The Detroit Lions have their first three picks in and one can only wonder. Did Mayhew and Schwartz actually do the draft this year or did they bring back Millen for one last hurah?
Before the draft, if you asked any Lions fan what positions the Lions needed to draft the least, they would have said Quarterback, Defensive Tackle, and Tight end. Obvious choices. Myself? I would have put them in the order of Defensive Tackle, Tight End and then Quarterback. So what do the Lions draft with their first round, 13th overall pick? Nick Fairley, a Defensive Tackle!
I understand that most fans like this pick. I know of one poll that the last I heard, had 88% of the fans liking the pick. I just do not understand why.
The Lions have Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, and Sammie Lee Hill at Defensive Tackle. The Lions as a team in 2010, had 44 sacks. Only 4 less than the NFL leaders, the Pittsburgh Steelers. 39 of those sacks came from the defensive line. Only 5 sacks came from linebackers and defensive backs. When it comes to getting after the quarterback, the Lions defensive line is arguably the best in the NFL. It was the last place they needed to add a player. So drafting a DT in the first round essentially means the Lions spent their 13th overall pick, in a draft when they needed to address so many holes, with depth!
How good is Fairley? Many believe he is going to be awesome. Some comments try to put him on the level with Suh. Let us get one thing straight. There is absolutely no way he is on the level with Suh. When Suh came out, he was not touted as the best DT in the draft. He was touted as the best DT to come out of college in over a decade and possibly ever! Before the Lions drafted Fairley, I rarely heard his name mentioned. To take it farther, Suh played great football for three continuous seasons in college. Fairley has had one big season.
Let us pretend for a moment he will be great though. How much better will he be than Corey Williams? Whether you like Williams or not, the truth is, he played at a pretty high level. Though he only had a couple sacks, Williams had a hand in breaking up a lot of plays. He was the hammer that often sprung Suh free. IF Williams was not good enough, the Lions would not have been able to pull Suh off the line and use him as a blitzing linebacker. Even if Fairly is great.... Even if he is better than Corey Williams, he still only improves the starting unit so much. It is not like he replaces a DT who was not very good. He does not improve the Lions D-line by leaps and bounds. He adds a lot of talent in the depth department. Essentially, he will be their so that the Lions will have four DTs to rotate in and out to keep them fresh.
Again, the Lions D-line had 39 sacks last year. How many more will they get?
On the board at the time they drafted Fairley, was still Prince Amukamara and Jimmy Smith. Two cornerbacks that many experts believed had the talent to press the receivers (something the Lions need desperately), and possibly be shutdown corners. Anyone who would rather have a DT who adds great depth over a top corner who would immediately make the Lions defensive backs a lot better, simply does not know football. Yes I am meaning this fir the Lions brass too!
I will say it again. Last year the Lions defensive line was one of the best (if not THE best) at going after the quarterback. Of the other 7 starters on the field in defense, the Lions only had 2 players who belong starting. Louis Delmas and DeAndre Levy. That leaves 3 defensive backs and two outside linebackers who the Lions need to improve if they ever want to be a play-off contender. Five players of the eleven starters who would be nothing more than back-ups on other teams. The Lions could have addressed one of them and instead chose to add a DT that would add great depth.
Yet I keep hearing the statement that a team needs depth if they want to win games. I will tell you something much more important to have than depth if you want to be a winning team. Good starters! And only 6 good starters on the field at any time for a defense just doesn't cut it. Especially when 4 of them are in one unit.
The second round started with a vengeance to insult the Lions brass. The first two picks off the board? Cornerbacks! The one position the Lions need to address the most. The Lions finally got to pick with the 44th pick of the NFL draft. Did they get a cornerback? No. How about a linebacker? Nope. Ah, then they must have taken an offensive lineman right? Not quite!
The Lions select, Boise State Receiver, Titus Young.
Now as bad as this sounds, I actually like this pick more than the first round pick. Not that I love it by any means, but at least I feel like they did address a need. The Lions need a receiver who can stretch the defense opposite Calvin Johnson. He does not have to be a great receiver. He just has to be good enough that if they ignore him, he will get past the secondary and pull in some long passes. This will force defenses to keep their safeties back and in turn, it will open a little more running room and give Calvin more one on ones.
Titus Young is not a great pick, but at least I can see where his presence can create problems for defenses and make the rest of the offense better. So for this pick I can live with it.
The Lions made their usual trade to move up again. This is one thing I absolutely love about Mayhew. He is not looking to trade down and acquire more picks like many think. He looks to move up and get higher quality players who can become starters. So Mayhew made a trade with the Seattle Seahawks and gave them their 3rd and 4th round picks as well as swapped places in the 5th and 7th round. In other words, they essentially gave up the rest of their draft to move back into the second round.
With the 57th pick in the 2011 draft, the Lions take.... a cornerback? A linebacker? An offensive lineman? No! They draft Illinois RB, Mikel LeShoure.
Some fans believe the Lions needed a big hard running RB to run between tackles. To get the extra yard on short yardage downs. It seems the Lions brass has agreed. The fact that the Lions center, Dominic Raiola is under sized had nothing to do with it. That the line of scrimmage was often pushed back a couple yards wasn't at fault. We used Suh as a fullback on short yardage and he ran into a wall two yards short of the line of scrimmage, but a big RB will make the difference? I don't see it. The fact that the play calling was horrendous most of the time and that the QB, Shaun Hill rarely threw the ball more than 7 yards in the air, had nothing to do with the bad running game. We can play in a way that bring the defense in tight, taking away running room and filling run lanes quicker, but we will place the blame on the running backs.
It was not a RB we needed to get so bad. We needed a center who can push the line of scrimmage rather than be pushed backwards! The Lions need a fullback who can lead block to clear open some running lanes! What the Lions did not need was a hard running RB, because they already had one in Felton! He is listed as a fullback, but he was never used as one. He is only used as a hard hitting RB.
The Final Verdict:
So the Lions went into the draft needing Cornerbacks, outside Linebackers and possibly a safety the most on defense. They needed a Center, a right tackle, a receiver, and maybe a fullback on offense. After three picks (spending their first 4 picks for them), the Lions filled a total of 1 hole. Wide receiver!
As it stands, the Lions will enter the 2011 season (if there is one), with the same cornerbacks who could not cover a receiver, and the same linebackers, who could not cover or tackle. The Lions will enter the new season with virtually an unimproved starting line-up.
And I just cannot help but wonder. What hand did Millen play in this?
Ndamukong Suh's Sack List
Keep track of which quarterbacks Suh has faced and which ones he has taken down.
Keep track of which quarterbacks Suh has faced and which ones he has taken down.
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