Tuesday, April 24, 2018

My 2018 Lions Draft Musings.

The NFL 2018 Draft starts on Thursday night (in two days). Before I get into my thoughts and explanations of that process some updates since my previous post (scroll down). The Lions currently have 70 players under contract and $9,431,709 in salary cap available. They also made the following roster moves...

04/04/2018 The Detroit Lions waive QB Alek Torgersen.
04/06/2018 The Detroit Lions waive CB Desmond Lawrence.
04/09/2018 The Detroit Lions sign QB Matt Cassel.
04/09/2018 The Detroit Lions re-sign WR TJ Jones. (Means he actually signed his tendered offer)
04/10/2018 The Detroit Lions place T Emmett Cleary on Reserve-Retired. (I didn't see this one coming, opens up a roster spot)
04/17/2018 The Detroit Lions re-sign DE Ezekiel Ansah. (Means he actually signed his franchise tag offer)
04/18/2018 The Detroit Lions sign CB Raysean Pringle. (The Lions doing the cornerback shuffle)
04/19/2018 The Detroit Lions waive CB Adairius Barnes. (and more shuffling)

Since I had Torgersen making the team and he was waived then Matt Cassel was signed, I shall change my roster review to say the Lions will keep 2 Quarterbacks, Stafford and Cassel. Rudock will, if he clears waivers, make the practice squad.

I also had Cleary making the team as depth at guard and tackle. Since he retired, that opens up a spot, one that could be added in the upcoming draft or in free agency after the draft. I think it makes the Lions taking a guard in the draft a slightly higher probability then it was before.

Now the draft its self. Some teams (and most mock drafters) try to fill a team's biggest need with a first round pick. That can lead to reaching for a prospect (say maybe an Ebron over a Donald for example) or some other undesired result. Some teams will rank the players from say 1 to 300 and pick from the top (or near the top) of the list for each round, regardless of need at all, and sometimes regardless of fit as well. Some teams (and mock drafters) will assign a round grade to players, and then pick from that group, trying to fill team needs (plural, not ranked, just holes in the roster) as much as possible. Problem is, many times there are fewer graded players for a round then there are picks needed. Say you have 25 guys ranked as draft-able in the first round, who does the other 7 teams in round 1 draft? Some of the round 2 graded guys? There are even more "systems" out there then that. So what's the right system, or draft approach, or whatever you want to call it? Well, first, who ever said it's the same method for the whole draft? Maybe there is one method used for one round, and another used in other rounds. Or, maybe, it gets even more involved then that... after all, the entire front office of an NFL team could end up fired in 5 years if some positive results aren't reached. Then, if a front office gets too successful, members of the team will end up getting hired to run other teams who hadn't had success. There are millions upon millions of dollars at stake, not to mention jobs... jobs of which there are only 32 of in the whole world. So while mocks might be a means of learning players, creating entertainment, even feeding the need to know RIGHT NOW what will happen later... teams are taking steps to make it right,and that never stops.

Now some will talk only about college production, "show me the film", and that is definitely a part of it, a large part of it. BUT, there is so much more, and I'm not talking just about projecting how a player will fare in the NFL surrounded by the best of the best of the best. Thought projecting is also a part of it. Okay, I mentioned team fit before, and that too is part of it... why draft a player at all if he can't play in the scheme you are implementing? Some teams do ignore that, or at least, believe they have correctly projected a player can indeed play in their scheme (incorrectly I might add), but most teams do have guys who are not on their draft board at all. Might be due to fit. Might be due to injury. Might be due to some measurable athletic attribute that is missing that they desire their players to have in that position. It could also be drug test results, interview results, even just scouts opinions who talked to teachers and fellow students (and family). It all gets added in. Then there is the hardest part, how hard is a 21 to 24 year old who has never had much money going to work when he suddenly comes into hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars? How hard will his ego get bashed when he finds out that every single person on his team is as good (or better) then he is? Not everyone makes a team, your teammates who you work with for months leading up to the final cut down day want your job (as in, your roster spot). But you are their teammate, not their opponent. Some just can't reconcile these things. Some can't take their work seriously after the money is received (forget that there is more coming, these are guys under age 25 here, and yes I'm projecting some of myself into that, because it's a real thing).

Anyway, you have grades, and schemes along with fits, you have holes in your roster, you have young stud players who have not had the money they are about to get, played with and against players their equal (or close to it), as in a full team of them, and you are risking your own job and livelihood if you get it wrong. Sounds easy right? [/sarcasm]

I believe the Lions will have a list of players they would be willing to draft in each round. I believe that every one of those players would fill some kind of need on the team, if not, they wouldn't even be on the list for that round. I believe they know the holes on their roster, but have not ranked them as the most needy position to fill to the least needy position, and so are free to not reach for anyone in any given round. I also believe they have players in each round they would particularly like to have, depending on who they already drafted and who they think other teams will draft before their next pick. Finally, I believe they know, in advance, there is no way they can get all the rosters "holes" filled... all they can do is try to improve their roster as much as each round allows them to... with good, hard working, football players. Ones that love the game and even if they do suddenly have more money then they have ever seen in their entire lives, will still work to make the team then make the team better.

So who will the Lions draft this week? I have no earthly idea. But I do know a few they will not. That won't help much since there are hundreds of players to pick from. In addition to that, there is one more curve ball. Almost no team (and it might be all 32 teams) has seen every play of every game a prospect has played. Mock draft guys do the same thing, and that is, to go through a few games... maybe in the case of the top guys, double that, which is still about half of one year's worth of football games played. Scouts and front office people, even mock drafters, may have missed great plays in great games that were never viewed. Or, a player may be scored on plays in 3 games that just happened to be his best games ever. So even when you think you got all the info, and know what is, it isn't. Why so few games? Due to the numbers. Say 500 to 1,000 players, at 12 or more games each. Who could possibly 6,000 or more hours of play in order to rank 500 players in one draft (there are only 8,760 hours in a year, if you don't sleep).

I do know teams want to win. I do know there are different ways to build a team, and to rank players for the draft, and even to strategize who to select and when. What I don't know is what the Lions know, and I don't know if they know everything there is to know, or in other words, what they missed. So good luck athletes, may your dreams come true this week, then may you work your butt off to keep them! (Especially the ones drafted by the Lions).

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