Last season, I was at Ford Field for the Lions’ draft event. When the Jaguars turned in their card at number ten, the Commissioner called out Tyson Alualu’s name. A collective exclamation went up, and there was much harrumphing—amongst Ford Field attendees, amongst the talking heads on the teevee, and amongst Jaguars fans. I was reminded of the Colts’ “big reach” for Dwight Freeney back in 2002 (I’d link a story, but the Internet doesn’t remember that Freeney at 1.11 was considered a major reach). Alualu is no Freeney, to be sure, but he’s a quality prospect that fit a need—and flashed real talent in his rookie season.
Tom Kowalski wrote an nice piece today about getting the right player versus filling a need, and it’s spot-on. With the 13th pick, if the Lions can’t trade back, they’ll be sitting on a small pile of defensive ends (Aldon Smith, Robert Quinn, Cam Jordan, J.J. Watt, and possibly Da’Quan Bowers), a few offensive tackles (Nate Solder, Anthony Castonzo, and Gabe Carimi), and possibly two cornerbacks (Prince Amukamara, Jimmy Smith).
Obviously, every team has a different grade on all of these guys. They all have strengths, they all come with questions, and they all fit different schemes differently. I can’t tell you who the Lions have highest on their board, but it’ll almost certainly differ from the teams drafting around them. In a situation like this, of course I’d love to see the Lions trade down and get their man anyway—just, as I’m sure, the Jaguars tried with Alualu, and the Colts may have with Freeney. In fact, the Lions may have roughly equal grades on all of these guys, and would be happy with taking whoever’s left!
On the other hand, they may have no trade partner—or they maybe be in love with one of these prospects far more than all the rest. So, if they elect to stand pat and take the guy they want rather than risk losing him—fine. The Internet has already forgotten that Dwight Freeney wasn’t a “good value” according to Mel Kiper; all anyone remembers is that he’s a great player. Besides, anyone who’s ever been in a fantasy football draft knows you want to be the one that starts a run on a certain position—not the one that finishes it.
So. Tonight, the Lions are drafting just outside the top ten, and will have their choice of slew of good prospects—but likely, no great ones. It’s the perfect storm for the draftniks to shout “REACH,” and instead of last year’s jubilation, we’ll be tempted to sigh and shrug our shoulders. But listen: if the Lions stand pat and “reach” for Nate Solder or Jimmy Smith or Aldon Smith, just suck it up and smile. We’re Lions fans, and the draft isn’t our Super Bowl anymore. Our team may not win in April—but that’s fine, because it wins in December.