Monday, April 20, 2015

2015 Detroit Lions Draft (pre-analysis)


It's time to see what the Lions have been up to this off season and what that could lead to in the 2015 NFL Draft that begins April 30th in Chicago. Pulling from a number of sources I offer the following information and analysis:

From the official website of the Detroit Lions (http://www.detroitlions.com) I took their transaction list, re-sorted it from oldest to newest, added the draft picks actually traded, and come up with the following off season moves to date:

1/7/2015: The Detroit Lions sign C Taylor Boggs, C Braxston Cave, WR Skye Dawson, LB Jerrell Harris, DT Kerry Hyder, FB Emil Igwenagu, DB Nate Ness, WR Andrew Peacock, DT Roy Philon, DT Xavier Proctor, TE Jordan Thompson and OT Michael Williams to 2015 Reserve/Future contracts.
1/8/2015: The Detroit Lions have signed DB Crezdon Butler to a 2015 Reserve/Future contract.
1/10/2015: The Detroit Lions sign DT Jermelle Cudjo to a 2015 Reserve/Future contract.
2/3/2015: The Detroit Lions release TE Ifeanyi Momah.
2/6/2015: The Detroit Lions sign C Darren Keyton.
2/25/2015: The Detroit Lions release RB Reggie Bush.
2/27/2015: The Detroit Lions re-sign LS Don Muhlbach.
2/27/2015: The Detroit Lions sign DE Phillip Hunt.
3/2/2015: The Detroit Lions re-sign QB Dan Orlovsky.
3/2/2015: The Detroit Lions re-sign DL Darryl Tapp.
3/6/2015: The Detroit Lions re-sign K Matt Prater.
3/6/2015: The Detroit Lions re-sign QB Kellen Moore.
3/10/2015: The Detroit Lions re-sign LB Josh Bynes.
3/11/2015: The Detroit Lions have traded a 5th and a 6th round draft pick for DT Haloti Ngata and a 7th round draft pick from the Baltimore Ravens.
3/11/2015: The Detroit Lions re-sign safety Isa Abdul-Quddus.
3/13/2015: The Detroit Lions sign DT Tyrunn Walker.
3/19/2015: The Detroit Lions re-sign CB Rashean Mathis.
4/7/2015: The Detroit Lions sign LB Brandon Copeland and CB Josh Wilson.
4/15/2015: The Detroit Lions have traded DE George Johnson and a 7th round draft pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for a 5th round draft pick.

I then took the transaction list and using data from a minimum of three sources created my 2015 Lions salary cap chart located at http://www.theNetRat.com/salarycap.html. I then confirmed the final total with the NFL Players Union (the NFLPA) at http://www.nflpa.com. I can confirm the Lions currently have 66 players under contract or tendered (as in a restricted free agent offer) and due to only the top 51 contracts counting against the salary cap this time of the year they have $5,202,293 in available salary cap space (as of the date of this blog entry).

Confirming the information once again at the official Lions website, the Lions now have the following draft picks:
Round . Pick . Overall pick
1 ..... 23 ..... 23
2 ..... 22 ..... 54
3 ..... 24 ..... 88
5 ..... 32 .... 168
6 ..... 24 .... 200
7 ..... 23 .... 240

They were not awarded any compensatory draft picks this year as they signed too many free agents last year, an explanation of compensatory draft picks and the 2014 free agent moves that affected the 2015 comp picks is at http://overthecap.com/compensatory-draft-picks-cancellation-chart/ (click on the 2015 tab). You will find links there to the super secret formula the NFL apparently uses to compute these picks and also, by clicking on the 2016 tab, you can see that so far the Lions are doing everything right in 2015 to gain as many as the maximum four picks in the 2016 draft... a feat they have not accomplished in a very long time. A feat that many of the top teams utilize year in and year out to garner more draft picks and thus have a higher percentage of young talent added to their team allowing them to ... oh anyway, the Lions are sitting pretty for next year's draft (and they have a ton of free cap space next year as well).

Next I have a couple of people who are active in my forum (thank you Captain and LionHawk and all the others who chip in) who keep track of all Lions contacts, not just the 30 invites to Allen Park but also contacts at pro-days, the Senior bowl, the east-west Shrine game, the combine, and many other locations. In the past we have been able to narrow down the Lions possible draft picks by looking at this contact list, some years including every pick and in others missing half or fewer. That means when complete this contact list will have anywhere from 3 to all 6 of the Lions picks on it. The list is updated regularly at http://badnetrat.proboards.com/thread/7685/2015-contact-list (you'll need to join the forum).

I also use my salary cap chart to create an estimated depth chart. At the bottom there are multiple tabs and I am currently on the "pre-draft" tab in attempting to estimate the Lions likeliest final 53 what with the current roster and potential future moves (ie: the draft, and after that, some more free agency). The link to the estimated depth chart can be found at http://www.theNetRat.com/depthchart.html

Finally, I tie all of this up with my best estimate of BAPTFAN (Best Available Player That Fills Any Need), a variation of BPA (or Best Player Available) that many teams use in having a successful draft. The description for this, in fact my entire pre-draft article from last year, can be found at http://thenetrat.blogspot.com/2014_04_01_archive.html and my personally created Big Board (top 100 are at http://www.theNetRat.com/draft.html) to provide you with the following roster analysis and scenarios that could play out in the 2015 draft.




It is possible the Lions will stand pat with Quarterbacks Matthew Stafford, Dan Orlovsky and Kellen Moore. It's also possible that if at any time during the draft a QB they like is one of the best players available they may consider a competition in camp for the 3rd QB position. By all accounts however, this is not exactly a deep draft for QB in the later rounds (where the Lions can afford to look for a #3 QB) so it's much more likely they will pick up a camp QB in the undrafted ranks. Brandon Bridge from South Alabama, should he not get drafted, might be their target here (he is on the contact list). Another that I like is Cody Fajardo from Nevada, but to date he is not on the Lions contact list. By picking up an undrafted QB they will likely keep both Orlovsky and Moore instead of them competing for the #2 spot (and keeping the mid-to-late-round draft pick QB as the #3, such as Brett Hundley or Bryce Petty) knowing they can cut and likely sign the UDFA to the practice squad later.

Everyone assumes that since the Lions cut RB Reggie Bush that they will automatically be looking to draft a Running Back in the 2015 draft. It is entirely possible the Lions are quite prepared to go into this season with Joique Bell, Theo Riddick and George Winn as the running back corp. It's also possible they will, after mid-March when it will no longer count against the compensatory picks for next year, sign a free agent RB such as Knowshon Moreno, Pierre Thomas or Ahmad Bradshaw among others. Even if they do sign a free agent they may still draft a running back in the draft, only later on. The Lions contact list at RB currently includes two first rounders, a first/second rounder, three pure second rounders, two third rounders, a fourth, a sixth and a seventh rounder along with two probably undrafted players. With a spread like that it's obvious to me they are looking at all rounds as a potential spot to land a RB this year to join the corp they already have. I will be keeping an eye on Jay Ajayi, but he's not the only one on my watch list.

After drafting Eric Ebron last year it's pretty much assumed that he, Brandon Pettigrew (who's salary is guaranteed and will not be cut this year), and Joseph Fauria will be the entire TE corp. That's pretty much the likeliest scenario, but the Lions are in need of a blocking TE, or perhaps a combo fullback/tightend, someone versatile enough to both block very well and catch the occasional pass or two per game. The Lions have on their contact list currently a second rounder and two potential undrafted players. I suspect Jimmay Mundine just might get a call from the Lions after the draft if he makes it to that point.

At WR the Lions currently have Calvin Johnson and his backup Corey Fuller, Golden Tate and his backup Ryan Broyles, then there's T.J. Jones, Andrew Peacock, and Skye Dawson fighting for a roster spot. In the past Jeremy Ross would be penciled in for the last WR spot, as both depth at WR and the kick/punt returner... and the Lions did indeed re-sign him... but it is in my estimation the Lions will indeed draft another WR this year, if not two, and at least one of them will have had experience at returning kicks, and will have been fairly successful at it as well. I am confident that Jeremy Ross will have big time competition in camp this year for his roster spot. It's also possible that one of the other groups mentioned above will also have competition in camp for a roster spot. The Lions contact list contains more WRs then any other position, many of them 1st and 2nd rounders. Many more 4th round through undrafted. But the one name that keeps me thinking WR in the 3rd (if he's still there) is Tyler Lockett.

We're all done with offense... except for the most important part... the offensive line. With Dominic Raiola told he won't be coming back the Lions have begun the process of changing what was perhaps the worst unit on the offense. Meanwhile, Rob Sims has not yet been re-signed, by the Lions or any other team for that matter, despite his game improving significantly towards the end of the season as his health improved. Riley Reiff has been okay at left tackle but certainly no one will confuse him with pro-bowl talent at present. Warford, when he stays healthy, is perhaps the best player on the OL. Meanwhile, Waddle who did well at the start of his forced playing time has slipped a little of late and has also become somewhat unreliable (to be available to play) due to constant injuries. What free agents the Lions get later on (probably Sims to a one year vet deal) and what competition they will bring in to bolster the trenches on offense is still wide open, but it's almost guaranteed that there will indeed be new blood. The contact list currently has 16 OL names on it, with more to come. Look for both a guard and a tackle to have their names called during the course of this draft.

What does one of the top defenses in the NFL last year need in this draft? Most would say a defensive tackle. Most would be correct. Oh sure, the Lions could go with Tyrunn Walker, Haloti Ngata, Caraun Reid and then either sign (or re-sign) a free agent DT to compete with Kerry Hyder, Roy Philon, Jermelle Cudjo, and Xavier Proctor for the final spot or two on the DL, but it's almost guaranteed that at least one DT will be selected at some point in this draft. First round? Not necessarily! Just because Suh and Fairley left in free agency does not mean the Lions are desperate and will take a DT that early. Doesn't mean they won't either. With 14 DTs on the contact list (and 5 DE's) it's even possible they will select more then one. It just so happens 6 of the DTs on the contact list could go in the first round and it also so happens that it's pretty good value at 23 in the first round to draft one, if he's ranked high enough.

I fully expect the DEs in 2015 to be Jason Jones, Darryl Tapp, Ziggy Ansah, and Larry Webster. That said, they could keep a 5th or bring in strong competition for Darryl Tapp's roster spot. That spot could also be won by Devin Taylor or Phillip Hunt as well. I think it would take a mighty good DE for the Lions to select one in this year's draft.

At Linebacker the Lions are very strong. Deandre Levy, Kyle Van Noy, Tahir Whitehead, Stephen Tulloch, Travis Lewis, Brandon Copeland, and Josh Bynes won't even need competition from the draft to make this a competitive situation. A camp body/practice squad candidate is still an option, but highly unlikely in my opinion.

At Safety the Lions have Glover Quinn, James Ihedigbo, Isa Abdul-Quddus, Don Carey, and Crezdon Butler competing for roster spots. With only 3 safeties on their contact list this too would appear to be a low priority draft option. Though I think losing Couplin to another team last year when they exposed him to waivers was a mistake. Keep an eye on Brian Blechen if he goes undrafted.

That leaves us with Cornerback (as they aren't drafting a kicker or punter this year). The elder Rashean Mathis and the upcomer Darius Slay will be the starters but they could use a nickel CB to groom as Mathis' eventual replacement. Most of the corners on the contact list appear to be 4th round candidates. Makes me wonder if they might not trade a 2016 3rd rounder for a 2015 4th round pick and select one this year. They should have an extra 3rd rounder next year as a compensatory pick for losing Suh so they could trade their normal 3rd rounder and still keep a 3rd rounder for the next draft.

This is perhaps the longest blog entry for me ever. If you stuck with me this long then thank you, I hope at least some of my rambling makes sense. I may make one more post just before the draft begins presenting my mock Lions draft based on the above information. Once again we all await the Lions superbowl (aka, the NFL Draft) may it be a great one!

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