Neither Rain nor Snow nor sleet . . . Post-Draft Mailbag!

>> 5.06.2010

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.

    Finally, Dustin (@Dustin_aka_D on Twitter) asked:

    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.


    15 comments:

    Joe Willy May 10, 2010 at 10:35 AM  

    I think a lot more fans will warm up to Best after he breaks his first 80 yard TD run and in the following weeks see defenses forced to cover Calvin 1-on-1 more often than they'd like. And then after picking their poison between stopping Best and Calvin they see Stafford slicing and dicing the D with throws to Scheffler, Pettigrew and Burleson. Hopefully the offense can stay on the field, sustain more drives, score more points and generally keep things closer which hopefully helps the defense.

    If Stafford can protect the ball and himself, and find some touch instead of always gunning it, that will get people to wake up and take notice of what Mayhew and Schwartz are building. It's hard to argue that the team is as talented as the days since Marty rode in on the hog. Meaning, the team has the potential to win games and compete. I think the team takes a big leap from last year.

    Anonymous,  May 10, 2010 at 11:04 AM  

    Also regarding Best's size's concerns, it's not like he won't be able to bulk up a bit following a NFL workout regimen. As an example, Ray Rice measured in at the Combine at 5'9, 195lbs, and is now listed as a 210 lbs back.

    I've been high on Best (though not as much as the Schwartz apparently) since January and believed he could have been the first back taken in the draft were it not for the concussions. As it appears the FO was okay with this and cleared him (+ he is using a next-gen helmet), I'm excited to see what he'll do for the Lions this year.

    Mike aka @CJ81TD,  May 10, 2010 at 1:34 PM  

    On Best - IMO, there is no way he is ever going to see 20+ carries in a game. Maybe 20+ touches but not carries from scrimmage. If he does see that kind of work, his tenure in Detroit will be limited. I think the model is how SD uses Sproles. And I know Best is bigger than Sproles. Chris Johnson's workload and surprisingly strong injury history in TENN is anomalous in my opinion and he could start to show wear sooner rather than later if it continues. I also doubt KS will be even close to serviceable early in the season after such a massive knee injury. Let's not forget that his knee basically exploded. Momo looked good in spot duty (I'm remembering a long run against the Rams maybe?) and I expect the staff to hand 5-10 carries to Felton/some other decent big back plucked from the waiver wire. I would love to see a 3 headed platoon going into week one with Best on the field on some 1st downs, all 3rd downs and obvious passing situations. I know they are supposed to be stretching the field with Best but I'd like him to stay off the injury report as long as possible and running him 20+ times a game isn't going to help that. Not an indictment of his durability, just physics.

    On a Barry related side note, the measurables 5'9" and 200 lbs are permanently seared in my brain for Barry. I remember Steve Broussard coming out of WSU (maybe) as a similarly sized fire plug of a runner. There were a string of guys about that size after BS but none of them ever amounted to much. Barry did pave the way for the smaller feature RB. I never thought of Barry as a 180 guy. Maybe my memory is faulty but that sounds more like Warrick Dunn than Barry Sanders.

    On the coaching front, great analysis of Marty and Mooch. All spot on as usual.

    Anonymous,  May 10, 2010 at 1:36 PM  

    Best will definately add some muscle and strength. Success will all come down to health for this guy. Best case scenario, I see a ton of similarites between Best and Chris Johnson and he might end up putting up those type of great numbers and breaking those long runs since he is just as fast and elusive, and finds the hole quick and burst through it before the linebackers even realizes he is a half a step past them. Guys like Chris Johnson and Felix Jones are so fast that size doesn't matter. They may go down easily when tackled but their tough to get a hand on. If healthy, I think worst case scenario is he ends up more like Reggie Bush... which still wouldn't be all that bad. Bush would be more appreciated had he not been the #1 pick overall. If Jahvid Best could be the double threat Bush is to beat guys to the corner for 10 yd. pickups and then split out as a receiver to post Bush-like #'s in the passing game, he will still greatly help this team and force defenses to do more than double CJ and then bring the other 9 in full out blitz's. (exageration but sometimes it feels that way) When teams try to bring heavy blitz's, Stafford can toss is to one of the tight ends or dump off/shuttle pass to Best. If you watch Best college tape, you'll see that every time a team blitz'd, Best would be out in the flat or crept past them and was wide open for a dump off and would make big gains since there was already 5 or 6 defenders behind him...... Let's hope he can stay healthy.... If so, there is no reason he can't show some resemblence of a Chris Johnson, Marshall Faulk, Brian Westbrook, Felix Jones or even a Reggie Bush. Felix, Westbrook and Bush though have all had trouble staying healthy..........

    Anonymous,  May 10, 2010 at 2:08 PM  

    Barry was certainly more than 180 pounds! His legs were like tree trunks.

    Anonymous,  May 10, 2010 at 2:23 PM  

    I've always seen Barry Sanders listed at 5'8", 203, which is quite a bit more solid than 5'10, 199.
    Why did you include Chris Long as a bust already? White guilt? Sure seems like it. Afraid someone might call you out as a racist for only listing ebony busts on the D-line?

    Ty May 10, 2010 at 3:22 PM  

    First, regarding Barry--you guys are all correct. Barry measured 5'-7 5/8", 203 pounds at the combine, and continued to be listed at or around 200 for the rest of his career. I've updated the post to reflect that.

    Best is 5'-10 1/8", 199.

    Warrick Dunn was 5'-9", 187.

    Chris Johnson is 5'-11", 200.

    Reggie Bush is 6'-0", 203.

    Clearly, all of these backs exist on a continuum of "fast little guys," some short and stout, some tall and lean, and all with outstanding NFL production, save for the tallest and leanest: Bush.

    Nobody pounded the "Reggie Bush is too tall, too, skinny, and runs too east-west to be a feature back in the NFL" drum harder than I did. Best is nearly two full inches shorter than Bush at the same weight, so let's stop this whole "Best can't carry the load" stuff right now. Chris Johnson toted it 358 times for 2,009 yards last season, and he's 7/8" of an inch taller than Jahvid at the same weight.

    What I'm getting to here is that there's no magical nexus of height and weight, it's about being strong, being fast, and running hard. Warrick Dunn rarely bounced it outside, he made his yards between the tackles. Reggie Bush always bounces it outside, and mixes home runs with whiffs. Chris Johnson explodes through seams no matter where they are on the field--and from what I've seen, Best is much more Chris Johnson than Warrick Dunn or Reggie Bush.

    Peace
    Ty

    Ty May 10, 2010 at 3:35 PM  

    "Why did you include Chris Long as a bust already? White guilt? Sure seems like it. Afraid someone might call you out as a racist for only listing ebony busts on the D-line?"

    Anon--

    Chris Long was supposed to be an all-everything, world-eating, sack-and-tackle, three-down defensive end, and he was drafted #2 overall. In his second year he had 4 starts, 5 sacks, and 43 tackles--on a defense that saw the field as much as any in the NFL. Unless he takes a MAJOR step up this year, I don't see how he could be considered anything but.

    For reference, Mario Williams (another slow-starting, two-way, three-down RDE taken at the very very top of the draft) had 16 starts, 59 tackles, and 14 sacks his sophomore year.

    Feel free to name all of the OTHER white defensive linemen taken in the top three picks of the draft in the past decade or two who busted out, though; they totally got a pass from me because I'm racist like that.

    Peace
    Ty

    Anonymous,  May 10, 2010 at 4:16 PM  

    Chris Long is two years in on a bad team. If he regresses this year than one can start labelling him a bust, IMO. Mike Mamula was a white DL bust though, through and through. Also, Glenn Dorsey is two years in and has been on par with Long, but I don't consider him a bust yet, just a dissapointment at this point.

    RIP May 10, 2010 at 4:26 PM  

    Liked your article, like all your others. Happy to see your updated version on Barry Sanders. Do have to make an opined on your post from my perspective being a long time Leos fan.

    First on the position players. From the videos I have seen of Javid Best, he is not as polished of a player coming out of college as Dexter Bussey, Billy Sims, or Barry Sanders. Where he lacks in is lower body balance. If he can improve on this, he could be the next coming of Barry, lose a little speed for better balance.

    Joey Harrington was first forced onto second year coach Morningweg. Morningweg had to restructure his offense to fit Joey's skills. While doing so, he got more out of Joey then Mooch ever did.

    Morningweg was not ready to be a first year coach, but showed nice improvement from his first to second year as a head coach. The Lions where desperate for a head coach at the time of his hiring, and were afraid of losing him to Cleveland. If not for the fact the Mooch was availabe, he may have improved enough his third year to have been givien a contract extension.

    Mooch, although still under contract, was ran out of San Fransico for being to conservative. He also stated when first arriving to Detroit that the Lions lacked players on there second long term contracts. Yes green veterans, but also guys nearly hitting 30 and older.
    In my opine, Mooch was overated here in Michigan, and may have never received a head coaching job in the NFL since. Anyone remember how happy he was with the selection of Mike Williams draft pick? Was that a Millen or a Mooch pick.

    In summary, I do like your post. I just had to add what was he. I do think that Best could have the potential to be Detroit's second best running back in history. Anyone remmember that Bussey was a plattoon RB with Horance King?

    Ty May 10, 2010 at 4:58 PM  

    I think Long regressed from year one to year two--though you can blame that on the coaching staff change. I don't think he'd need to regress further to be a bust; if he's a 5-sack, 40-tackle, rotational guy for the next few years, you'd have to consider him a major disappointment for a #2 overall.

    Mamula was a DL bust, yes, and white--but he was the seventh overall pick, and fifteen years ago to boot. I only went back to 2000 or so, and I was only looking at the top few picks.

    There are very few defensive linemen of any race that get picked that high, which is why when they fail it sticks out in our mind. The idea that including a white person in a list of 'busts', possibly prematurely, proves via the inverse that I must hate people who are not white, is so ridiculous it's not even worth addressing.

    I kinda wish I hadn't bothered to address it.

    Peace
    Ty

    Anonymous,  May 11, 2010 at 2:10 PM  

    You are incorrectly interpreting what I said. I didn't imply that you hate white people. I implied that you are afraid to be seen as politically incorrect for only having a list of ebony busts, so you threw a white guy on to that list who shouldn't have been mentioned as a bust yet.
    5 sacks and 40 tackles isn't exactly falling flat on your face. That would be that NY Jets OLD/DE who was drafted 2 years ago 7th overall who hasn't registered a sack. (Can't remember his name right now but he is quite the physical specimen)

    Fukachi,  May 11, 2010 at 7:23 PM  

    Anonymous,

    Chris Long was epitomized as a star, a force to be reckoned with or what-have-you. In that light, I have heard his name mentioned not once. You?

    Perhaps there is a correct time-frame in which we can call someone a bust. And your argument warrants merit on that "time-frame" argument. But, DON'T sit here and imply that Ty is trying to be "politically correct" because he named a white guy who hasn't fulfilled his expectations.

    That just isn't morally correct on your part!


    Fukachi

    Anonymous,  May 11, 2010 at 8:43 PM  

    Fukachi,

    The inclusion of Chris Long just struck me as odd. I think there are a lot of people today who are overly sensitive to political correctness.


    Once again, Long's played for two years on a bad team. He hasn't lit the world on fire but he hasn't fallen flat either. If by the conclusion of his fouth season he has only 15 or so sacks, then lets include him on bust lists.


    Once again, look at that NYJ's OLB/DE who was taken 7th overall in the same draft as Long. He's supposed to be a pass rusher yet he hasn't registered a single sack in his first two seasons. That is the definition of falling flat on ones face.

    Ty May 12, 2010 at 9:49 AM  

    Fukachi--

    Thanks for sticking up for me.

    My last words on the topic: It's true that Chris Long isn't a "bust" in the same way Vernon Gholston (the guy you're referencing) is a "bust"; Long is not a terrible player and/or a waste of a pick. But Long's production so far has been just about identical to Cliff Avril's. Avril's a third-round pick, and some folks are wondering if *Avril* will ever "put it together"! Long, as a #2 overall pick, should be showing flashes of dominance by now, and he isn't. Moreover, if he doesn't actually become a dominant player this year, he probably never will.

    Part of it is my own assessment of Long, who I was never excited about as a prospect. I just don't think he has the tools to become a three-down, 10+ sack guy--and that's the minimum standard to live up to expectations as a #2-overall-pick DE.

    What I'm getting at here is that if Ndamukong Suh is averaging 35 tackles and 4.5 sacks in rotational duty after two full seasons in the NFL, it will be a massive disappointment; he'll have fallen far short of expectations. It's entirely possible that this happens, though; as I said, more draft picks DON'T become productive starters than do.

    Peace
    Ty

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