on the draft

>> 4.27.2009

This morning, I woke up to the sounds of my alarm failing to go off.  The morning sun was warming through the miniblinds, the cats were pawing at the basement door, and my eldest child was sneaking around the house doing things she knows she's not allowed to do.  Typically, waking up like this means I'm already well past late for work, and the day will be an exercise in futility and frustration, of running behind and losing my head.  Today, however?  Today was different.

It's spring.  The sun comes up earlier these days--and with it, come the early rays and the chirping birds, the joggers and the potholes.  Today was the first weekday where I made it all the way out to the car without ever once considering wearing a coat.  In fact, I had to go back into the house to fetch my money clip from said coat--and opted to leave the coat right where it sat.

I twisted the keys in the ignition, and as my mount quickly purred to life, it hit me: four months ago, nearly to the day, I started this blog.  In some ways, that day was the complete opposite of today--yet in other ways, it was exactly the same.

"When I walked out the door into the early morning darkness, the wind was a stinging, bitter smack to the face. After a warm and lovely holiday weekend, where most of the near-foot of accumulated snow and ice melted off, last night Winter came roaring back. A silvery sheen of frost and ice glazed over everything, including my car. After cranking the engine, I began the routine: hacking, scraping, brushing, and scouring the exterior glass--while my car desperately tried to maintain a series of small fires inside a solid metal block chilled to a temperature well below freezing. With the grueling work done, I collapsed into the driver's seat. It was then that the voice on the local sports talk radio station smacked me in the face with an even colder reality: I'm a Lions fan."

At that moment, it was the morning after a landmark in Lions (and NFL) history.  It was the nadir; it was rock bottom.  The edges of the winter wind cut and sliced my skin like thorns, yet didn't hurt half as badly as the 0-16 knife in my chest.  That bitter, freezing day smacked me in the face, and then kicked me in the stomach.  This morning, however?  It was the morning after the new start.  There were buds on the trees, daffodils already in bloom.  This morning was the first day of the spring, the first day of the new Lions.  Then first day of the Matt Stafford era.

Yes, the Matt Stafford era.  The Lions chose to make Georgia quarterback Matt Stafford the face of the Lions for at least the next four years--and paid him at least $41.2 million do it.  On a team with few--possibly no--veteran leaders, Stafford will look to fill the huge power vacuum in the huddle.  He'll also need to fill the huge performance vacuum under center.  The Lions have not had consistently good quarterback play . . . well, ever.   But beyond that, Stafford and the Lions are now incontrovertably bound together.  From this day forward, no matter who you wanted the Lions to draft #1 overall, no matter how you felt about the contract, no matter what you think about Stafford's chances at the next level: if you are a Lions fan you will root for this kid's success with everything you have.  If he succeeds, the Lions will be contenders every single year for the next decade or more.  If he fails, the Lions might well have to have yet another regime change at the top, and we'll all be in for another six more years of winter.

As far as the rest of the draft goes, the Lions did what they said they would do: they drafted for talent, not need.  They took the highest-rated player on their board, except for when they made (brilliant) trades back for more picks.  They drafted like they had a clean sheet of paper from which to start, and--especially on day one--they took the rest of the NFL to school on how drafting the best players is done.  They didn't draft to reach for 2009 needs--they knew that the Week 1 roster for 2009 was going to have holes in it no matter who they drafted this weekend.  Most importantly, they took players that everyone agreed on.  The scouts, coaches, and front office folks came together to draft players that will never be anyone's pet project or sacred cow.  These players will all get plenty of opportunity to compete, and all will ultimately be judged by their efforts when granted those opprtunities.  As I've already said, in two or three years, when other teams' fans review other teams' 2009 drafts, these Lions are going to be named over and over and over as the players those other teams "could have had".  To me, that alone speaks volumes about the change in direction, change in execution, and change in the weather.  That's not to say we won't see stormy days--we will, and sooner rather than later.  But it comes down to this, what I said four months ago:

"I'm a fan. I was born a fan, and I will die a fan. The hooting and derision of the American sports culture has set my resolve. I'm sick of getting snickers on the football-y corners of the Internet. I'm sick of getting reaction takes when I wear Lions gear around town. I've thought about starting this blog for years, but this morning I knew that today was the day. I've pulled my hood tight, I've loaded up the sled with wood, and I've got fuel and spark to spare. I'm going to reclaim my Lions pride. I'm going to fan that little blue flame into the great big bonfire it ought to be, and nobody's going to be prouder than me when thousands are once again carrying torches to rally behind this team."

8 comments:

Barrelrider April 28, 2009 at 3:42 AM  

Ty

Love the (in)site. I am new to blogging here, but I have been a lurker on your site since its inception. I love what this new regime has done so far (trades for value, solid FA signings, Draft, UFA's). This draft was not for just this year, but for years to come as well. I love the fact that Mayhew drafted BPA on THEIR board (read: not overblown, "I have my favorites and I won't budge" from Kiper/McShay/Mayock). Starting, dual threat TE; Stud (albeit slightly undersized) dual threat S; highest ranked ST returners; ST/developmental players that should be able to crack the starting line-up this year. Although I didn't agree with all the picks @ their respective slots, I also am not a NFL scout/GM with my future career at stake. I, as well as all TRUE Lions fans, need to keep the faith that this regime is actually acting like a real NFL organization, something that I think most Lions fans (including myself) have never seen with this organization. Thank you, on behalf of all the Lions in Winter lurkers (like I used to be) for your balanced, and well placed optimism. I look forward to every new post you do.

Thanks
Barrelrider

5Bakerstreet,  April 28, 2009 at 5:10 AM  

I'll read others' insights about the players we drafted in the 2009 draft, look forward to it.

I've crunched the numbers differently and am able to post some totally irrelevant facts about what we witnessed over this past weekend.

256 collegians were drafted from 113 universities. Listed below is the conference breakdown of those picks (highest to lowest, those with 4 or less aren't listed) conference and number of players picked.

Southeastern - 37
Atlantic Coast - 33
Pac 10 - 32
Big 10 - 28
Big East - 26
Big 12 - 25
Mountain West - 16
Mid America - 11
Western Athletic - 10
Conference USA - 10
Southland - 5

How many per university were drafted ( highest to lowest, 3 or less not included)

11 - USC

7 - Ohio State, Oregon State, South Carolina

6 - Cincinnati, Georgia, LSU, Missouri, Oregon

5 - Maryland, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Penn State, Rutgers, TCU

4 - Alabama, Clemson, Conneticut, Georgia Tech, Iowa, Mississippi, Pittsburgh, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wake Forest, Wisconsin

Note: Michigan Colleges

2 - U of M (136 - Terrance Taylor and 179 - Morgan Trent), Western Michigan (33 - Louis Delmars and 217 - E.J. Biggers)

1 - Eastern (109 - T.J. Lang), Michigan State (173 - Javon Ringer)

Of the 256 selections 127 were offensive players, 124 defensive players, and 5 special teamers.

Breakdown Offense, Defense, Special Teams by number of picks and position(s)

Offense

34 - WR
19 - RB and TE
16 - OT
13 - OG
11 - QB
6 - C
3 - FB and OLT
1 - OG/C, OG/T, QB/Receiver (just call these guys Slash)

Defense

39 - CB
19 - DE and DT
18 - OLB
9 - ILB
7 - FS and S
4 - SS
1 - NT and LB

Special Teams

2 - PK and P
1 - LS

Source information was Pro Football Weekly.

Go Lions

Anonymous,  April 28, 2009 at 12:20 PM  

Steelers release Larry Foote per PFT.

From what I understand, the Lion's had some good information this was going to happen. Might explain the non-MLB choice in the draft...

Only really matters if they sign him however.

Anonymous,  April 28, 2009 at 12:27 PM  

you mean drafted for TALENT, not NEED, ty. might wanna re-read what you wrote again. ;]

Ty April 28, 2009 at 1:44 PM  

Barrelrider--

I really, really, really appreciate your comment. Thanks so much for de-lurking; it's comments like that that make me confident that the effort I put into this blog is worthwhile.

It's undeniable that they followed their own board, and didn't sweat what anyone (including the fans) had to say about it. Like you, I leave it up to faith that these men--who I respect, and who I know know more than I do about this game, and this business. I'm willing to bet that we look back on this draft as brilliant, not brutal.

Peace
Ty

Ty April 28, 2009 at 2:11 PM  

5BS--

Thank you for those, as you say, totall irrelevant--yet, completely fascinating--stats. I wonder how much of the per-conference breakdown differences are due to those players getting more hype due to the conference they play in? Man, I'd love for all this info to be in a database I could query . . .

Peace
Ty

Ty April 28, 2009 at 2:27 PM  

Anon 1-- Thanks for the tip. I'd just finished tweeting it when you posted; yes, the idea that they were waiting on Foote makes sense. I haven't found the quote yet, but I remember Mayhew saying immediately after the draft that the Lions 'had plenty of other opportunities to improve the team' . . . I can only hope that this is one of those opportunities.

Peace
Ty

Ty April 28, 2009 at 2:29 PM  

Anon 2--

Thanks for the catch! I don't know if it's great or horrifying that my readers often serve as my editors . . . once again, it brings into perspective just how hard it is to do this "for real".

Peace
Ty

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