Two weeks after the NFL draft, we’ve had some time to digest, to mull, to ruminate . . . and now, I’ll take some time to postulate, regurgitate, and bloviate. First, two weeks hence, the annual NFL Draft “silly season” seems like a bad nightmare. People were talking about the Lions dealing for Albert Haynesworth, and the Browns moving up for Sam Bradford, like actual things that might actually happen. How ridiculous does that seem now?
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.
Yeah, pretty much.
I’ve gotten some nice email in the aftermath of the draft, so I figured I’d answer the burning questions while they’re still . . . uh, burning. First up, Beau asks:
I'm one of those lions fans who was on the not so fired up side of the Best pick. After watching some highlight film I'm trying to have a change of heart. Best seems to have great speed and vision and seems to give 110% every time he touches the ball, but he's just so dang small. I could he him catching a screen or bootleg or even kick returning but an every down between the tackles back??? I'm not so sure. What are your thoughts on Best? How will he be used??
First of all, Jahvid is listed at 5’-10”, 199. Barry Sanders was generously listed at 5’-8”,
180 [UPDATE: several commenters correctly have cried foul: Barry measured 5'-7 5/8", 203 pounds at the 1989 combine]. Even if Best didn’t have ideal size for an NFL speed back, which he does, I’ve never believed in the generally accepted truism that small backs are injury-prone. Warrick Dunn spent over a decade running hard between the tackles and rarely got hurt, while big, powerful backs like Brandon Jacobs and Stephen Davis have struggled mightily with injuries.
Kevin Smith is theoretically on track to be completely healthy by the start of the season, but “completely healthy” and “peak form” are two different things. Silent Bob brings a lunchpail mentality to his job, and he’s been rehabbing hard—but you can’t blow three knee ligaments to shreds at the tail end of one season, and be at the top of your game by the start of the next. Smith will have a role to play, and an important one—but right now Best is the lead dog, and will be until someone takes that collar from him.
I don’t think Best will get 30 carries a game, but only because that’s not really the way the NFL works anymore. I could see Best getting 15-25 carries, while Smith gets 5-15 depending on his health, effectiveness, and the game plan. I could also see the two of them on the field at the same time—and no, not with Smith at fullback.
The next email comes from Daniel, who was completely stoked about the draft:
I was reading some of the latest posts on your site, and obviously saw your writings about the draft. On that point, this is the best I have felt coming out of the draft weekend EVER . . . . These six selections, in addition to our trades, make for a truly excellent draft. It has to be in the running for best in the entire NFL. Here's to the Lions in 2010! RESTORE THE ROAR!!!
I didn't quote the whole email; Daniel (rather effectively) broke down every single pick, and came up with much love for every one of them. I, honestly, have been more excited about a Lions draft; I was a huge Barry Sanders fan when he was in college; in like second grade I was such an Oklahoma State Cowboy booster I made T. Boone Pickens blush. When he came to the Lions it was like a decade of unbridled glee.
I had a similar level of stoked-ness after the 2003 draft: Charles Rogers, a kid I went to State with, a dude I’d hung out with, and a phenomenally talented weapon that would be the Marvin Harrison to Joey Harrington’s Peyton Manning. Boss Bailey, the Next Derrick Brooks; Cory Redding, Shaun Rogers’ former linemate; Artose Pinner, the SEC offensive player of the year, Torry Holt’s little brother, to finally help nail down the secondary . . . I was probably more thrilled after that draft than this one.
Part of it is just my age: at twenty-eight, and a rabid draftnik for the balance, I know that half these guys are going to wash out. At this time in 2020, Tim Toone could be announcing his retirement after ten-year run as one of the NFL’s best possession receivers, and Ndamukong Suh could be yet another in a line of DL hype balloons long burst: Courtney Brown, Gerard Warren, DeWayne Robertson, Chris Long . . .
I’m not saying that either of those things will happen, or are even likely. I’m just saying, it’s almost impossible for all six of these players to become significant contributors to the team; it just doesn't happen that way.
Don't get me wrong, I AM excited about this draft, and I DO think the Lions did exceptionally well. But there are too many questions about Spievey and Fox, and too few picks after Suh and Best, for me to be running naked through the streets about what an incredible, unbelievable, no-doubt-about-it-we-got-six-future-starters draft this was.
The next question actually comes from the newest Lions blogger, Joe Dexter. Joe’s not new to Detroit sports blogging—check out Motor City Bengals for some of his past work—but he’s now on the masthead at the SideLion Report! Via Twitter, Joe asked:
Was there any mind boggling picks that didn't make sense to you considering players still available and team needs?
The Jets' entire draft! Of course, I was infuriated by the Jets snaring Kyle Wilson; a perfect fit for the Lions, and an salve for all of their cornerback wounds. The Jets already have Darrell Revis and Antonio Cromartie, so either Cro or Wilson will platooning, or they took the most complete corner in the draft to be their nickel guy. Fellas, I don’t know if you were paying attention, but you got to the AFC Championship game on the strength of your defense, and your beleaguered rookie quarterback won’t even get to use his best weapon until five weeks into the season.
They made up for it a bit with OT/OG Vladimir Ducasse, though he’s a project and they needed an impact player. But then, Joe McKnight? With Tomlinson and Greene already in the fold? Why didn’t they just hang on to Leon Washington, who’s the same player, only better?
The Chargers letting Tomlinson go, then trading way up for Ryan Mathews, then totally failing to address the interior line was mind-boggling. Look at how both Tomlinson’s and Sproles’s per-carry numbers fell off the face of the Earth last year, even as Rivers played well and Vincent Jackson finally had that breakout season. The holes just weren’t there, and they won’t be there for Mathews either.
I have no idea what the Bills are going to do with C.J. Spiller, Fred Jackson, Marshawn Lynch, no quarterback, no offensive line, and a good 4-3 defense's talent playing in a 3-4 alignment. The Bills then reached for the DT they need but don’t have in the second round . . . we’ve seen how well reaching for rookies in the second round, because they fit your new defensive scheme, works. This is going to be a total disassembly-and-reassembly by Gailey, and I don’t think anyone believes he’s that kind of a franchise architect.
Jermaine Gresham's a tremendous prospect—but the Bengals' OC, Bob Bratkowski, has absolutely no use for him. No Bengals TE has caught more than 31 balls since Bratkowski took over signal-calling duties, so what they’re going to do with a pure pass-catching tight end, I don’t know.
do you think any of the Millen era coaches could win with the new front office? Were there good coaches in bad situations?
Marty Mornhinweg, many felt at the time, was an up-and-coming young QB coach, on track to become an excellent offensive coordinator, and maybe someday even a head coach—when the Lions hired him as a head coach. He landed as an offensive assistant in Philly, and slowly moved his way up the ranks to offensive coordinator. If Kevin Kolb explodes in 2010, Marty Mornhinweg is going to be a hot candidate in 2011 or 2012.
Clearly, however, he was nowhere near ready for the top job back in 2001, and some of his mistakes—like opening traning camp by aping Mike Holmgren’s dramatic Harley ride—were borne of that inexperience. Since he was only ever a placeholder for Steve Mariucci, I don’t think Mornhinweg could possibly have been a long-term success here at the time . . . but I do think he’ll be either an excellent OC, or a reasonably good head coach, at some point in his career.
Steve Mariucci was an excellent coach, and he absolutely got railroaded here. His performance was handcuffed to Joey Harrington’s, though, and it’s clear that he had no regard whatsoever for Joey. You could see, through Mooch’s managing of Harrington and Jeff Garcia, that he thought plugging in Garcia would provide an immediate upgrade, obvious to all—unfortunately, Garcia was hurt, and wasn't that great to begin with.
Ultimately, I think Mooch was a poor fit. His NFL head coaching success came at San Francisco, at the tail end of the great dynasty. Everything about the organization dripped class and excellence, and the roster was full of savvy veterans who’d spent their entire careers in the same system Mariucci was coaching. In Detroit, Mooch did all the little things really, really well . . . but he was given a roster of total greenhorns who had no idea how to play professional football. The Lions needed a forceful leader and a teaching coach, not a polished professional who trusted his players to be the same.
If *this* front office had hired Mooch? I think it would have worked. Look how the front office has gone out and gotten guys like KVB and Burleson, players who were clearly picks of the coaching staff. Look how they’ve dramatically cleaned house, and addressed obvious needs with right-price players.
There’ve been no “Ooh, shiny!” picks like Boss Bailey—where a pressing need was “addressed” by handing the starting job to the prospect with the best combine numbers. Further, there’s been no pressure to play the players that were “management picks”. Note that when Derrick Williams made the least of his opportunities in training camp, he wasn’t promoted to the starting lineup midseason, with a grumpy “no comment” from Schwartz.
Going forward, if Mooch could take over a franchise where the WCO is in place, where he could either sign or draft his starting quarterback, and the front office is both competent and fully behind him, he could make a glorious return. However, I think he’s come to realize that he’s pretty damned good at this TV analyst thing—and his wife and children, who always preferred life on the Left Coast, are happier this way. I can’t fault the guy for making that decision.
Rod Marinelli? I’m told he’s a great defensive line coach.