The Next Season Sports Interblog Mock Draft is getting ready for its second-go round--which means we're starting at the top once again. This time, Steve from Detroit Lions Weblog and I will flip spots--I'll take the 1.1, and he'll handle the 1.20. It hasn't been posted yet, because Aaron over at NSS is trying to corral all the picks up front, but I assure you it's underway. With the entire field of prospects available to me, I selected this guy:
It was a really difficult choice. For me, if I am in Mayhew's chair, I am looking at making a guaranteed MINIMUM of a five-year, thirty-five million-dollar investment in a dude who may or may not be able to legally buy beer. This is absolutely walking the tightrope as a GM; getting this pick right means a you add a perennial Pro Bowler to a team desperate for playmakers. Getting it wrong means you probably seal the fate of the team, the coaches, the franchise, and yourself for the next five years. It seems a little early and often in the Mayhew Era to be calling for do-or-die moments, but this pick is just as crucial to the Lions' future as the head coach hire.
What is the "safe" pick? Well, if you look at the recent history of top ten QB picks . . . it's disastrous. Basically once you get beyond Matt Ryan, Eli Manning, and Philip Rivers, every top ten QB pick of the past ten years has been an abject failure. If you look at the LTs selected, there have been a mix of "good" ones and "bad" ones--but even the "bad" ones (D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Robert Gallery) have developed into solid contributors. So, of the two positions most commonly selected at 1.1, QB or LT, there is an overwhelming case to be made that the LT is the safer pick.
Moreover, while great QBs can and do come from all over the first round, and some times even later, elite LTs pretty much only come from the top ten picks in the draft. LTs who have the potential to be the next Orlando Pace or Johnathan Ogden always go in the top five or ten--and once they are drafted they either hit, and retire with the team that drafted them, or miss, and get shifted to guard--and maybe eventually released after the second contract.
There are several excellent LTs to choose from at this #1 overall spot, and ideally, the Lions won't be sitting at 1.1 next year. So why would I pass up the (I hope) last-for-a-long-time opportunity to take a franchise LT? Well, let me present a few reality checks:
* the Lions' starting linebackers are, of this moment:
SLB - Alex Lewis, career special teamer, 6'-0", 228#
MLB - Jordon Dizon, 2nd year guy, lost rookie year to injury, 6'-0", 229#
WLB - Ernie Sims, Pro Bowl potential but pedestrian reality, 5'-11", 220#
That would be an unacceptably small LB corps for a Big Ten school, let alone a NFL team.
* The Lions allowed 32.3 points per game last year, by far the worst in the NFL.
* The Lions allowed 2,754 yards rushing to opponents last year, on 536 carries--that's an average of 5.1 ypc.
* The Lions were passed against fewer times than any team in the NFL, yet allowed the 27th most yardage.
* Opposing passers' average QB rating was 110.9. No, that's not a typo, one hundred and ten point nine.
Okay, so, get it? The defense was beyond atrocious last year; it was historically bad. Statistically speaking, the defense was dead last in nearly every category. On top of that, the Lions let starting MLB Paris Lenon, and starting SLB Ryan Nece walk out the door as free agents. So, basically, the LB position was a lethal weakness in 2008, and it is significantly worse now.
It's true that the OL has been a sore spot with Lions fans since the freak paralysis of G Mike Utley in 1991, and the tragic accidental death of G Eric Andolsek in the ensuing offseason. However, there are multiple ways to address the issue. This draft has several excellent interior line prospects in the late-first, early-second round window. If we were to draft, say, Cal's Alex Mack with the 2.1, he would be able to immediately compete for a starting guard spot, as well as back up Dominic Raiola for now--and of course he could eventually replace Raiola once he develops. Further, given the run on tackles in the 2008 draft, and the bumper crop of tackles in the 2009 draft, there are going to be 9 or 10 teams that just blew a first-rounder on a tackle when the 2010 draft rolls around. Assuming the Lions don't pull a miraculous worst-to-first (a safe assumption), they should be drafting in the 5-15 range next season, which is a perfectly fine spot to find a tackle, or trade up to get one. Assuming I'm right that there is an unusal lack of demand, the Lions could well take care of the interior OL directly this year, and get their LT of the future next season.
Okay, so why Curry? Curry's incredible size (6'-2", 254#), speed (4.56) and intelligence could make him the best Lion on the defensive side of the ball from day one. Besides desperately needing Curry's production, the Lions' defense has even greater need of a leader. Ernie Sims plays with lots of passion, but he doesn't have the gift of inspiring other men to play like he does. Curry could immediately fill that role. Finally, Schwartz has been saying all along that he doesn't want "the right position", he wants "the right person": a good kid, a hard worker, someone who's both athletically elite and a remarkable individual--and he's pointed at Megatron as the perfect example of that. Between his insightful blogging, (you really do have to click that link and read it!) his committment to supporting his family, and his jaw-dropping skill set, I really think that Curry is "the right person".
We went to a place called Palomino, across the street from the hotel, with the head coach, Jim Schwartz, and a couple of other coaches. Mostly, they just wanted to know what kind of person I am because they already know the type of player I am. They wanted to know if I could handle the pressure of being a number one pick. I told them I was willing and ready. Then they wanted to know if I was the person and player they could build a defense around. I told them I was ready to lead their defense next season. I don't know yet if I convinced them, but I think I did a pretty good job. We'll find out soon enough.Indeed we will, Aaron.