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Ndamukong Suh or Russell Okung? Who Should the Lions Draft?

This is one of the most heated debates in any Lions forum these days. As we draw closer to the 2010 NFL Draft, it will likely heat up to another level. Yet when one looks at all of the facts, it really is not worthy of a real debate.

If you haven't read my earlier article, "Left Tackle or Defensive Tackle - Which is More Important?", go read it before reading this one.

As I pointed out in the article mentioned above, to the contrary of common belief,the defensive tackle is actually more important than the left tackle on an NFL team. So this already gives Ndamukong Suh a head start over Russell Okung. Now let us look at other facts.

I have read many forums postings by fans and I have read plenty of articles in blogs and major sporting websites. This is what I find....

Russell Okung - Many believe he is the best left tackle in this years draft. Yet there are some articles that say he is more polished than Trent Williams, but Williams may be the better talent for the long term. So Okung is POSSIBLY the best left tackle in the 2010 NFL Draft. No where have I read anyone saying he is the best left tackle to come out of college in recent years. No place have I read that he is ranked with Jake Long coming out of college. He is only stated as the best left tackle in this years draft alone. And a few even argue that point.

Ndamukong Suh - The most common belief by the experts is that Suh is the best defensive tackle to come out of college in the last ten years. He is widely considered to be a "Once in a lifetime" type of player. His college stats back that up.

There are a few who rate defensive tackle Gerald McCoy as high as Suh and fewer still who think McCoy is better. Their arguments have little ground to stand on. In college, Suh's stats destroys McCoy's in every category. Suh's 12 sacks in 2009 alone are the equal to the 12 sacks McCoy had in 2008 and 2009 added together. Yet it was McCoy and not Suh who played in the one-gap defensive scheme that is meant for attacking the quarterback. Suh played in a stop the run first defense.

A quick look at some of the non statistical points why they may fail in the NFL.

Russell Okung - The biggest one is that he payed on a spread offense scheme. In the spread offense the linemen are not expected to hold their blocks for as long because the plays are meant for the quarterbacks to get rid of the ball much quicker. In every position, players coming from the spread offense into the NFL have a much higher bust rate. The ones who are talented enough to become good players in the NFL often take a longer time to adjust to the NFL schemes before they actually start to play up to par. This is a very strong reason not to draft Okung in the first round.

Ndamukong Suh - The only knocks I have seen against him are the fears of his two knee surgeries. Understandably this is a good reason to worry. But it turns out that both of those surgeries are considered minor surgeries, so there is little fear they will blow out at any time. Plus, since his last surgery, Suh has had two extremely high performance seasons in a row without a problem. So it does not look as if his knees should be a problem.

My Opinion
The Lions are not a team that has been close to the Superbowl and needs to worry about specific positions. A team like the Lions have to follow some strict rules in drafting.

1) Draft the player who has the best chance of being a star and not a bust. They cannot afford to take chances on high upside in the first round or two. They need to minimize their risk of failure. IMO, Ndamukong Suh has a much better chance of being a star and Okung has a better chance of being a bust due to his coming from a spread offense.

2) They need to add real play makers in the early rounds. As a team gets better, they will begin to draft later in the drafts. The chances of adding a true play maker is not as high. Great teams look to add one good play maker every year and maybe get lucky if a second player works out. But that is all a good team needs to fill each year. A team like the Lions have a need for several play makers and thus it is important to address that early in the drafts. IMO, Ndamukong Suh is a much higher play maker than Okung. Okung will not make game changing plays. Suh will.

3) Take Best Player Available in positions of need! Usually there are a whole lot of positions of need, so that part is not an issue. Unfortunately in this case, the Lions are not as destitute. They do not have a need for Linebacker very much. They have addressed the left guard position and believe Backus is a good left tackle. Many if not most fans disagree with that but it doesn't change the fact. As bad as Backus has looked, he only gave up 2 sacks in his last 9 games and the left guard has been so horrible it has hurt the players around it. If the Lions draft Okung, in his first year he may not be any better than Backus. Suh on the other hand would make the defense all around him much better. Suh is the better player and he is in a position of higher need.

However much you think it is important to protect Stafford, it makes more sense to draft Ndamukong Suh in the first round. Suh is a greater talent in a position of as much need if not more need and has less chance of being a bust.

Suh is not just the best DT in this years draft, he is the best in the last decade. You do not pass up on a once in a lifetime type of player just to take a player the likes of which you see in the draft every year.

If you draft Suh #2 overall, you can still draft a LT later who can be groomed into a good LT and very much improve your offensive line. If you draft Okung, there is not another DT you can take later who will be much more than added depth to the defensive line. If he does improve the line, he certainly will not make it a fearsome line as Suh would do.

If one thinks only with their heart and worries about protecting Stafford, then Okung is the pick. But if one looks at the whole story, all of the evidence and tangibles, then Ndamukong Suh becomes the clear choice.

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