twenty-odd years later I still know EXACTLY what this kid was supposed to get
We have the Lions' 2010 draft shopping list:
- A developmental quarterback who could push Stanton in camp.
- A starting, three-down power runningback with speed.
- A developmental power-blocking fullback, to complement Jerome Felton.
- A left tackle, who could be groomed to replace Jeff Backus.
- A power-blocking center, to be groomed behind Raiola.
- A starting, disruptive pass-rushing DT to rotate w/Williams & Hill.
- A starting, three-down, two-way defensive end, a la Kyle Vanden Bosch.
- A developmental middle linebacker.
- A starting, athletic, blitzing outside linebacker, a la Julian Peterson.
- At least one starting cornerback.
- A starting safety, who’s very strong in pass coverage.
So, let's go shopping. With each pick, I’ll give you the players who could fill the above needs, and then rank ‘em as I feel the Lions have them ranked, based wholly on my own ill-informed opinion.
Round 1, Pick 2 (#2 overall): Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska DT
2. Eric Berry, Tennesee S
3. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma DT
4. Bryan Bulaga, Iowa LT
5. Russell Okung, Oklahoma State LT
I've been banging the Suh drum for quite a while, though not as long as some. The fact of the matter is, he's the best overall prospect in the draft, and--just like Calvin Johnson a few years ago, the Lions are going to be in position to get the best player in the draft, because the #1 overall team will take a quarterback. Don't stress if the Rams, as rumored, trade down--nobody's going to give up the necessary king's ransom to move up to 1.1, just so they can turn around and hand a defensive tackle eighty million dollars. Even if, through some ridiculous machinations, Suh goes #1 overall, the Lions will hold all the cards to trade down. So don't stress.
Berry, I'm not sold on. I haven't watched much of his play, but have heard rumblings from those who have that he's still more "jawdropping potential" than "actually a phenomenal safety". Besides, building the defense around two athletic, playmaking, gambling, hitting safeties seems like putting the cart before the horse, especially given the salaries involved. But, a not-insignificant school of thought holds that Berry is the best player in this draft, or the second-best behind Suh, and he inarguably fills a need on the shopping list. Ergo, I place him at 2, over my own objections.
McCoy, I still don't think is the right fit for the scheme--but Schwartz has said there isn't as much separation between Suh and McCoy as everyone thinks, and these two are clearly the two best non-QB prospects in the draft.
Okung, everyone knows my feelings about. When Mayhew was asked if Okung was clearly the best tackle in the draft, Mayhew said he thought there were "two best tackles in the draft," and refused to elaborate. Some have speculated the Lions would prefer Trent Williams, but from what I've read, Williams is a little stiff in pass protection, and needs a lot of technique work. No, I think the more complete LT is Bryan Bulaga. I know he's not the elite ÜBERTAKKEL that everyone has been screaming for since Lomas Brown, but to be brutally, brutally honest, folks, I think the Lions would be happy to Jeff Backus with Next Jeff Backus.
Round 2, Pick 2 (#34 overall): Ryan Mathews, Fresno State RB
2a. Kareem Jackson, Alabama CB, 2b Devin McCourty, Rutgers CB
3. Jahvid Best, California RB
4. Everson Griffen, USC DE
5. Roger Saffold, Indiana OG/OT
While most have the Lions ready to take Jahvid Best if he's there, Mathews is the "power back with speed" the Lions truly covet, not the "speed back" that Best is. I Tweeted Sports Illustrated's Peter King about this, and he said the Lions brass would "do handsprings" if Mathews was there for them at 34.
Kareem Jackson didn't get the attention that his partner, Javier Arenas, did--but Jackson is the much more NFL-ready prospect, even if he isn't quite as head-turning of an athlete. He's a much headier, smarter, more polished cornerback--exactly the kind of Jackson, like Mathews, is about a 50/50 shot to be there for the Lions--essentially, if the Chargers take Mathews, Jackson should fall, and if the Chargers take Jackson or Rutgers CB Devin McCourty, Mathews should fall.
In the unfortunate scenario where Mathews, Jackson, and McCourty are all gone, it's hard to count out Jahvid Best. Best was an absolutely lethal tailback before his frightening neck injury; Scott Linehan's word "eraser" almost doesn't do him justice. Personally, I still question his size, and between-the-tackles mojo. I have a sneaking suspicion that the Lions aren't as high on Best as everyone thinks. That leads me to my next possibility . . .
Everson Griffen is cut right from the Schwartzian cloth: 6'-3", 273, technique, speed, great against the run and a gifted pass rusher. The only reason I hold back my prediction on him--the fourth(ish) option instead of the first or second--is that I don't think he possesses the high-motor, high-IQ psychological profile that Schwartz and Cunningham love. But it's undeniable that he, physically, is a perfect fit.
Roger Saffold is a very versatile guard, who's frame and skill set remind some of Branden Albert, the famed one-that-got-away-when-we-passed-on-him-and-got-Gosder-Cherilus-instead-even-though-Albert-hasn't-been-very-good-at-LT LT. Saffold would fill the swing guard/tackle role that Daniel Loper vacated, and might push Jon Jansen out the door.
Round 3, Pick 2 (#66 overall): Corey Wootton, Northwestern DE
2. Chris Cook, Virginia CB, 2b Brandon Ghee, Wake Forest CB
3. Ricky Sapp, Clemson LB
4. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana CB
5. John Jerry, Mississippi OG
This pick is going to turn some heads, but everything I read about Corey Wootton just SCREAMS Jim Schwartz. He’s extremely smart, very driven, extremely high motor, perfectly framed at 6’-6”, 270, has first-round tools but fell due to an injury that hampered his senior year, a true three-down, two-way monster. The troubling thing is that the Lions would be turning down a step-in-and-start cornerback, and they need at least one, but remember what I said? There are too many needs. They’re not going to fill all the needs, they’re going to take the best player on their board.
#2 is kind of wishful thinking; most mocks I've seen have Cook going in the low second. But, his combination of physicality and football IQ are in the Schwartz mold, and his excellent size (6'-2") and speed (4.46) should help him make up for his lack of polished technique. He can also flex between corner and safety, so the Lions can use him as needed—and really, they need two of him! Ghee is a guy who could go anywhere from the late first to the mid-third, from what I’ve seen, but he’s also fast and loves to hit.
I've been trying and trying to figure out who Gunther's "nobody else thinks I can do what I think this guy can do" linebacker is, and I think I have it narrowed down to two: Clemson LB Ricky Sapp, and Washington's Donald Butler. Either would have the blend of size, speed and high-impact tackling that the Lions want. I'll put Sapp here . . .
Awkasi Owusu is the consolation prize if neither Cook or Ghee fall. Another big (6’-0”, 207), fast (4.47) CB/S flex guy, Owusu has excellent ball skills—and is a great returner, both on special teams and after the interception. He’s a D2 guy, so he’ll need some time to develop. but as with Sammie Hill, the Lions aren’t afraid to take the guy from the small school.
Okay, Google disabled my account again, and I've run out of time. No round four, but keep an eye out for Donald Butler, Washington LB, Awkasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana CB, Ciron Black LSU OT/OG, Mitch Petrus, Arkansas OG/OC, and John Connor, Kentucky FB.