Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My Estimated Charts for the Lions

For many years now I have been doing an estimated Salary Cap chart for the Detroit Lions and for about half as long I've also been working on an estimated depth chart. While the salary cap chart gets updated continually all year long the estimated depth chart tends to last just over half a year... that is from the beginning of February to the beginning of September. The other day I copied both to google docs and now have a permanent link to both, they can be found over to the right here in the blog and also there are permanent links now in my forum. Remember, these are ongoing, they will change, they never really stop changing this time of the year... I only halt the estimated depth chart about a week before they starting cutting the roster to see how accurate I am before they create the actual 53 man roster (my best was in 2014 with only 4 wrong).

At this time of the year I always include all the draft picks, since they wouldn't have drafted them had they not figured on at least hoping to keep (and possibly play) them. By mid-August I may change my mind on a one or more but until then (or an injury) I keep them on. I also tend to stick in an undrafted player or two if I think there are any that might make the final roster despite the unlikeliness of that happening. This year there happens to be a few I truly feel have a chance. As the summer goes on I may change my mind on them as well. In fact, the whole thing (as I said before) is in flux but that's the point of an estimated depth chart, taking information as it becomes available then making appropriate educated guesses from there.

The salary cap chart has a ton of info as well, I use it to keep track of the salary cap numbers for the Lions to do my weekly tweet updates. Rather then cover both charts in one blog entry I think I shall focus on just the estimated depth chart for now. If you do look at the chart you will see it's split into a left and right section. The left side is the 53 I think presently may make the final roster (to start game 1). The right side are those who I believe are going to have to work the hardest to fight for a roster spot. I try to also keep them lined up across from those they are competing against, but that doesn't always work since some years it's the 7th LB fighting the 6th WR fighting the 10th DL and the 9th OL for two spots (for example). Regardless, even though it's constantly in flux, having a graphic visual of the estimated depth chart seems to work for me better then just some list (such as in the cap chart).

Now to be a little more specific on why I have what I have listed. At Wide Receiver I currently have 5 listed, there could be 6 but for now I'm going with 5. Calvin Johnson (CJ) and Golden Tate make the team barring injury, but so do their respective backups; Corey Fuller and Ryan Broyles. That leaves room for a slot receiver and presently I have T.J. Jones in that spot until I see someone more likely. In the past they also kept a 6th WR (Jeremy Ross) because he was the kick and punt returner, this year the KR/PR might be a RB or a CB instead, so I went down to 5 for now. I personally like Andrew Peacock but he might not be able to crack the final 53 just yet, perhaps after another year on the practice squad. Some of the others fighting for the WR spots I believe will also make the practice squad if they fail to take the slot WR job or one of the backup jobs, there just happens to be a few months to go yet before I can make that call.

The next 5 spots listed are the offensive line... both starters and backups. My preferred starting left tackle would be Cornelius Lucas but the Lions seem to like Riley Reiff there. They also drafted Corey Robinson and then promptly stated he's a left tackle, but I'm not so sure that's where he finishes up at. I also am not sure the Lions will be comfortable with three undrafteds as the starter and two backups on the offensive tackle positions, so I'm keeping a 5th, presently that is the converted TE Michael Williams (Waddle being the other current starter at RT). How this shakes out in the end has yet to be determined. The starting center and guards along with their backups is also in a total state of flux. Lot's of youth and new bodies to sort out, so for now you can see I went with Laken Tomlinson at LG, Manny Ramirez at C, and Larry Warford at RG (this is the only one I'm comfortable with at present). Backups being Travis Swanson and maybe Torian Wilson (or Al Bond)... or maybe even someone not yet on the team.

At tight end I'm shaking things up by pushing Joseph Fauria out and keeping the undrafted free agent Casey Pierce. Why? Fauria did well his rookie year for the other coaching staff and their scheme but has shown nothing to these coaches and they have no personal skin in keeping him. Also, Pierce is noted for having sure hands and good blocking ability in college, a skill set I can see these coaches desiring on the roster. He may not be able to be NFL ready in his rookie year so may end up on the practice squad but for the moment I've got him at TE #3. Pettigrew's salary is mostly guaranteed as is all of Ebron's so they are both staying put.

At QB you have Stafford, Orlovsky and Moore. They stay. The undrafted rookie Anthony Boone will likely be the camp arm that never sees any action in preseason so that the Lions can feel comfortable cutting him to sign him to the practice squad, just as they did last year.

At Running back they will keep Joique Bell and Theo Riddick and of course their 2nd round pick will stay (Ameer Abdullah) but I feel that Bell's backup will be Zach Zenner an undrafted player this year instead of George Winn, just an early guess on my part (and ZZ might be the kick returner if Ameer is not).

At fullback the Lions will want a pass catching player and that spot goes to 5th round pick Michael Burton until someone beats him out of it.

That 26 on offense, there is almost no chance of there being 27 and they could go to 25 but I currently feel comfortable with 26.

At defensive end Ansah stays on one side and Jason Jones on the other with the backups likely to be Larry Webster and either Darryl Tapp or Devin Taylor or even Phillip Hunt. Taylor did well with the old coaching staff and scheme but struggled last year with the new coaches and scheme so we'll have to wait and see how this one progresses from here. At defensive tackle the Lions are forced to do wholesale changes but I like Ngata and Tyrunn Walker with backups Caraun Reid and Gabe Wright so I'll stick with them for the time being. The Lions could look at some free agents for more help to compete amongst the DL or one of the guys fighting for a spot (like Proctor or Cudjo) could push someone for a job, it's just too early to tell right now. I have made my educated guesses and plan to stick with them for now.

At LB the Lions are sitting pretty with starters Stephen Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, Tahir Whitehead, and Kyle Van Noy... but of course they only need 3 starters so Van Noy might be reduced to situational plays only... but that makes for some great quality depth for the Lions. Add to that Travis Lewis and Brandon Copeland (a special teams player) and you have a solid LB corp... or even better if someone like Bynes, Harris or Stanford beats out one of them for a job, meaning they are an upgrade from my suspected core group.

At corner you have starters Darius Slay and Rashean Mathis along with draft pick Alex Carter, the Lions usually keep 5 CBs and they liked Seisay last year plus they drafted Diggs to play nickel so that should round out that group nicely unless one of the others plays lights out and takes a job from someone else.

At safey you have starters Glover Quinn and James Ihedigbo (who is currently holding out for what will likely be an unsuccessful demand for more money) along with backups Don Carey (special teams), Isa Abdul-Quddus and perhaps Nate Ness or one of the others vying for a roster spot.

This makes for 24 on defense and the most likely scenario unless they go to 23 or 25, which I don't see at present unless Carter wins the kick return job then they might keep only 3 RBs and 6 CBs (for example).

The special teams group of 3 will remain Martin at punter, Prater at kicker and Muhlbach at long snapper. They already brought in a camp kicker (Kyle Brindza) and soon will sign a camp punter, and most likely a camp long snapper as well. Prater was once a camp kicker when Hanson was the Lions starter and was then signed by Denver before ending up back here as a Lion.

There is my current estimated depth chart, subject to multiple future changes, and a handy visual tool for trying to determine who might make the final roster and who has work to do if they want to take a job, for that is what they will have to do, earn it. As I hear about those making that kind of effort, or injuries, or new signees, I'll update the chart accordingly. At other times I may make a change simply because of a gut feeling, some of which even occasionally pay off.

Before I go I'll mention that the salary cap available for the Lions is sitting at around $3,950,693... this figure will change slightly as the draft picks are signed... but only the top 51 contracts count presently so for every new contract another lesser one falls off keeping the cap situation under control for the time being. Don't expect any major free agent signings however, the Lions are trying to keep their comp picks for next year's draft as high as possible and not signing expensive free agents is part of that formula.

Monday, May 4, 2015

2015 NFL Draft - the after math.

I have spent a considerable amount of time reviewing the draft overall, the players the Lions drafted, the undrafted players they signed or have at least invited to their rookie camp, and my own emotions which were run through the ringer throughout this draft... and have come to this conclusion... I'm still very happy and very upset with this draft. Those two things really don't work well together so apparently time and observation is the only way I can fix me.

As for the draft, the positives and negatives, I've pretty much said what I wanted to say but will recap and/or perhaps add to what I wrote before if there is a tidbit to add. First I've read a ton of "grades" on this draft and the Lions have scored anywhere from an A+ to a C- ... but it's 3 years too early to grade this draft for me to do that. Second, the Lions definitely ranked the players in this draft but then narrowed it down to a much much smaller list first by making it mandatory the player be an upright, intelligent, hard working young man then by producing an even smaller list of players for each position they wanted to fill. They had a plan. They implemented it and are quite happy with the results. The rest of us will agree with them only if it turns out they were correct more often then not with who they selected. It's hard for me to like the results because it seemed every pick had some kind of issue that bothered me.

For example; in round one they selected offensive guard Laken Tomlinson (Duke) with the 28th pick after trading down five spots. I love that they traded down. I love that they acquired Manny Ramirez plus the 2015 5th round pick and the 2016 fifth round pick, and I'm happy they filled the starting guard spot. I even like a lot of the things I've seen and read about Laken... and most of his negatives are things the coaching staff can work on to make him even better. I understand many had him ranked as the best pure guard in the draft. But I would never draft a guard in the first round. Probably not in the 2nd round either. But that's just me, well no, it's not, it's a lot of people, the majority in fact... still, they got more then just a guard, they got perhaps the best one, and two draft picks, and perhaps a starting center too. Call me torn.

In round 2 the Lions select another needed position, running back Ameer Abdullah (Nebraska) with the 54th pick. If you want to know what I like about him just read the positives at draftinsiders (it's free) and if you want to see why I don't like the pick read the negatives (hint: small hands). They didn't draft him because of need, it wasn't a reach, he was actually ranked at this spot or slightly above it... they had more then one RB on their RB card... this was the top one though, I'm sure of that. Some of the moves I've seen remind me of one Barry Sanders, not all of them, but some. Watch some video on him, especially in the open field and one-on-one. One other tidbit, Ameer got MVP of the Senior Bowl and one of his blockers in that game was Laken. Still, I never ever draft a player with hands smaller then 9.5" because they tend to fumble.

In round 3 the Lions select cornerback Alex Carter (Stanford) with the 80th pick. I like everything I read about Alex especially by NDT... most sites had Alex ranked higher then he was drafted at, meaning he was decent value here too. He will have a year or two (hopefully) to learn and slowly get more and more reps to eventually take over for Mathis when that time comes. So what's my problem here? The Lions were supposed to pick at 88 but felt the need to trade away their newly acquired high 5th round pick from Denver to move up 8 spots. They used two picks to get one player. That is another thing I would never do, ever. Got two picks, get two players, or more if you can move down and it makes sense to. I assume the Lions felt they couldn't afford to lose Alex to another team, and maybe they even felt someone was about to pull the trigger... or maybe they just got nervous, maybe he was the last CB on their CB card of desirable choices. Fairly sure it was one or the other, I haven't come up with a third reason to move up.

Round 4 starts and as most know the Lions traded a 3rd from 2016 to get the 4th round pick, they then selected DT Gabe Wright (Auburn) at 113. Many sites had Gabe ranked as a 3rd rounder already, and I'm sure the Lions felt there was no way he'd make it to the 5th round, plus they didn't have to use up additional picks to move up, and Gabe does appear to be a player who can help the defensive tackle rotation this and in future years... the only way this pick sucks is if he fails to be worth a 3rd round pick. Yes it sucks losing a 3rd round pick next year, but... but if Gabe is worth it then he is worth it. Some NFL diet and weight room work along with coaching and this could easily be a great player, but was it a great move? It is if he turns out... it's just that it's... risky.

Round 5 gets near the end to where the Lions are sitting and they select FB Michael Burton (Rutgers) at 168 overall. I knew the Lions were going to take a fullback and I knew it would be one who has the hands to catch passes... but this is the 5th round, not the 7th. Fullbacks don't hardly ever get a profile created for them by most sites because they end up undrafted or if a team wants to make sure they get their guy they take him in round 7. Typically. The Lions though pull the trigger in round 5. Yes, he'll likely be the starting fullback, but round 5?!?!? Ouch.

When the Lions selected Nickel CB Quandre Diggs (Texas) in round 6 with pick 200 I had not realized that current nickel CB Lawson has a dislocated foot that is not yet healed up and their other nickel CB Bentley went out last year with an ACL that takes time to heal, usually 10 months or so. Now that I do this pick makes more sense, they must of had a card with a number of nickel corners on it and picked the highest ranked one still available in this round. Oh, and his older brother (by 12 years) is one Quentin Jammer, the player the Lions passed up to draft Joey Harrington. The only issue I had with this pick and still do have is that he is barely 5' 9" tall... he's going to have to really be special to be able to do anything being that short in the NFL backfield.

Round 7 and the Lions finally draft the right tackle I thought they would take in round 1... no not the same guy but that position... anyway they took T Corey Robinson (South Carolina) who actually had a couple of 5th round grades, great value at this pick in my opinion. So what issue do I have with this pick? Nothing really, other then in round 7 that is when you draft your fullback, in round 5 that would work for a guard, round 1... the offensive tackle. Okay, so this way may also work out, there is nothing to say it won't, it's just a lot riskier this way.

The draft ends and the Lions start being connected with undrafted players, they are:
TE Casey Pierce (Kent State)
RB Zach Zenner (South Dakota State)
G Torrian Wilson (UCF)
QB Anthony Boone (Duke)
S Isaiah Johnson (Georgia Tech)
K Kyle Brindza (Notre Dame)
G Al Bond (Memphis)
WR Vernon Johnson (Texas A&M-Commerce)
LB Kevin Snyder (Rutgers)
DB Delonte Hollowell (Michigan)
RB Rasheed Williams (Alfred State)
S Brian Suite (Utah State)
S Nathan Lindsey (Fort Hays State)
WR Marcus Beaurem (Tiffin)

For once I have got no issues with Mayhew and the Lions. I like many of these prospects, even predicted that the Lions would sign the kicker Kyle Brindza before the draft started. Some other things of note... TE Casey Pierce had a solid 7th round grade who has great hands and blocking ability. If any of the 3 TEs the Lions plan to start get hurt this dude makes the roster (or so I predict today). RB Zach Zenner also had a very productive college career and most thought he'd be drafted but he wasn't, he'll push for a roster spot. G Torrian Wilson has a 6th/7th round grade and many are surprised he was not drafted, keep an eye on this guy. QB Anthony Boone also had a 6th/7th round grade but if the Lions treat him like the recent past 4th arms in camp he'll never play a down in preseason and will end up on the practice squad. S Isaiah Johnson just missed having a 7th round grade and could push for a roster spot. Kyle is the camp kicker this year while G Al Bond, WR Vernon Johnson, and LB Kevin Snyder will all likely end up on the practice squad this year and will get 2 years to break onto the final roster (this year and next). The other small school guys I have almost no info on, they weren't ranked at all by anyone so far that I've seen, but that doesn't mean they aren't talented just that they went to a small school so no one knows them and never wrote anything up on them.

The Lions filled all the holes on their roster or so it would seem, it is certainly one of the most talented rosters I've seen them field since 1991... which means this could be a very interesting season. Too early to go there yet though. A lot of risks were taken in this draft and it'll be a minor miracle if all of them pan out. Doesn't mean it won't, just that risk is a risk, and gamblers sometimes lose.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

2015 NFL Draft - Rounds 4 - 7

The Lions had no 4th round draft pick due to the trade for Ngata but that didn't stop Mayhew, he simply traded a 3rd from next year for a 4th this year with the Philadelphia Eagles. It appears the Lions will be receiving a 3rd round comp pick next year for losing Suh and that one can not be traded, so that one they will use next year to draft in the 3rd round, but their normal one can and was traded... so they could draft Defensive Tackle Gabe Wright from Auburn. He is the 4th (and final) player selected to be on the Lions contact list.

4th round pick DT Gabe Wright (Auburn) is 6' 2 5/8" tall and weighs in at 300 pounds. He's 1 3/8" shorter then the proto-typical DT, about 11 pounds light, and has arms 2 1/4" shorter then ideal. He was a team captain and gives all he has when he plays. He has great first step quickness and should be a rotational pass rush DT in the Lions 4-3 defensive line. I had him ranked at 103, NDT has him at 169, and Optimum Scouting has him at 97. He pursues plays and plays to the whistle every snap. Has big strong hands but doesn't get a lot of vertical height on his jumps. He was forced to play a lot of DE due to injury but DT is his natural position. He is comparable to Jordan Hill. He will need an NFL diet and gym time and to improve on his run defense before seeing more snaps then only on obvious passing downs.

The Lions had also traded away their original 5th round pick in the Ngata trade, then received one from Denver in the trade in round 1 with them, then lost that one when trading up in round 3. Prior to that the Lions were losing DE George Johnson to Tampa Bay Bucaneers due to them signing him to a restricted free agent offer the Lions weren't going to match, but instead of risking losing him in arbitration the bucs traded their 5th to the Lions for their 7th, giving the Lions the 168th pick (#32 in round 5).

5th round pick FB Michael Burton (Rutgers) is 5'11" tall and weighs in at 242 pounds. Neither NDT nor Optimum Scouting did a profile on Burton. I had him ranked at 460, or as an undrafted free agent. I fully expected the Lions to pick up a full back in the draft, in the 7th round, to make sure they got the one they wanted, instead of waiting until after the draft. I never expected them to do it in the 5th round. I'm also a little surprised the one they wanted is only 242 pounds and has very little college production running the ball, though he does catch well. A pass catching TE slash FB was exactly what I was expecting so perhaps they plan to beef ole Michael up with an NFL diet and gym room, not sure. He can run the 40 in 4.74 and did 25 reps so he has a good start to an NFL career at fullback. He is expected to contribute to special teams, but then ALL fullbacks should. Taking an undrafted ranked player in round 5 is usually not the best way to handle your draft however, especially one who is undersized, so we will see if he's worth this investment.

Continuing on with this interesting draft the Lions stayed put at pick #200 and made their selection, a nickel back (not talking about the musical group) who is also very much undersized. Assuming that the Lions current nickel is injured and may not play right away if at all this year, the position to fill makes some since, so what's with this player?

6th round pick CB Quandre Diggs (Texas) is 5' 9" if you bend your ruler a little and weighs in at 196 pounds, a bit stout for that height. NDT ranked him at 150, I had him at 207, and Optimum Scouting is at 142... not bad for pick 200. He can blitz, play cover, kick and punt return, but won't be able to man up as a starting corner, ever. He too was a team captain, is smart, and has good instincts. I like everything about him, if he was 3" taller.

The Lions also kept their 7th round pick after gaining one and losing the same one in trades. In the end they finally drafted their offensive tackle with the 240th pick.

7th round pick OT Corey Robinson (South Carolina) is 6' 7" tall and weighs in at 324 pounds. I had him ranked at 198, 9 spots ahead of their 6th round pick. Optimum Scouting has him at 138 and NDT is at 145... so two 5th round grades and a 6th. Corey is 1" taller then proto-typical, 4 pounds heavier, and arms are .63" longer. So nothing wrong there. NDT calls him a massive power player who's frame may be a hindrance and will be needing a lot of polish to overcome his size. His experience is at left tackle but is going to prove too slow for LT and will likely end up starting as a backup RT in the NFL. If he can't improve his kick-slide and speed with a bit less weight and coaching he may be moved into the inside. In a word, he's a Prospect.

There are a lot of positives in this draft, both overall and with individual players. BUT. There are some negatives too, more then I prefer. It could work out, it could flop, it's such a toss up I'm not sure if I like it or not. I'm going to have to sulk, I mean think, on this some more, do more research, read what others are saying, find out about the undrafted signees, then report back with another blog entry. This is just too much to absorb all at once.

Hope you had a happy draft day (ala 3 days) also known as the annual Lions superbowl. Shame it's not the crueling weekend long event it used to be but this format has it's pluses and minuses too. Kind of like the Lions draft. Think I'll pour myself a drink and contemplate life for awhile, then dig in some more for further analysis. Aloha.

Friday, May 1, 2015

2015 NFL Draft - Rounds 2 and 3

The not particularly ideal Lions draft continues on night two with the drafting of running back Ameer Abdullah from Nebraska with the 54th pick and then after trading up (and losing the 5th round pick they got from the 1st round trade) they select corner back (or maybe he's a safety) Alex Carter from Stanford with the 80th pick.

Why am I not entirely happy with the draft so far? Let's take them one round at a time. I had running back Ameer Abdullah ranked 60th on my board so he wasn't a reach per se as far as I am concerned, though NDT Scouting had him ranked as the 124th player on their board and Optimum Scouting had him ranked 77th overall. I had Ameer ranked as the 5th best RB in the draft, whereas NDT had him 13th and Opt S had him 8th. My main issue with the pick is hand size. A prototypical running back has a hand measurement of at least 9" (I prefer 9.5" myself), the reason for this is fumbles during the game and drops in the passing game. The bigger the hand size the better, typically. Some backs do overcome this but most have issues. Ameer's hand size is 8.38". He would not have even been on my draft board, period, regardless of how high I had him "ranked". Now there is plenty to like about him, he was a team captain, he was very productive with the cornhuskers, and he has very good agility, a nice burst (though he's not fast), he's decisive and he plays on special teams. He's only a bit over 5' 8" tall but weighs in at 198 pounds, which is not big unless you happen to be 3" shorter then a proto-typical running back. He will have issues doing blitz pickups, but will be a weapon running from the slot position. He will be able to hide behind the now larger OLine and spit out to the side taking the defenses by surprise. He has great vision and can juke his way around a lot of defenders when in the open. He had a fantastic Senior Bowl and made MVP. He might be your modern day Warrick Dunn if he can get some NFL gym time and good coaching. He may also fumble the ball at the worst possible times or get the QB killed by not picking up a blitz when he has to. This is not exactly the type of player I would target with my 2nd round pick but at least he ranked 4 spots better on my draft board then the Lions first round pick. Oh, and yes, he was on the Lions contact list.

In the third round the Lions were set to draft at pick #88 and a lot of the talent I would've liked them to take with their pick was falling to them... when suddenly they felt the need to trade away that high 5th round draft pick they got in round 1 from the Broncos to move up 8 spots to the 80th pick and select Cornerback Alex Carter who was 71st on my board. NDT had him at 24th (early 2nd round grade) and Optimum Scouting at 100 even (4th round grade). There was a whole lot of talent that was skipped in order to trade up 8 spots for Corner that Opt S and Huddle Report both didn't even bother doing a profile on. NDT did and apparently liked what they saw, the info I get is this: he's 6' tall and 196 pounds (basically my twin in height and weight). His hands measure 9.13" so perhaps interceptions are in his future. In fact, his measurements are what you look for in a corner. He went to Stanford so he's intelligent. He got high scores for measurements, talent, and leadership, but low scores for production. Perhaps he was used wrong. NDT commends him for his press man coverage abilities and though he lacks elite speed figures he can challenge any WR for a defense that employs man coverage (which the Lions do). Some question he may be a safety in the NFL but the Lions plan to use him outside at corner, so Mathis' protege. Was he worth both a 3rd round and a 5th round pick? I'm not quite as sure about that just yet.

I confess, when I started typing this blog I was still upset about the missed opportunities to take players I felt the Lions should have taken instead of who they did. After digging deeper in order to write this though I find that I'm just a little bit curious about what Alex Carter can do at corner in the future. I guess I can thank NDT for helping me sleep tonight. On the other hand Ameer Abdullah has so many pluses and minuses I don't know what to think, if he was a 4th rounder or later I'd be thrilled to have this part time weapon on the team... but I ranked him in the 2nd round, he was taken in the 2nd round, and so I shouldn't be upset... yet I'm still very nervous... I personally would never ever draft a running back with small hands. Ever. The Lions did and now I have to wait and see if he can overcome this product of his DNA. Oh, and Alex was also on the Lions contact list.

According to my board; the Lions have drafted the 64th, 60th and 71st ranked players, in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rounds respectively. They gained Manny Ramirez for at least a year to either start at center or if needed, guard... or if the youth beats him out he will back up those positions, either way he will mentor the young guys during camp. The Lions gained a 5th round pick in 2016. They had gained a 5th rounder for 2015 as well but then used it up to get Alex Carter. They drafted a guard in round 1, which is something I would never do, but got more then just that from the move... including according to many the best pure guard in the entire draft. They got a very productive, agile, 3rd down back with small hands who is too small to pick up blitzes but can take it to the house if he gets some one-on-one routes going. They got a press man corner to coach up to be the eventual starter. I can't decide if I want to be happy, upset, interested or depressed. I do know this is not how I would have done the draft, but that doesn't mean they are wrong and I would've been right. Guess I need to sleep on it, maybe more then one sleep.

There is one more day to go in this year's draft. They no longer need a guard, or a running back, or a corner. They still could use a defensive tackle, or a right offensive tackle, and a fullback, and a fourth quarterback for camp, plus any other camp bodies they can acquire... so Saturday still holds some intrigue, but if it falls the way the first two nights of the draft have I may still cringe and type while trying to both cry and smile at the same time for a third night writing tomorrow nights blog.

Do I sound unsure? uncertain? dazed perhaps? happily depressed? The only thing that is going to cure me is if the good Mayhew shows up tomorrow instead of the bad Mayhew... if you know what I mean.

2015 NFL Draft - Round 1

With the 28th pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select... Guard Laken Tomlinson from Duke...

Hold on... the 28th pick? Did you think they were supposed to draft 23rd? Well they were supposed to, until Martin Mayhew managed to seal the deal on the second (and only other) trade in the first round. The Lions traded away pick #23 to move down 5 spots to pick #28 and also got a fifth round (#143 overall) pick in this draft AND a fifth round pick from Denver in 2016 AND they also got starting center Manny Ramirez, a former 4th round Lions draft pick, who has one year left on his contract and is 32 years old. Most are saying he'll be the backup to Swanson, last year's 3rd round pick, but I believe ManRam will win the starting job for 2015 while Swanson continues to get stronger and learns from the vet... a situation that may continue beyond 2015. Of course, I'm biased, as I'm still not thrilled with the Swanson pick from last year. But you got to admit with Tomlinson (6'3" 323lbs) at LG, ManRam at C, and Warford at RG, the interior of the OLine would be quite formidable.

So I'm happy with the selection of a guard in the first round? No, not exactly. I don't hate it, and the Lions did in fact pick up a great deal of bonus with the trade, but Laken Tomlinson still was ranked as a 2nd round pick by me, the most recent 6 sites I checked with, and many others as well. Still, it's entirely possible that the Lions snagged two starting offensive line players with one first round pick, along with 2 extra draft picks... and that's not all bad. In fact, the more I think about it, and the more I look into it, and then after hearing why the Lions couldn't wait until round 2 to make this draft selection (apparently the Patriots were all set to draft him at 32), I start to like it more and more. I may even grow to love it, depending on how the rest of the draft goes.

Optimum Scouting's guide (a paid subscription) ranks Laken at 39, which is the best I've found so far. Taking him at 28 isn't all that bad when you add in the extra 5th for this year, the extra 5th next year, AND Manny. For that matter, Optimum Scouting had Laken as their top Guard, none better. The next best had a 3rd round grade. That's quite a gap. So I looked into it more... Laken benched 25 times (means he's strong)... started 52 straight games at RG (means he's durable)... is extremely smart with not one but two degrees and is considered to be a first class person with a huge work ethic (the coaches will love that). He has an NFL body and if he can make the switch to LG easily enough will be a dominant run blocker in the NFL.

My NDT guide (another paid subscription) says Laken was a team captain, had a great senior bowl, and ranked him 59th overall with zero red flags and zero injury concerns. His score placed him in the 2nd round as a reliable starter. Of course, as I said, he wasn't likely going to drop into the 2nd round as the Patriots were reported to be set to draft him at 32.

I decided to read up on Laken at Huddle Report too (my other paid subscription) since those of you reading this can find for yourself the free sites with their profiles, the first sentence there reads "Laken is one of the best pulling guards in this draft" which is certainly a good thing, no, a great thing. Drew goes on to say "if he can just learn better in-line blocking techniques he could become an excellent left guard" ... now this was written in March and Drew had no clue who would be drafting him. He does warn that whoever his coaches end up being they will need to help mold Laken into the job but he believes the talent is there, hidden, waiting for a coach to find it... or some such comment as that.

So here you have a classy dude, smart, hard working, strong, able to do the hard things but needs some coaching to get up to NFL standards doing things that are teachable while he already does the things you can't teach. He "fits the suit" of guard, is already a good run blocker, and has kept his QB clean in college. Not a bad option to draft... considering the Lions other options for OL were either taken or are having some legal issues at this point in time.

I predicted the Lions would go OL in round 1, but I also thought it would be a RT, alas that was not to be. Still, most all the potential defensive tackles I said the Lions might take in round one instead of OL are still available... and they still have a large contingent of options coming up. Laken was indeed on the contact list, but by my count right now the Lions have 21 contacted players on the list available to draft and ALL of them are ranked below pick 65 on my board. Obviously their board looks different then mine, but that's a lot of options in any draft, more then I've ever seen before. I've no idea who they will take but I'm still of the mind that DT might be very likely.

I'll have more on Laken and the other draft picks later... enjoy day 2 of the NFL draft and I'll catch you all up after it's over.