2010 NFL Draft: Suh At Number Two

>> 3.29.2010

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The NFL Draft is something I’ve always paid a lot of attention to.  Back before it became prime-time entertainment event, the NFL Draft was a weekend’s worth of football geek Nirvana.  Throughout my formative football geek years, I’d spend the weekend glued to the TV, with notebook, newspaper, Sports Illustrated Draft Preview issue, and pencils at hand. 

As the NFL has exploded in popularity, and as more teams have used the draft to bounce from the cellar to the penthouse—like the 2009 Falcons—interest in the Annual Player Selection Meeting has grown exponentially.  Speculation and anticipation start building well before the NFL and NCAA regular seasons end, reach fever pitch during bowl season, and somehow keep climbing all the way up until late April.

I've fended off a lot of emails and Tweets over the past few months, declining to engage in the banter.  Why?  I don’t feel like it’s productive.  Until the Combine is complete—and, to an extent, Pro Days are complete—it’s nearly impossible to place these guys in the very narrow value slot ranges they’ll occupy.  “Top Three”, “Top Ten”, and “Mid-First-Round” are three very different value classes; the all-star games, Combine, Pro Days, and shifting team needs can swing one player through all of them between December and April. 

Now, though, we have a pretty firm grip on who the Lions will have a crack at with that #2 overall pick, presuming they stay there.  People have asked me who “my guy” is, and I’m proud to say I have an answer, if an obvious one:

Ndamukong Suh.

There has been some talk about Oklahoma LT Russell Okung, or another, anonymous, left tackle—possibly Oklahoma LT Trent Williams.  There were questions about whether the Lions would prefer Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy, and even insinuations they’re looking at Clemson RB C.J. Spiller.  But at the Combine, Suh proved himself exactly the man the Lions need to rebuild their defense.

Earlier on in this process, I wondered if Suh could play defensive end in the Lions’ system, shifting inside on passing downs, much as Kevin Carter did for Schwartz in Tennessee.  Now that Suh dominated the combine drills at a lean 307 pounds, I don’t see that as his role.  I consider Suh every bit the stud DT the Lions need to shore up their run defense, disrupt the pass, and—finally!—be able to force opposing offenses to adjust to the Lions’ defense.

That's the real value of Suh: more than just his sky-high ceiling, or likely production once he develops his technique, he’ll make every other player on the Lions’ defensive line more effective.  You can bet that with Suh drawing double teams, Sammie Hill is going to be much harder to move around—and the Lions’ outside rushers should see a lot more one-on-one blocking as well.

Think about what the Lions love to do with their outside ‘backers on a blitz: Sims slicing in between Suh and Avril, Peterson coming up between Hill and Vanden Bosch, Levy and Foote both blitzing the B gap that Suh has blown open . . . the possibilities are intoxicating.

Theoretically, St. Louis could take Suh, but I find that a colossally unlikely proposition.  Not only have the Rams burned first-round picks on 290-to-300-plus-pound defensive linemen in two of the last three years, but their quarterback situation is beyond alarming.  With Sam Bradford killing it at his Pro Day, and Matthew Stafford’s jawdropping contract just the starting point for what St. Louis will have to pay the #1 overall pick, it makes zero sense to pass on a franchise quarterback and take Ndamukong Suh.

I get the sense that if the Lions had their druthers, they’d move back a few slots and take one of the other top ten draft prospects that fit a need—and sign him to a much smaller contract.  But in terms of the impact he’d have, and the quality of person that he is, I absolutely believe the right decision is to stand pat, and take Suh at #2:

I feel as though I should get those T-shirts made.  Apologies to Michael Conroy and the AP for desecrating this photo.

Technorati Tags: nfl,nfl draft,ndamukong suh,detroit lions


Jim,  March 29, 2010 at 5:54 PM  

Ty, don't want a trade. I don't care what the deal is. Suh is that good. I'm 65 years old, and hopefully we are looking at another Merlin Olsen, Bob Lilly, Reggie White, etc. Someone better than Warren Sapp even. I believe he can possibly be that good!! Think we can use someone like that? If Mayhew drafts smartly in this draft and we get value in subsequent rounds, we are well on our way.

By the way, Foote won't be blitzing w/Levy. No biggie, dude, this is the first mistake I've seen in your blog, which is easily my fave Lions blog.

A Lion in ViQueen Territory,  March 29, 2010 at 5:58 PM  

I think it is a sound, logical pick. Yet I have been unable to decipher the trade for Corey Williams. Will he be a starter? Will he be depth? What about Sammie Hill?

My take on the situation is this: Williams is depth. If we look at last year's line, we had some debilitating injuries, so it makes sense to me that Williams will be a backup tackle IF we draft Suh. If we trade down, then we can rest assured that we still have a starter quality tackle on the team.

I think it is fantastical to engage in trade-down discussions. They almost never happen, so I think a mock draft or a projection should be assumed at the earned draft position.

Weston Corbitt,  March 29, 2010 at 6:38 PM  

I would only say we take a trade if Suh is gone. So if the Rams don't take Bradford first overall, which looks more and more likely, Suh will be in Detroit. He (and some FAs) make our defensive line into a strength when it was such a weakness last year. Hopefully he is the possible All Pro everyone thinks he is. If we hit a jackpot, it could make rebuilding a lot easier.

Clusterfox,  March 29, 2010 at 7:08 PM  

Rarely am I the one to interject negativity. Especially when I agree with you whole-heartedly. BUT, Lets face a few facts we've seen alot of players in college dominate thier opponents, only to find out they couldn't do the same thing in Pros. A couple of things to point out.
1) Suh already has knee issues.(left ACL, right meniscus, I believe) a player can't be dominant if he isn't on the field
2)Suh strong suit IMO is his upperbody strength, which really doesn't translate to the pros(in the DT position)as much as lowerbody.(what I call the webble wobble effect).
3)McCoy if not better I believe to be Healthier and More prototypically sized.(most of his strength is from the waist down)
So If trading down is a posibility, yet still a Risk. It maybe more worthwile than usual with the lay of the land. That is Okung, T.Williams, McCoy, Haden, amongst any-other player our staff projects at that level, that we could still select. In laymens terms "Is Suh a 3rd pick better than McCoy? not IMO. I would love the pick though.


clusterfox,  March 29, 2010 at 7:17 PM  

That should be 3rd Round Pick

Ty,  March 29, 2010 at 8:41 PM  


Oh, Jiminy Christmas! I was thinking MLB, and thought "Not Foote, Levy", then promptly typed Levy and Foote when I meant to type Levy and Peterson. Good catch, and thanks for the kudos.

Actually, with his athleticism, I was thinking Suh might fill the shoes of a former Lions great: Alex Karras. I knew him better as Webster's dad, but from what I've seen on NFL films stuff and online, Suh has the size and quickness to really disrupt up the middle, the way Karras did.

Actually, I think Sapp is a great comparison too; Sapp at 305-310 was a phenomenal athlete. As a slovenly 3-4 DE late in his career, he was almost big enough to eclipse the memory of him as a relentless 4-3 inside pass rusher. I'd like to think Suh will have the same impact on the Lions as Sapp did on the Bucs.


Notsince57,  March 29, 2010 at 10:21 PM  

Surprised to hear you are squarely on the Suh @ #2 bandwagon. I think all signs point to Okung at #2 or #4 if they can con the skins into thinking someone else (CLE or SEA) wants Clausen. Like the other poster, knee injuries scare the bejesus out of me. Giving further props to the other poster, I don't see his strength being that much of a factor against strong NFL interior linemen. Mostly, I think MM and JS will want to bulk up the O first to protect Stafford both literally and figuratively. That is the same reason I can envision them grabbing an RB with their #2 pick. Protect the kid's blindside (moving Backus to guard) and give the offense another weapon to make CJ more effective.

All that said, I do trust JS to evaluate talent and if he deems Suh to be as good as everyone says, the Lions will run not walk to the podium after the Rams pick Bradford.

Ty,  March 30, 2010 at 7:14 AM  


Frankly, even with all this Suh love, we need to remember that he'll be a rookie. Defensive linemen almost never step onto the field and dominate. Further, modern defensive linemen rarely play 40-50 snaps; if you don't have three good ends and three good tackles, you're at a disadvantage.

With Grady Jackson gone, Hill is the only natural 1-technique on the roster--Williams could play 3-tech with Hill on run downs, and 1-tech (with Suh flanking) on passing downs. You could do Suh and Williams, or Williams and Landon Cohen, Cohen and Hill . . . it all depends on who's fresh and what the game situation is.

Of course, Suh should become an every-down guy, but Williams is both an insurance policy in case they don't get Suh, and a great rotational guy in case they do.


Ty,  March 30, 2010 at 10:19 AM  


Agreed completely. If the Rams take Suh, the Lions' phone will be ringing off the hook, and they'll be happy to slide back a few spots and take one of the best of the rest.


Ty,  March 30, 2010 at 11:12 AM  


1) For the most part, I don't believe that prior injuries spell doom for future prospects; I thought Adrian Peterson would have broken down by now, and he hasn't. Kevin Smith was the ultimate workhorse in college, and he blew up both shoulders and a knee in 2009. Suh certainly seems to be completely healthy at this point.

2) I thought this too when watching him: Suh seems to come straight up out of his stance, read the play, then use his upper-body strength to throw blockers aside and pursue. Very little burst off the snap, not great technique . . . turns out, that's because it's what he was coached to do.

Nebraska played with a read-and-react defense; his job was to stand up, wait for the play to develop, then shed the block--just because he had the upper body strength to do that successfully doesn't mean he's got weak legs! Look at pictures of Suh; his thighs are the size of sycamores. Just because his arms are also the size of sycamores doesn't mean he's marked for failure in the NFL.

3) McCoy is prototypically sized--for the Tampa Two. He's 295 pounds, which is perfect for the T2 "under" tackle position. Cory Redding, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Gerald McCoy, same body type. McCoy has more explosion than either of those two players, but then, so does Suh. Suh is the right size for this defense; McCoy is not.

More on this later today.


Ty,  March 30, 2010 at 11:16 AM  


Okung is the wrong tackle for our offense. I've said this several times already, but I'll say it again: while Okung is everything Jeff Backus isn't--a massively-sized elite athlete--he's also nothing that Jeff Backus IS: a great run blocker, a savvy veteran, an expert in positioning and technique, a tough-as-nails competitor. Lions fans don't want to hear it, but Backus' skill set is much better suited to what the Lions want to do than Okung's.


A Lion in ViQueen Territory,  March 30, 2010 at 11:33 AM  

Love the new look. And here is why this is my favorite blog: you take the time to give a good, thoughtful response to every post.

Check this story out: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100329/OPINION03/3290412/1126/rss14

OwenXVI,  March 30, 2010 at 2:38 PM  

I hate the idea of drafting a DT in the top 5. It's a fairly deep draft at that position this year, and history usually shows that any big body can plug gaps and take on blockers so that linebackers and ends can finish off the play, however ...

Suh looks like a "once-in-a-generation" type of prospect. A DT that led his team in tackles the last two years?! How often has that happened, if ever? He looks as close to a lock for Canton as possible.

And to the whole Suh vs. McCoy debate, there should be none. McCoy has been overrated since high school. He was the USA Today high school defensive player of the year, going to a program ready to compete for the BCS every year. Suh was only the 6th highest DT recruit, going to a Nebraska team that was at its lowest point. McCoy was on every scouts radar, and in my opinion, did not live up to the hype. Even yesterday, when he passed on trying to improve on his WEAK performance on the bench press, I don't know how people have him rated so high. Classic underachiever ...

The Lions want a replacement for Shaun Rogers, not Cory Redding. Rogers was a master at penetrating and blocking kicks, much like Suh. Suh has blocked six kicks in college. McCoy? Zero.

Ty,  March 31, 2010 at 9:52 AM  


That's a good article, though I'd still hesitate to call the line a "strength". KVB, if his play doesn't fall off, is a very good defensive end. Hill is an up-and-coming space eater who may develop into an All-Pro, but for the moment is a decent starter. Everyone else has major questions for 2010: Suh would be a rookie, Corey Williams is two years removed from excelling in the Packers' 4-3, Hargrove is a similar story (and a similar player), Avril's extremely inconsistent, and Hunter's just a project.

Upgrade from 2008 to 2010? Huge--but then, "laughable" to "mediocre" is a "huge" jump. I would say that the current line, plus either Hargrove or Suh, would mean the Lions have an average starting 4 with solid depth. Is that good enough to be a "strength" of the team? I hope not.


Ty,  March 31, 2010 at 10:39 AM  


Oh, also, thanks for the kind words! I try very hard to reply to every comment, though there are some times I just get swamped. Discussion is what keeps us together!


Ty,  March 31, 2010 at 11:05 AM  


Exactly! And this is the difference between the Old Lions and the New Lions. Rather than draft "a guy" because he plays a position of need, the Lions are drafting great players. Over the course of years, the Old Lions will have a roster full of "guys", and the New Lions will have a roster full of great players.

The "roster holes" might not be filled in the order we expect, nor as fast as we might like--but they'll be filled with exceptional players when they do.

Great rundown of McCoy, by the way. I think the guy has talent but clearly is not the kind of prospect Suh is.


somebody,  April 20, 2010 at 12:56 PM  


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