Trading Spaces: Lions Dealing #2 Overall Pick?

>> 2.23.2010

Lions GM Martin Mayhew, with and without wig he wears while performing as his alter ego, bass virtuoso “Victor Wooten”

Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network is reporting that the Lions are already in active discussions with several teams to swap the #2 overall pick.  My reactions to this are varied, intense, and conflicting:

Good luck, fellas.  Given the financial realities of the #2 overall pick, there has to be a team out there that wants to shell out thirty million dollars, guaranteed, to a player that hasn’t taken a snap in the NFL—moreover, they have to be willing to part with a value package that the Lions would accept in order to move down.

I told you so.  As obvious as the connection is between two excellent defensive tackle prospects at the top of the draft, and the Lions’ burning need for defensive line help, the Lions must not be sold on either as a long-term fit for the system.  Both are listed between 290 and 300 pounds, depending on who you believe, and various scouts will tell you various things about their respective potential to get bigger.  The bottom line, though, is this: they may be inside/outside ‘tweeners in this system, and you don’t build your franchise around a ‘tweener.

*&!*^%#$%%#^!&*.  These are two elite DT prospects!  Elite DTs don’t grow on stinking trees!  There are only a handful of top-notch interior disruptors—and with the trend towards the 3-4, they’re in higher demand than ever, either as tackles or ends.  Unless the Lions are moving down only one or two spots, to a team that wants a quarterback, a trade down would mean sayonara to Suh or McCoy.

If not Suh, then who?  I maintain that until the Combine is complete, all talk about specific slots for specific players is moot, especially at the very top of the draft.  Remember, at this time last year many Lions fans were threatening to never watch the team again if they didn’t draft Andre Smith.  A lot is still in flux at this point, and slides up and down a spot or two radically alter the draft board.  Still, there are a few logical targets:

  • Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech DE:
    Morgan is by far the most versatile defensive end in this draft class, but the talent is right there to match it. He has the ideal frame, measurables, technique, and attitude for life in the trenches.
  • Eric Berry, Tennesee S:
    Just about everything about Berry is impressive — and that’s not even including his pure football skills. He was a captain of the Tennessee team and regarded as having great character.
  • Russell Okung, Oklahoma State OT:
    An agile player who moves well on the field. Can get to every angle and the second level. Will not struggle against speed rushers due to his ability to take smart angles.
  • Rolando McClain, Alabama ILB:
    McClain is the most sure-thing as a middle linebacker prospect in the draft since Patrick Willis. He’s a prototypical combination of size, athleticism and intelligence.
  • C.J. Spiller, Clemson RB:
    His talent is undeniable and the fact that he can change a game in so many ways is going to boost his stock even more. On top of his unmatched talent level among running backs in this class, Spiller is a high character, team captain tough guy. He will be an early impact player that could evolve in to the next great dynamic threat out of the backfield.
  • Joe Haden, Florida CB:
    There is no better college cornerback than Haden. He’s come along this season as a complete corner capable of shutting down a side of the field and helping against the run.

Depending on who you listen to, and who of those you listen to you believe, the Lions could be in the mix for any of these players at any of the positions between 1.2 and 1.10.  Martin Mayhew even codified something I’d been saying for weeks: the Lions are in the market for any position in any round, except for quarterback.  That brings me to my final take:

Yeah, right.  This is Martin Mayhew and the Lions we’re talking about.  At this time last year, Tom Kowalski was running into the “unprecedented information lockdown” at Allen Park.  Today, Jason LaCanfora of comes out of nowhere with a report that the Lions are actively shopping the 1.2—scooping all the local media?  With this tagline?

Some teams have interest in Lions LB Ernie Sims as well, according to league sources, but the prospect of him being included in any deal along with the second overall pick seems bleak now because Detroit values him as a building block on defense.

The Lions are beating off potential Ernie Sims trade partners with a stick, because they can’t afford to let him go?  Forgive me, but—yeah, right.  This blogger took quite a bit of heat for suggesting last month that the Lions need to get what they can for Sims, since he’s likely a spare part after 2010 . . .

Therefore, I’m calling this a calculated gambit; the Lions leveraging the media to generate their own circumstances.  They’re leaking that many teams want to trade up to 1.2, and they’d be willing to settle for three or four pieces of value in exchange to sit in their catbird seat.  They’re also leaking that while many teams are calling about Sims, teams had better be willing to bring value, because he’s a valuable piece of their future.

Am I right?  Is this a PR conceit, a great scoop by LaCanfora, or something in the middle?  As Kowalski noted, it almost doesn’t matter; the Lions are in a strong position whether they stand pat or move down.  Still, Mayhew is all about maximizing his leverage—and by design or by accident, the games have already begun. 


Weston Corbitt,  February 23, 2010 at 9:25 PM  

First, I agree, dump Sims. He is the old regime's middle linebacker. I don't think he is a building block for this team, and if we can get some solid picks or players for him, we need to now but his stock plummets. He can't cover, can't blitz or is big enough for Jimmy's scheme.

Also, I love how Mayhew operates. Tell me that Millen would pick up O'Connell and trade him for a pick for no reason but to stockpile a pick, try out everybody on the waiver wire to find anybody worth keeping, try and create buzz for trades, or had a draft worth a damn. We may be onto something here. Also, Schwartz was originally a scout. We may have the best chance at winning since the Wayne Fontes glory days.

David M,  February 24, 2010 at 12:55 AM  

I have some major issues with some of the prospects you listed as potential targets for Detroit.

Derrick Morgan is not the explosive player that some believe him to be, and is probably a mid-first round pick at this point.

Berry could slide to the end of the top 10 because of the depth at the position.
And Rolando McClain, although I think he is a heck of a player, has no where near the range that a Patrick Willis does. A poor 40 time could slide him to the middle of round 1.
Look at players like Mayo and Willis. Both were explosive hitters and ran lightning fast. Whereas McClain could run in the 4.6-4.75 range.
But then again, we will see once the Combine happens.

However, I do think Joe Haden is the real deal. I would love for the Lions to grab him in the event of a trade. And I will go out on a limb and say that Anthony Davis might be a more reasonable option for OT than Russell Okung because of his upside. But they are both very good.

jpoptoday,  February 24, 2010 at 7:10 AM  

I wouldn't cry if we end up with Haden or Berry, but the wise thing would be to select one of these DTs.

How we draft in the middle rounds is where I want to see improvement. I did not like the selection of Derrick Williams in the 3rd round last year. At the same time I need to praise Mr. Mayhew for picking DeAndre Levy.

Still, I need to vent here. We had no business taking Brandon Pettigrew at # 20 last year. We should have taken Michael Oher. Taking Sammie Lee at 4th did not seem prudent as well.

Anonymous,  February 24, 2010 at 12:26 PM  

Jpoop: " Taking Sammie Lee at 4th did not seem prudent..."

I don't know what you think the Lions would have done without Sammie. He may not have been making a ton of tackles, but he eats up space, which is exactly what Schwartz wants from his big DT's. Grady wasn't going to be able to hold down the fort without help, and there isn't anyone else on the team worth anything at that position. The Sammie pick in the 4th round was just as valueable as any other pick in the draft. They got a starter in the 4th round...what more do you want that late in the draft.

Ty,  February 24, 2010 at 2:00 PM  


Absolutely agreed about Mayhew. He knows he's got to maximize every resource he's got, and he seems to be doing a very good job of it. I'm really pumped to see what he does with this draft . . .


Ty,  February 24, 2010 at 2:19 PM  


I have some reservations about a lot of these guys as well; Okung, I think, would be an especially disastrous pick. He's everything Jeff Backus isn't, true--huge, balletic, excllent pass protector--but he's also very little that Jeff Backus is.

Until I see the Combine, and see these players in drills, I'll have very little in the way of preferences or favorites.


Ty,  February 24, 2010 at 2:28 PM  


Yeah, you'd think that passing on Suh would be hard to do (count on me making Suh puns/rhymes at every opportunity), but if they could pick up a Haden and a second and a fourth . . . it'd be really really hard to say no.

Obviously, Williams hasn't worked out, and hasn't shown any promise that he will. I agree he was the right KIND of player to take there, though--I was cheering for UNC's WR/KR Brandon Tate, who went to the Patriots with the next pick.

You have to keep in mind, what WE thought of the picks at the time is kind of irrelevant. Taking Sammie Hill in the fourth has proven to be nothing short of brilliant; he's going to be a solid starter for a long time. As far as Pettigrew/Oher goes, Pettigrew started to show what a weapon, and crutch for Stafford, he can be.

Oher was a risk the Lions didn't want to spin the wheel on--and with both Backus and Cherilus in the fold, you'd have to be VERY sure on Oher to hand that kind of money to him at that spot.

Besides, you can play that game all day. There's no way one team can hit make the best pick in every round; you can always find a "you took HIM over HIM?!?!" at every spot in the draft.


witless chum,  February 25, 2010 at 7:02 AM  

"Still, I need to vent here. We had no business taking Brandon Pettigrew at # 20 last year. We should have taken Michael Oher. Taking Sammie Lee at 4th did not seem prudent as well."

The Lions need help everywhere, so I can't get het up about them drafting a good player at one position versus some other. As much as people rightly bag on the Millen draft strategy, the worst part was the consistent drafting bad players, not what position they played.

I think seeking suitors for the #2 pick is just due diligence. Yeah, we need a DT, but let's quantify what the costs are and decide, even if we ultimately say, "No thanks. Everyone learn how to spell Ndamukong."

OregonLion,  February 25, 2010 at 12:25 PM  

I like what Mayhew has done, and is continuing to do. From the big picture standpoint, if Mayhew and Schwartz can manage to continue getting five solid starters and ten roster players out of every ten picks, they'll be anointed as geniuses.

I have to say, I think the Pettigrew/Oher discussion is a bit of revisionist history. Oher's scouting report was classic boom/bust: a physical freak with serious questions of inconsistency, motivation, and football intelligence. Kind of the offensive tackle version of Mike Williams. Kudos to Oher for proving the skeptics wrong, and to Baltimore for taking the risk, but I can't blame Mayhew for grabbing a player some scouts had in the top 10 overall, and who was considered one of the draft's safest picks.

From the incomplete perspective of a single season, the one pick that does look questionable at this point is Derrick Williams, although there's time for him to recover.

witless chum,  February 25, 2010 at 12:39 PM  

"Kind of the offensive tackle version of Mike Williams"

Just thought this was funny, as their was a pretty big bust of an OT named Mike Williams. The Bills took him in the first round in 2002 and he flopped. He's been trying to reinvent himself as a guard for Washington.

If I was a pro prospect named Mike Williams, I think I'd start going by Michael or my middle name.

Derek,  February 25, 2010 at 1:17 PM  

I've started a lions website! Sign up and check it out and let me know what you think!



detroitsportsandmore,  February 26, 2010 at 12:11 PM  

First off, love the site.

There is no doubt in my mind that the Lions are creating buzz. I agree about moving Sims and have said so for some time.
Something that is often over looked in Lion country is the defensive scheme. Schwartz like BIG DT's and speed on the edge. Look at the alignment change, widening out the DE's, to give them space to use there speed.
Suh i strong enough to get the job done but he is still not exactly what they are looking for.

When you look at the long term prospects it makes better sense to move down, find players that fit your schemes, get more of them, and spend less money doing it.

Moving Sims for picks and trading down at two make perfect sense. Depending on how far they move down they could add an additional 1st round or combination of a 2nd and another pick. Personally, I'd take that opportunity 9/10. The only time I wouldn't would be if I felt I had a franchise QB staring at me.
I also appreciate the idea that Mayhew and Schwartz are concentrating on talent over position. I am of the belief you draft talent and fill holes with FA.
The Millen era wasn't awful just because of drafting. They were terrible at developing talent/players. That is the mark of a good franchise. That's NE's root of success. They make decent draft decisions then develop the players better than other teams.

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