Last night, as Detroit’s time to pick approached, Spencer Hall a.k.a. Orson Swindle, of Every Day Should Be Saturday, Tweeted:
Following the Lions’ pick, he followed it up with:
From there, things kind of got out of hand:
With Nick Fairley, the Lions have added the player many thought was the best available talent in the draft—especially in that limbo between the college bowl season and the Combine. In Mel Kiper’s first mock (and many other early mocks, Fairley went #1 overall, to the Panthers. Instead of the “reach” that I was worried about yesterday, the Lions had an incredible player fall right into their lap—mostly thanks to four quarterbacks being taken in front of them, pushing a Top 5 talent all the way down to 13. The problem is, he plays the same position as Ndamukong Suh—doesn’t he?
Well, yes and no. First, Fairley spelling Suh would hardly be a bad thing: according to Pro Football Focus, Suh led all NFL defensive tackles with 997 reps. He barely came off the field at all! With Suh and Fairley, Williams and Hill, the Lions will always have two fresh impact tackles on the field. Beyond that, the Lions are extremely creative with their defensive line; they use weird sets, they stunt and loop, they shuffle guys around. Adding this weapon to Kocurek and Cunningham’s arsenal is dangerous, indeed.
Ultimately, it was a question of value. When the Vikings were on the clock, Adam Schefter reported that the Lions wanted, “badly,” to trade out of their subsequent pick. Apparently, the Lions feared Minnesota replacing the aging Pat Williams with Fairley, rather than roll the dice on a quarterback (as they did). This tells us what we need to know about the Lions’ draft board.
Yesterday, I wrote that the Lions, at 1.13, would be sitting on a pile of good-but-not-great prospects. At that point, the Lions would be loathe to stand pat—if they could find a partner, I’d thought, the Lions would try desperately to slide back. Faced with the possibility that Fairley wouldn’t be there, that’s exactly what they did. Clearly, for them, Prince Amukamara fell into that class of “a whole bunch of guys we’d gladly take at 20 but not so much at 13”—and considering he went 19th, that valuation must have been in line with the rest of the NFL’s.
For the Lions to have passed on Amukamara speaks volumes—not just about their thoughts on Fairley, but their thoughts on Amukamara. Obviously, cornerback is an area of pressing concern. Obviously, Amukamara was widely thought of as a Top 10 talent. Ndamukong Suh would be more than willing to tell the Lions everything they need to know about Prince. For them to not only pass on him, but be panicked at the thought of reaching for him at 13—well, as I said, it speaks volumes. It’s not that I think Prince will be terrible now, or something, but that if you woke up today thinking the Lions passed on the guy who’d immediately solve all their problems at corner . . . apparently, they didn’t.
It’s not all air guitars and pryotechnics, however, as not everyone is sold on Fairley and Suh becoming the Lions’ answer to the Mighty Ducks’ Bash Brothers. Pro Football Focus just posted an article called The Fairley Verdict, and the verdict was mixed, indeed:
It wouldn’t be the most ridiculous statement to say the Lions walked into the draft with the best combination of defensive tackles in the league.
So they didn’t need another one. Let alone a guy who on paper looks to suffer from the same weaknesses as Ndamukong Suh, as well as some pretty big character issues that caused him to drop in the first place. Presuming he plays up to his one good year in college, the Lions got themselves a guy who will likely be very good at penetrating, but perhaps lack a little in run defense. Just think how the combo of Suh and Fairley would leave them susceptible to draw plays and trap blocks? To say they don’t have the linebackers to deal with that level of linemen coming at them would be an understatement.
Eep. They even invoke "same old Lions," a phrase that sends a chill down my spine, and should induce shudders in anyone reading this. Yet, it’s important to note, Suh and Fairley will likely be rotating together in the same spot, not always playing side-by side—and, they are, Suh may be playing defensive end. Don’t forget, Suh has always had a little inside-outside to him, and rumors the Lions might play Suh more on the outside compelled Schwartz to publicly denounce them a few weeks ago. I’m not saying Suh is going to switch positions, but that he’ll be able to join the DE rotation for a number of different looks. Think about:
Avril * Suh * Williams * KVB
Jackson * Suh * Fairley * Avril
Suh * Williams * Hill * Jackson
These are just to wet your whistle. My calculator tells me there are 81 possible combinations with Avril, Lo-Jack and Suh rotating at left end, Suh, Fairley, and Williams at 3-tech, Williams, Hill, and Fairley at 1-tech, and KVB, Avril, and Lo-Jack at right end. As Jim Schwartz said:
"Well, we play 130 defensive tackle snaps in a game. So, if we're rotating three guys through and they're playing 45 snaps apiece ... No. 1, there'll be a little bit of pressure. We can keep rolling waves and waves."
Ultimately, this was simply a Mayhew Pick. The Lions have a defensive philosophy: build the most dominant defensive line in the NFL and let them handle it. Mayhew took the best player available—to some, Nick Fairley was the best player available to anyone in this draft—that fit in with their approach.
Now pass me that Honolulu Blue Kool-Aid.