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Monday, April 28, 2014

Detroit Lions 2014 pre-NFL Draft Blog Part I


With less then two weeks to go before the 2014 NFL draft let's review exactly where the Detroit Lions are at. The (new) 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). Based on this information a number of roster moves occurred; including cuts, new signings, waiver wire claims, and allowing various Lions free agents to find work elsewhere.

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 written last year 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 Unrestricted Free Agents DE Darryl Tapp and WR Golden Tate presumably for around the cap/salary amounts they targeted.

The following is a complete list of all the roster transactions to date:

1/30/2014 The Detroit Lions sign C Darren Keyton.
2/5/2014 The Detroit Lions claim S Isa Abdul-Quddus.
2/13/2014 The Detroit Lions have released WR Nate Burleson and S Louis Delmas.
3/4/2014 The Detroit Lions release G Leroy Harris and sign DT Corvey Irvin.
3/12/2014 The Detroit Lions sign Unrestricted Free Agent WR Kevin Ogletree, Restricted Free Agent RB Joique Bell, and Exclusive Rights Players WR Kris Durham, LB Julian Stanford and TE Matt Veldman.
3/13/2014 The Detroit Lions sign Unrestricted Free Agents DE Darryl Tapp and WR Golden Tate.
3/19/2014 The Detroit Lions sign FB Jed Collins.
3/21/2014 The Detroit Lions sign DT Andre Fluellen.
4/4/2014 The Detroit Lions sign T J.B. Shugarts.
4/4/2014 The Detroit Lions sign Unrestricted Free Agent QB Dan Orlovsky.
4/7/2014 The Detroit Lions sign WR Jeremy Ross and CB Cassius Vaughn.
4/14/2014 The Detroit Lions claim DE Kourtnei Brown from the Buffalo Bills.
4/15/2014 The Detroit Lions re-sign CB Rashean Mathis.
4/21/2014 The Detroit Lions sign CB Aaron Hester and CB Nate Ness.
4/22/2014 The Detroit Lions sign DE George Johnson.
4/25/2014 The Detroit Lions sign C Sherman Carter and WR Naaman Roosevelt.

The Lions currently have just over $1 million in cap space available and 77 players signed (by my calculations). See my Lions salary cap sheet at http://thenetrat.com/salarycap.html (Click on the 2014 cap link). 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 Ndamukong Suh which if successful would lock him up for years and likely reduce his 2014 salary (freeing up salary cap space). Even if this doesn't happen the team may want 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). My forum can be found at http://badnetrat.proboards.com/board/1/lions.

To illustrate this, the Lions have at Quarterback their starter Matthew Stafford. So a starting QB will not 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.

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; OLB, S, WR, TE, and/or a DT (in no particular order)
Rounds 4 through 7; C, K, QB and two of whichever of the first 5 mentioned in the previous group that didn't get selected in the first two days of the draft (also in no particular order). I'm having a hard time seeing the Lions draft a cornerback, they already have 10 on the roster and I can easily see 6 of those making the final 53 without adding anyone from the draft. Of course, I said much the same last year only to watch them draft a CB in round 2 (Slay) so perhaps it will be a CB after all and one of the other positions may not be taken instead (such as K or QB).

They will be active in the undrafted group after the draft as well, for they should have around 5 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 2014 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.