Stop that! It's too silly.
Last Thursday marked the the endpoint of sanity in the NFL League Year, and the beginning of what Tom Kowalski calls “The Silly Season”. Every NFL team employee either shuts their mouth tightly, or begins speaking out of both sides of it. From now until April 26th, every statement a GM or Head Coach makes is at best a half-truth; at worse a vile lie. You will encounter increasingly ridiculous trade chatter, mock drafts, hot rumors, late risers, and falling stocks, culminating in a fever pitch of ridiculous scenarios where black is white, up is down, and the Lions are locked on to Dez Bryant.
I've always used this rule of thumb: whatever the "consensus" is two weeks before the draft is most likely what will happen. Therefore:
- The Rams will rectify their smoking crater at quarterback, and draft Sam Bradford.
- The Lions, despite clearly wanting to trade down, won't have a partner. They'll happily take Ndamukong Suh, they just won't be happy about his contract.
- The Buccaneers will giddily take whichever of the DTs makes it out of the top 3.
- The Redskins will draft Chris Samuels' eventual replacement, and Jon Jansen's next temporary replacement, at 1.4--either Okung or Williams, whomever they fancy.
- The Chiefs will either continue rebuilding their incredible offensive line of the past decade with a left tackle, or address their odious secondary with Eric Berry.
. . . and on and on, throughout the rest of the first round. There might be some tweaks—Washington could take a quarterback for the future, the Seahawks are probably hoping Trent Williams falls, etc.—but essentially, what most reasonable people think is the ‘standard take’ is what’s most likely to happen. If you want to see a great example of what this two-weeks-out snapshot is, look at the beat writer mock draft that Sam Farmer of the L.A. Times put together.
Note: I am not talking about what each team’s fans want to have happen, I’m talking about the national football hivemind. As an example, the national media wrote “Matthew Stafford” next to the Lions’ name, in ink, in January 2009. All of us Lions fans spent five months ranting and raving and frothing at the mouth about Andre Smith, Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe, Aaron Curry, and everyone’s favorite player, ‘Trade Down’—but the national groupthink was right the whole time.
The Lions have already had a spate of the “silliness”. As if on cue, word began to break on Thursday that Albert Haynesworth was interested in coming to Detroit—and according to Michael Schottey and several others, the interest was mutual. Amist talk of the Redskins sending the 1.4 and Haynesworth to Detroit for the 1.2, I gleefully speculated that the Lions would then trade again with the Seahawks, in a spectacular double-move. The Redskins would get Suh, the Seahawks would get Okung, and the Lions would get to pick from Spiller, Haden, Williams, Morgan, or Bulaga—plus pick up some mid-round selections! Everybody wins!
Though Neil from Armchair Linebacker's . . . eyes . . . engorged at the thought of Mayhew pulling it off, it's purest fantasy. When was the last time a team moved down out of the top five, then again out of the pick they acquired? Don’t say “last year”; the Browns don’t count. Seriously, though: while the possibility of a double move is nonzero, there are way too many moving parts for me to consider this scenario likely.
For starters, the Redskins would be giving up on a pass-rushing 4-3 DT with a huge contract, why would they then take Suh, and get another one? They’d more likely take Okung—but then, if the Lions are taking Suh, and the Bucs are sitting on McCoy, the ‘Skins don’t need to move up. Even if we suppose that they’re just that desperate to get rid of Fat Albert, I’d think the Lions would be more interested in simply trading with Seattle, and getting a better pick package out of them, than taking on Haynesworth’s deal in addition to the 1.6 contract.
This feeds into my latest theory: with Bradford a clear-cut #1 overall, and Jimmy Clausen failing to push his stock up to match, the Lions are trying to get people to believe that they’re going to draft Russell Okung. Just as Mayhew spent the two weeks prior to the draft trying to create leverage by negotiating a deal with Aaron Curry, I believe Mayhew is going to spend the days up to this draft convincing the hivemind that he’s going to take the best LT on the board off the board.
If Okung is gone, Washington will have to settle for Willams or Bulaga. If Okung and Williams are gone, Kansas City might go Berry—or, they might take Bulaga, and leave no tackles for Seattle. Further, Seattle would vastly prefer the athletic Williams to the powerful Bulaga—they’re implementing the zone blocking system, remember?—so if the Lions take Okung, they’ll likely lose out on their man either way.
Of course, the Lions might really be interested in taking Okung. They might really be completely put off by spending $70M on a defensive tackle, regardless of how awesome he is or how desperately they might need him. They might really be willing to elevate money over need, to take a lesser prospect who offers better positional “value”, and to pass on a smart, hardworking, once-in-five-years talent at the position around which Schwartz has built his defense and his reputation . . .
But that would be silly.