in the middle rounds to back him up/push him for a starting role. Nagy, Austin, Reiff, Hilliard and Gandy give the Lions options in the draft (and free agency afterwards) as far as who plays where and who is added to the mix to compete for starting jobs and depth roles for they can each play more then one position.
At tight end the Lions have Pettigrew and Scheffler for one more year before they are both free agents. Heller didn't get re-signed (yet) and Nathan Overbay is on the roster to compete with whoever is added to the roster. I look for the Lions to add a tight end in the draft later on to compete against Overbay for a roster spot and to be used from time to time much like Reiff was last year, as a 6th OLineman... in other words, a blocking tight end with decent hands.
At defensive tackle the Lions have starters Suh and Fairley with newcomer CJ Mosley to rotate in. That leaves one spot open (or two if there is another really good prospect) for Nwagbuo and Saddler-McQueen. The Lions could go through the entire draft without making a DT selection or they might take one to compete for a roster spot anytime in day three.
At defensive end the Lions only have 3 on the roster. Jason Jones, Willie Young, and Ronnell Lewis. All three may make the final roster but in my opinion a starter opposite Jason Jones is desperately needed. However, the Lions don't draft on the ranking of need so this spot may not be filled with the first pick. That said, a 7th rounder has little chance of filling the starting role so one should be picked sooner rather then later in the draft... as long as one is found to rank high enough when the Lions are on the clock. For that matter, a 2nd DE selection could also be made in the draft... or perhaps LoJac will sign his offer... or maybe they sign a free agent after the draft. Lots of options here as in every position, some are just more ideal then others.
The Lions may be all set at Linebacker. Levy and Tulloch starting leaves one open starting spot and the Lions seem to be content to let Palmer and Whitehead battle it out for starter and backup. On the roster is also Carmen Messina and Travis Lewis, both of whom a later round draft pick may find it difficult to earn a roster spot over. The Lions will have more camp fodder (as I call it) to compete with these guys, I'm just not sure if they will be drafted players.
The same may be true at corner back. This is another unpopular position of mine but I don't think the Lions are ready to say the 3 CBs they drafted last year are all busts, they already re-signed Houston, and they already have a lot of depth to work with (there being 10 CBs on the roster). It would not surprise me in the least if no CB was drafted at all this year mainly because if he is he'd have to be ranked very high indeed to have a chance at a roster spot and that goes against BAPTFAN (see paragraph 4 above).
Last, at safety, the Lions have Delmas and Glover Quinn, with Wendling also likely making the roster. That leaves one or maybe two spots open for Silva, Tyrell Johnson and Amari Spievey. Here I could see a draft pick if ranked high enough at the right time to compete for what might be the last spot on the roster. This is assuming that Delmas doesn't break something before the draft actually starts (sorry, had to put that dig in there).
In summary, after studying the salary cap chart, the current roster and the draft rankings (more on that in part II of this blog) I can foresee the Lions taking the following positions in the draft:
Rounds 1 through 3; DE, WR, OLine (in no particular order)
Rounds 4 through 7; TE, RB, DT, Safety, and QB (also in no particular order).
They will be active in the undrafted group after the draft as well, for they should have as many as 15 roster spots left to fill to get to 90 and the draft may not fall the way it needs to for the above to happen.
To see my current estimated depth chart go to http://www.theNetRat.com/depthchart.html and select the 2013 chart, be sure to go to the tab marked pre-draft (the third tab).
To see my draft big board with the Lions visits highlighted be sure to re-visit here in a few days for part II.
Posted by NetRat's Lions Blog at 3:23 PM