Tuesday, April 26, 2016

2016 Detroit Lions Pre-Draft Off-Season Review

How the Lions got to this point.

The Lions signed a new GM in early January, the New England Patriots Director of Pro Scouting Bob Quinn. He in turn replaced a number of people in the Lions front office and then remodeled the entire Lions weight room after replacing the top trainers. Since the results of all those moves have yet to be seen, I'll refrain from having an opinion one way or the other on those actions. Instead, I'll focus on the transactions that have occurred to the roster. It is the off season after all.

On 1/4/2016 in what will become the final moves by interim GM Sheldon White the Detroit Lions sign LB Khaseem Greene, TE Casey Pierce, WR Ryan Spadola, WR Corey Washington and OT Tyrus Thompson to 2016 Reserve/Future contracts. Four days later Bob Quinn is hired and interim GM Sheldon White is out of a job, he had replaced the former GM Martin Mayhew mid-season in 2015. Sheldon White was the Lions VP of Pro Personnel before becoming interim GM and he was not retained in that role either. Martin Mayhew later was hired by the New York Giants as director of football operations there.

The Detroit Lions under Bob Quinn then made the following roster moves:
1/21/2016 The Detroit Lions sign WR Austin Willis to a 2016 Reserve/Futures contract.
2/11/2016 The Detroit Lions sign linebacker Jerry Franklin.
2/12/2016 The Detroit Lions sign offensive tackle Lamar Holmes.
2/16/2016 The Detroit Lions terminate the contract of running back Joique Bell.
2/19/2016 The Detroit Lions release defensive tackle C.J. Wilson.
3/2/2016 The Detroit Lions place cornerback Rashean Mathis on Reserve/Retired.
3/4/2016 The Detroit Lions re-sign defensive tackle Tyrunn Walker.
3/8/2016 The Detroit Lions place wide receiver Calvin Johnson on Reserve/Retired.
3/10/2016 The Detroit Lions re-sign wide receiver Corey Fuller.
3/10/2016 The Detroit Lions sign defensive back Tavon Wilson.
3/10/2016 The Detroit Lions re-sign defensive tackle Haloti Ngata.
3/11/2016 The Detroit Lions sign cornerback Johnson Bademosi, cornerback Crezdon Butler, wide receiver Marvin Jones, longsnapper Don Muhlbach, quarterback Dan Orlovsky, linebacker Tahir Whitehead and defensive tackle Stefan Charles.
3/12/2016 The Detroit Lions sign safety Rafael Bush.
3/16/2016 The Detroit Lions re-sign tight end Timothy Wright.
3/21/2016 The Detroit Lions sign wide receiver Jeremy Kerley.
3/29/2016 The Detroit Lions sign cornerback Darrin Walls
3/30/2016 The Detroit Lions sign guard Geoff Schwartz.
4/5/2016 The Detroit Lions sign defensive end Wallace Gilberry, tight end Matthew Mulligan and running back Stevan Ridley.
4/8/2016 The Detroit Lions re-sign running back George Winn.
4/18/2016 The Detroit Lions re-sign defensive tackle Khyri Thornton.
4/19/2016 The Detroit Lions re-sign center Braxston Cave, defensive end Brandon Copeland and defensive back Isaiah Johnson.
4/25/2016 The Detroit Lions sign punter Kyle Christy.

Other then WR Marvin Jones, who received a contract very similar to Golden Tate's, the contracts for everyone else is either a 1 year or 2 year deal and most of them have relatively small signing bonuses with many many incentives built-in to them. Should those players remain on the roster and get a lot of playing time (meaning they won their respective jobs/roster spots) they will be paid fairly well, though I'm sure not as well as they would like. However, if they are unable to win their roster spot or starting job (due to performance or the draft results), they can be affordable to either cut or trade. The moves should allow Quinn to have a fairly decent roster with some depth to it in case of injury. It also gives Quinn room in the draft to select players they think fit the team without having to reach or feel pressure to take someone they maybe shouldn't.

The only roster spot at the moment with no depth at all is defensive end. In fact, the Lions only have 3 players signed that play that position and they usually have 4 or even 5 on the roster for the season. If Mayhew was still GM this would be a sure indicator that DE would be the first pick of the draft. Since it is not Mayhew no one knows who the Lions will select in the first round. A large number seem to think the Lions will go WR to replace Calvin Johnson who retired in March. An equal number still think that DT is the pick to replace Suh (even though it's two years now and the Lions have 7 DTs on the roster at the moment). Even more believe they will go offensive tackle (to challenge Reiff and/or Ola/Schwartz). Finally I'm now hearing a lot of pundits suggesting the Lions will take the best Center in the draft and replace Swanson, arguably the worst member of the offensive line last year. Any of them could be right. All of them could be wrong. No one, except perhaps 5 or so people that work in Allen Park, have any idea what the Lions might do Thursday night, and they don't even know who will be available when the Lions finely get on the clock.

Myself, I think they just might trade down. Although a part of me knows that Quinn might get aggressive to build the roster at a particular spot and try to trade up, despite my hoping he never ever trades up. If no trades occur (or even if they do) I think the pick would be or could be DE, OT, S, CB, C, or DT... pretty much in that order, depending on who is there when they pick. Heck, it wouldn't even surprise me a ton if the pick was a linebacker. That is how much I don't know about Quinn. Is he the type to take the best player that can help the team now? The best player period? The best player for the team at any point in the future even if he doesn't help now? or the player they need the most now even if he's not the best available? I know what Quinn has said, but I don't know when the clock is ticking, exactly what will happen. And to be honest, almost no one anywhere else does either. Plenty of guesses, but actual knowledge is just not available.

What would I do if I were GM? It would depend on what trade offers (down) I get and who is still available. I could see selecting a DE to learn behind Devin Taylor and who can rotate in more and more as the year progresses to play opposite Ansah. I could see selecting a DT to play behind Ngata and Walker to also rotate in and learn the job to be an eventual replacement for one of them. I could see selecting an offensive tackle that could maybe play left side (replacing Reiff) or at least competes to start instead of Ola or Geoff Schwartz on the right side. I could see selecting Ryan Kelly to start at Center putting Swanson as the backup guard/center for depth, even though I normally would not advocate selecting a center in round one. Then after trying to decide on those four trench positions I could see entertaining the thought of selecting a top tier Safety to play opposite Quinn, or a top tier LB to play either opposite Levy or between Levy and Whitehead. Finally, I could see selecting a corner to play opposite Slay. All are viable options in my opinion. All depends on who is available and how they are truly ranked (by the pro's, not just by draftniks and/or myself). But the final truth of it is, as long as the pick works out, any one of those options would help the team win games now and/or later. Making sure the pick made will in fact work out is the primary concern (as it should be).

I'm a little more sure of what won't happen, since there is no sense drafting a player to fill a role that is already filled. In the first round they will not draft a QB, a RB, a WR, a TE, a G, a P, or a K... in my opinion. They may draft or sign an undrafted player to fill the QB#3 spot, the power RB spot, the tall fast deep WR spot (after a few years of development), or the blocking TE spot... all on day 3. Just not in round 1. Probably not in round 2 either for that matter. Maybe.

The Lions only (currently) have 3 picks on the first 2 days of the draft and I can see them finding a top DE, C, OT, S, and/or CB during that time. Since they can not address all five spots as it stands now the whole thing is indeterminable. Plus, we don't know how they truly feel about some of the players currently on the roster, nor do we know what offers are still outstanding in free agency... offers that won't be addressed until after the draft is over and players, their agents, and front office people see what is what.

All of this, of course, is what makes the draft so appealing to so many fans. Myself included. It's only about 48 hours (approximately) until the Lions are on the clock... only then will we know what Quinn is thinking, and a few hours later, should you read this blog, how I feel about what the Lions did. Perhaps I shall "see" you then.