Parenting, and the NFL draft

>> 5.01.2011

I can’t remember which parenting book I read that contained this description, but imagine this: everything is black. You’re sitting on a chair, and your feet are on the floor. You have no idea where you are, where the walls are, or how far out the floor extends. You feel out with one foot a bit, and it seems as though the ground is solid. After building up your resolve for a little while, you take a chance and stand up. Nothing happens, so you take another step or two. Then, on the third step, you hear a “CRACK” and a piece of the floor gives way. You rush back to that chair--and you don’t leave it unless you absolutely have to, right?

This illustrates the importance of consistency. When a child’s learning the world around them, they need to know there are absolutes they can count on—especially, their parents, and the rules their parents set. When they know where the boundaries are—and that the floor isn’t going to drop away beneath them—they have the confidence to keep exploring.

Us Lions fans aren’t new to this whole “football” game, what we are is traumatized. We’ve been burned so many times, over and over by terrible drafting, we’re scarred by it. When the Lions’ picks match our desires and expectations (like Ndamukong Suh) we have no problem abandoning ourselves to the moment. However, the Lewand/Mayhew/Schwartz crew has been so logical, so rational, so ruthless in taking the best talent on the board that we’ve grown comfortable with it. Further, the results have finally begun to show on the field.

But, when the pick comes out of left field—and is, let’s just say for the sake of argument, a wide receiver—we panic. We frantically scramble back to our mental safe place. We boo. We hiss. We moan. We kvetch . . . at least, some of us do.

I’m already working on my annual Meet The Cubs series, so I won’t do a quick rundown of Titus Young or Mikel Leshoure just yet. Suffice to say, most national football analsysts love what the Lions have done—and in fact, all of the first three picks will each be able to make immediate, positive impacts, as well as have obvious roles on the team going forward. That was such a tall assignment going in, I flat-out said it wouldn’t happen.

It’s true; I was stunned the Lions went WR so early, and even more stunned when the Lions traded back up into the second, who took an RB. Even though I didn’t see it at the time, the more I learn about the young men the Lions have added to the team, the better I feel about where the Lions are headed in 2011 and beyond. Full credit goes to the Lions’ leadership, whose consistent vision, and unwavering execution, helped complete a Lions’ offense that’s going to be one of the best in the business for years to come—and make sure the Lions’ defensive line is THE best in the business for years to come. That’s something we can be confident about.

35 comments:

Anonymous,  May 1, 2011 at 10:47 AM  

Consistency is good. But in our (one-way) relationship of author and reader, you've broken an important trust and lost a good chunk of respect by being EXTREMELY inconsistent.

Prior to the draft you wrote well thought-out comments and analysis on the Lions needs and what they should do. You came to similar conclusions as most people.

Here are some comments leading up to the Lion's picks via Twitter:

"
Prince in a walk. RT @joedexter: @lionsinwinter prince, fairley or other at 13?
"

"lionsinwinter Ty
Holy wow. Wow wow wow. Take Prince or move down.
"

"lionsinwinter Ty
Lions fans: There are TONS of really nice corners in rounds 2-5. Trust me, it'll be okay.
"

Well, the Lions didn't do any of what you suggested they do yet you now seem borderline ecstatic about it. It seems like you decided it would be a great draft for the Lions before the draft started. There is a name for that type of approach - cheerleading.

I'll keep reading - there simply aren't any other sources for thoughtful analysis on the Lions - but I'm disappointed in your reaction to the Lions draft. Not because I disagree with you, but that you seem to have put being positive ahead of being consistent. Sometimes thats not the right choice for analysis, just like parenting.

Ty May 1, 2011 at 11:16 AM  

This was difficult to read, but you make some excellent points. I'm sort to have lost your trust or respect, even partially; I hope I can win it back.

There are a couple of things I can point at in my defense:

1) I am not a scout, and I make no pretenses about it. I don't make my own draft board, I don't write up player grades, and I'm careful to refer (and defer) to the people who do it for a living--both those working for NFL teams, and those in the media who scout and covert the draft full-time. I typically limit my own research and study to likely Lions targets--and throughout the process Fairley has been a Top 5 prospect at a position that didn't seem like a need.

2) All along, I've been very consistent in saying that *I* think Prince is the pick if he's there, but the Lions have more information on him than anyone else. I've said seeral times that if the Lions pass on Prince, then they'll have done it with their eyes wide open. Given the job Martin Mayhew and company have done to this point, to sit here today and tell you they screwed up would be arrogance in the extreme--especially as football and draft analysts all over are signing the Lions' praises.

Finally, I understand I've been slow to reply to comments. It's part of the problem with doing this in stolen moments. Often I must choose whether to respond to comments, or write the next day's post; if I respond then there's no post. It's a balance I've struggled to strike all along.

I'm profoundly sad to have let anyone down. Thank you for being so honest with me.

Peace
Ty

TimT May 1, 2011 at 12:00 PM  

There's nothing inconsistent about having expectations, then accepting the decisions of those charged with making them. That's called sanity, not inconsistency. No trust has been broken here. If you wish to find an author who makes determinations based on limited TV commentary, then sticks to those "wants" without ever realizing that have 0% influence over the selection, then there countless keyboard GM's to follow at countless websites.

We all have expectations. We all have wants or believe we know what the Lions need. It's a moving target, at best, and one we have zero influence over.

One more thought...
Even with the additions of 2 2nd round picks to offensive skill positions, we're going to cut a better corner this year than we are WR or RB.

lionssuhperfan May 1, 2011 at 12:00 PM  

For me, the draft is a funny thing. Every fan goes into it convincing themselves they know the exact blueprint for success.

For the past 7 years or so, I've convinced myself that drafting for need is pretty much the most logical way to go about this. Obviously I never endorsed reaching to fill need, so you can call my ideal strategy BATFAN (best avaible to fill a need) or whatever.

But this year I'm really starting to change my opinion. This draft reminds me a lot of 09. I was originally furious over many of the picks. Wanted Curry over Stafford, Oher over Pettigrew and Rey Ma. over Delmas. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. 2009 has become my favorite draft during the Lions modern era (I know, how could that not be my favorite). We got the top TE, QB and S in the draft. And while we had more holes to fill then than we do now, the important thing is that we got talent and value out of those picks, even though our depth chart was weaker elsewhere.

Anyways, my point is that opinions change, and they're allowed to, even if it's in the span of days or hours. Every football fan makes an ideal scenario where their team fills their needs with the best player available and that exact scenario plays out 0% of the time. But, there's really no point in being angry or critical at this point, because we won't know the success or failure of this draft for another 5 years. Why not get caught up in the optimism?

They may not have done what YOU (not speaking to anyone in particular here) wanted, but they did what THEY wanted, and like Ty said, no matter how much research a fan does, they don't have half of the resources that an organization does.

My take on the draft as an event is to forego all of the silly pre-draft hub-bub and just soak in the event for what it is: a fun day where 32 teams get to be optimistic for a few days and a couple hundred college kids have their dreams come true.

RIP May 1, 2011 at 12:58 PM  

I thought this was a great draft for the Lions. I will hold off on my thinking on this after you post your stuff.

Neil May 1, 2011 at 2:43 PM  

In reading the criticism of Lord Anonymous above, I am reminded of the Emerson quote "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Things change when new data arises and when they do, a smart mind evolves along with them. Sticking to an opinion simply because it was a previously stated opinion is nothing more than stubborn arrogance. I thought about things a lot like Ty did going into the draft - that's what the mind does, it imagines the most ideal scenario that also seems like it's reasonable and then attaches itself to that.

But, like I said, things change. Ideas change. And when they do, the smart mind listens, thoughtfully and makes its own changes. Sometimes, it decides to stick with the original opinion and sometimes it decides "Hey, this is a little bit better." This is not the same as senseless cheerleading, which is just as bad as senseless doom-mongering. Had Ty bitched and moaned simply because the Lions didn't adhere to his preconceived notions, then that would have been just as disingenuous and false as what you suggested took place. Are there concerns in terms of personnel still? Certainly and I think Ty would be the first to agree with that. But that doesn't mean the Lions didn't do a good job with their approach. It was just different than what most people expected it to be. Different isn't always bad, and it's the sign of an adept mind that Ty could recognize that instead of floundering with irrelevant rhetoric designed solely to protect an already outdated argument. You either change as the data changes - and it's always changing - or you become just a parody of yourself. Like I said, I agreed with Ty's take prior to the draft and I agree with his take after the draft and the last thing I imagine anyone would call me is a mindless cheerleader. I mean, you could, but you'd be a damn fool.

Thoughtful people are far too rare in this world. Most people's minds work slowly and when they land on an idea, they cling to it and let their hearts harden until they are sadly irrelevant. This happens all the time, especially in the blogosphere. People are in love with their own ideas. It is arrogant and it is stupid. I for one am glad that Ty is one of those precious few who constantly thinks, who constantly tinkers with his own ideas, his own thoughts, and is humble enough to allow them to change as the data warrants. And I'm thankful that we all have him to read and that he's one of us. His is a sharp, quick mind, and it's a willing mind, which is an awesome combination and instead of bitching because he didn't adhere to some ridiculous standard of "consistency", we should be applauding him for his ability to analyze a situation and then to appraise it honestly based on the new data rather than just clinging arrogantly to old ideas out of some misplaced devotion to consistency. You go ahead and you allow yourself to become a slave to the false virtue of consistency, in all its meaningless arrogance, and Ty and I - and all the people like us - will go on evolving.

HSOMGF,  May 1, 2011 at 3:28 PM  

Ty, don't feel the need to defend yourself or your actions, especially to someone who can't be bothered to sign their name.

Looks like Lord Anonymous got pwnd. Let him go find another bridge to troll under. You just keep doing what you're doing.

Anonymous,  May 1, 2011 at 4:06 PM  

I'm the anon who wrote the first post.

Ty, first, thanks for responding. I didn't really expect it, and I respect that you took my criticism with the sincere and constructive tone that I intended. You can easily say 'F U, my blog is free, I do what I want." But I read here in part because I know you won't. I certainly didn't intend to make you unhappy.

Put more directly, what I wanted to say is: this is the best Lions site on the planet; you obviously put thought into your work; you think analytically --> keep it up and stick to your guns. You don't have a duty to trust everything Mayhew and Schwartz do, even if you have faith, as I do, in the direction they are taking their franchise.

You spent a good deal of time discussing the Lions team needs leading up to the draft. You broke down the roster in a detailed, methodically and entertaining manner, with objective evidence to back up your take. You made an impressive and convincing argument. Then, it seemed you tossed it all aside because other pundits (who clearly haven't thought about the Lions as deeply) decided they liked the strategy (or was it just blind faith in Mayhew?... or both?)

For example, your OMH analysis of the DTs on the roster had some surprising conclusions about Hill, Williams, and Suh. As a fan, I watch the game, but I don't have the capacity to rate Lion's DL across the entire season and compare them to the rest of the NFL - no one does. So you provide quality Lion-specific analysis here and I enjoy reading it. You took the PFF's numbers, considered the appropriate caveats, and added in some subjective judgment from a passionate fan. Well done. In that work, you drew the following conclusion:

"As a unit, the Lions’ defensive tackles are complete...every member of the active DT rotation was graded above average... Unless the Lions want new blood to replace Fluellen (unlikely, as they just tendered him an RFA offer), the Lions should make no moves here. "

Anonymous,  May 1, 2011 at 4:07 PM  

I admire an ability to change one's mind. But nothing from what you wrote above has changed and I don't think your opinion on the subject should either.

In regard to player evaluation, I respect that you don't pretend to be a scout. On the other hand, scouts are far from flawless. To some extent, every pick, even in the top 5 is a roll of the dice. No one knows with any certainty if Fairly or Amukamara will be studs or duds - including Mayhew or his team of scouts. They're guessing, just like we are, they're (hopefully and likely) just a lot more informed and experienced than we are.

So, it doesn't really matter if Fairley is as good as some scouts say or as bad as his doubters think. Its a secondary issue. The fact is that there is a risk here, with great uncertainty, and a lot is on the line.

To Neil's comment, the new information (Fairly's availability) doesn't change your stated opinions (we don't need DT & Amukamara would be a better choice than Fairley). I suppose you could argue that Mayhew's opinion (Fairley>Amukamara) is new information as well, and that that info overrides what you thought before. But, if you're going to take the view that Mayhew can do no wrong, what is the point of discussing any of this? We can all just shut up and watch as the anointed does his work.

What is the point of an analysis of needs if you believe that 'best player available' should be the strategy? If you believe in stubborn adherence to this principle, needs are irrelevant (and therefore need not be discussed until after the draft).

Anonymous,  May 1, 2011 at 4:08 PM  

Furthermore, the 'best player available' is almost certainly incorrect. In something like 95% of picks, a better player is chosen later in the draft. This is a flawed process, so not recognizing the inherent risk involved in trying to guess who that 'best player available' might be is an enormous mistake. The costs and benefits must be weighed with each guy.

So, given the risk involved, what are the potential benefits of the Fairly selection? I know and accept that DL is important and I know Fairly was considered by most to be a good 'value' at the spot. But what 'value' can he provide to these Lions? We already have 3 above average DTs and a solid backup. What will Fairly contribute in 2011? What is his added value considered that his playing time comes primarily at the expense of Suh, Williams, or Hill? What value comes in those 'above average' players sitting on the bench?

If you think about it in those terms, unless we have another Suh on our hands (extremely unlikely) his main value is in a) a long-term improvement and b) and incremental/marginal bump to the 2011 DL by letting Suh be better rested and therefore, theoretically more effective.

This reward, while not insubstantial, is peanuts compared to what most other teams think they got. Generally 1st rounders should deliver an immediate starter, perhaps even a franchise cornerstone. Something like half won't but no one knows which half.

The Lions have accepted a risk that is arguably as high as any other pick in the 1st round. If that's the case, there should be a corresponding higher level of reward. For this team, that reward simply does not exist (at least in the short-term). Long-term -- maybe, but, again, no one is sure. Part of the game in the NFL is getting value out of rookie contracts and the Lions are already sacrificing that, for one season at least, probably a few.

Finally, I am not 'doom-mongering'. I've been on board with nearly every decision Mayhew has made, especially since signing Schwartz. The franchise is in good hands and moving in the right direction - that doesn't mean they're going to be perfect.

It seems like the time for 'building' and 'best player available' has, to some degree, passed. The next step for the franchise to take is a playoff birth. Drafting Fairly doesn't help them get their in 2011 and arguably beyond.

Again, I appreciate the time, effort, thought you bring to this and the objectivity, honesty and humility too. I'm not saying don't change your mind. I'm saying if you do - give me some rationale beyond "Mayhew's been so good that there's no point in questioning his actions." I think your readers deserve an explanation for such a 180, otherwise, as I said above, the implicit trust is broken.

All the best.

Anonymous,  May 1, 2011 at 4:18 PM  

Finally, I'm not calling for you to kill the Lions. This doesn't need to be sports-talk-radio-level drama.

There is room to respect the opinions of pros and experts while staying true to your own opinions and analysis and at least raising some doubts about their takes. Its OK to say, 'well, I'm scratching my head over here, but I have a lot of faith in these guys so we'll see'.

{people still say pwnd without being ironic?}

HSOMGF,  May 1, 2011 at 4:56 PM  

{people still say pwnd without being ironic?}

That's funny. Thanks for the laugh. Now go look up "brevity".

Mike May 1, 2011 at 5:45 PM  

To be completely fair, if you look at the mock draft Ty did a while before the draft he actually was pushing for Bowers in the first round. I think for the most part he knew that Bowers would only be worth the pick if his bum knee wouldn't prove to be a career killer and believed that the Lions would actually go the way most people thought they would, by drafting a CB, LB, or OL.

But let's break it down the the way I'm sure Mayhew and Schwartz did.

First, elite LTs are almost always drafted in the first half of the first round, many within the first 10 picks. This year's draft, however, really lacked any single standout LT (or OL in general). Sure there were plenty of suitable lineman that would have filled the slot, but none would have made a large, profound impact on our offense especially considering our OL has actually done a fairly decent job of protection (reference Ty's OMH posts). Yes, we need OL players considering our line is getting older and many are nearing the end of their careers, but we do still have time to pick elite players if and when they become available.

For LBs, there really weren't any elite LBs in the draft this year. Most were second-third round talent that really didn't fit into our scheme very well. Any pick we made in the first round would have been a major reach, and by the time we were picking again the picking was fairly slim. Free agency and trades should net us enough patchwork to be able to fill any deficiencies.

CB is the real issue here. Most people believed that if we were lucky enough to have Amukumara fall to us that he would be a Godsend, and if he was already gone we should be taking a good hard look at Jimmy Smith. Well, despite all the pre-draft hype, Amukumara really is more of an above-average CB rather than an elite level. He will do his job on his man but lacks the raw talent to ever be a Revis or Asomugha. Jimmy Smith may have that ability, but he comes with the wager that the Lions took when they drafted Charles Rogers. Neither deserved a high draft pick.

Now understand what Fairley actually brings to the table. You said it yourself, one of the greatest upsides to him is his long-term value. Mayhew has said time and time again he doesn't want to use the draft to make them better in the short term, he's using it to build a foundation for a team that is going to be good for years to come. That's not to say that Fairley won't make an immediate and noticeable impact. Our DL gained a lot of respect last year but it wasn't considered one of the elite lines. The addition of Fairley has boosted us into that class, and may prove to have boosted it into one of the best lines to ever play the game.

Now compare those options. The first three may bandage a need but none of them actually fix it. Drafting Amukumara was never going to give us a true #1 shutdown cornerback, and any OL we could've picked up likely will never be the kind of salvation we as fans were looking for. Fairley, however, adds true elite talent to a pool that was already near full and will likely become the hallmark of our defense for years to come.

Now, as a benefit of building such an elite unit, our middling-to-semi-porous defense now becomes more and more attractive to top-tier free agents and players looking for a trade. The Lions weren't on Asomugha's reported "short list" of teams he was looking to play for, but now that his addition very likely spells playoffs (and, dare I say, a shot at a Super Bowl appearance?) how does his list change?

Mayhew already has said that they will draft the best player available and that's what they're doing, but don't mistake the fact that they will ever draft a position that has no room for improvement (see: quarterback).

Mike May 1, 2011 at 5:56 PM  

Err, one point I didn't make when talking about CB/LB/OL pick that I was planning on making is that any pick (and drafting to need in general) leaves you open to picking good players that fill a need over elite players that some consider "luxury picks". If we would've drafted Amukumara we still would've been wanting a true elite talent in a year or two when we realize he's not a savior, putting us right back where we were to begin with.

You don't build a champion by building a "good" team. Good teams lose in the first and second rounds. Elite teams win championships. If you need any more proof, review the Detroit Lions of the 1990s.

Paternal,actually May 1, 2011 at 8:02 PM  

Mike,

Interesting thoughts but I'm not sure I agree.

No one knows anything about Amukamara that we didn't know a week ago. Maybe he's more the 20th pick than the 5th but that was strongly rumored for a while. We don't know if he's a star or not.

Regarding OL, the Pats thought Solder was good enough to take at 17 and they have a pretty solid track record. Maybe thats a reach at 13, but considering he went 17 to a respected franchise, not too bad of one. The Lions can also use help on the interior and Pouncey went 15 (prob a reach, but...) But yeah, I agree that we can wait a year to address OL in all likelihood, though the margin for error is then much smaller.

I do agree there wasn't a viable LB candidate in round 1 - though how about moving up in Round 2 to get Ayers or Carter or addressing the needs in a round before the 5th?

To echo the Anonymous guy above, we don't know what Fairley will bring to the table but its pretty rare for rookies to be above average starters. If you believe Ty's Hubbard post that we have 3 above-average guys already, Fairley doesn't get you all that much next year. Plus, none of these dudes are that old, so they can still play at a high level for a few years even without Fairley. But hey, it gives us another chip and maybe they can trade Williams or Hill if/when Fairley proves to be as good as we hope.

It sounds like the guys point can be summarized to be: since we don't have a reliable idea of who the real best player is, you might as well target a position you need. If Fairley isn't a stud, he doesn't do you much good for this team. Whereas a non-stud at LB or CB still does the Lions a great deal of good.

You might even argue that backup QB would have been a better investment than backup DT since OL is not a strength and Stafford has proven injury prone.

The Patriots have a lot of guys who are not elite. They found a handful of elite guys and put a lot of decent reliable people around them with good coaching. You don't just need elite talent. You also need to take an 'only as good as your weakest link' approach. I think its a little of both.

The Lions have an elite guy in Johnson and another in Suh. Maybe Best, Pettigrew, or others get there too. I think they're at a point where filling some deficiencies should be the focus. Personally, I feel comfortable deferring to Schwartz and Mayhew's judgment though.

Mike May 1, 2011 at 9:02 PM  

First, the point of value is synonymous with "best player available". Taking a player who you have listed at 17 on your board at 13 over a guy who you have listed at 3 because the guy at 17 fills a position of greater need is a net loss of 14 slots, which in terms of a NFL draft is a fairly large drop. Sure, Solder may not have been a reach and I'll wager dollars to donuts that picking Solder would've been seen as a good pick, but it's losing that potential that builds a team that is a good first and second round playoff team.

Compare the best case scenario for both. Solder is a giant and would be a good starting NFL LT. He would fill the Lions need at LT for the next ~8 years until the time came where we would need to start looking for his replacement.

Fairley, however, is a talent that when paired with Suh can create the best DT duo in the NFL...ever...all while creating massive depth in a position that is arguably the most physically strenuous on the football field.

Now in a realistic scenario, Solder will be a serviceable LT in the NFL and probably a good RT, while Fairly, while not contributing himself as much as his hype would suggest, takes double teams off Suh and allowing possibly the best DT in the league to wreak havoc.

And the Pats were good by being excellent judges of talent and sticking with the worth they put into their players. They didn't get there drafting average players that sort-of fit their scheme because they have a handful of top end guys peppered around their team and figured that's all the real talent they're going to need.

As for backup QB, I believe last year cleared any doubt about the depth we have at that position. We won't be going to the Super Bowl with Shaun Hill, but I'd wager 90% of teams out there with top-end QBs wouldn't make the SB with their second-stringer (case-in-point: Patriots when Brady went down in the first game). You want a QB that isn't going to be a liability if called upon, but one that is content with his role and doesn't want to test the waters elsewhere. If Stafford really does prove injury prone (which I'm still not convinced of...some of the best QBs in the league started off labeled as "injury prone") and you want to look for a backup you can win with more than Hill, you might as well just start looking to cut your losses with Stafford completely since anyone worth picking that would meet those standards is almost surely going to be high first round.

Ty May 2, 2011 at 1:12 PM  

TimT--

First, thanks for the kind words; they mean a lot.

Second, you bring up an excellent point: the Lions have a small fleet of interesting/promising nickel-dime types. Picking up a CB in the third or fourth round would only exacerbate that logjam--and if Prince didn't work out in a relatively big way, relatively quickly, he'd do the same.

Peace
Ty

Ty May 2, 2011 at 1:21 PM  

lionssuhperfan--

"Wanted Curry over Stafford, Oher over Pettigrew and Rey Ma. over Delmas. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. 2009 has become my favorite draft during the Lions modern era (I know, how could that not be my favorite). We got the top TE, QB and S in the draft. And while we had more holes to fill then than we do now, the important thing is that we got talent and value out of those picks, even though our depth chart was weaker elsewhere."

This is spot-on, and I wish many more Lions fans were self-aware enough to write the same paragraph.

Anon is right in that I had strong convictions about what the Lions should do based on my own analysis, and it's a logical fallacy (appeal to authority) to just throw that out because the Lions should be better at this than I am. There's a balance here, and I'm not sure I've struck it.

Peace
Ty

Ty May 2, 2011 at 1:23 PM  

RIP--

Your own judgment has value with or without my own to check against--but even without a long-form breakdown of everything yet, suffice to say I'm pleased with this one, too.

Peace
Ty

Mike May 2, 2011 at 2:37 PM  

Don't discount yourself, Ty. Anon has good points in his post and is entitled to his (or her) opinion, but you haven't quite struck an appeal to authority fallacy. It would be a different scenario if it were still the Millen regime, but we've seen enough from Mayhew to know that they do have enough knowledge and expertise to be trusted to understand the information and evaluate the talent. It would only be a logical fallacy if you were, say, watching ESPN and Barry Melrose came on and said "You know, I'm an expert on hockey, but I think the Lions had an excellent draft," and immediately changed your view because an apparent expert who lacks significant knowledge in the area in question gave his opinion.

I've been reading your blog for a long time now, and I do think you've struck a balance between dedicated fan and analytical observer. I wouldn't change a thing about your style.

Ty May 2, 2011 at 2:58 PM  

Neil--

To read those kind of words deployed in defense of me is humbling and amazing. I truly, deeply thank you.

Explicitly, there is an element of cheerleading to this blog--it exists to discover for myself why I kept rooting for this team despite every rational, logical reason SCREAMING at me not to waste my time. Further, part of the reason I delve so deeply into qualitative and quantitative analysis is to find Clue Bats I can hit the boo-birds with. I try very hard to be led by the data and be objective and rational when I do, though, I always show my work, and I think my biases are pretty clear.

Still, I think Anonymous has a point. While I agree that spending all weekend weeping bitter tears for the unaddressed needs would have been foolish and unproductive, I should have done a better job acknowledging that this draft didn't match my expectations, and I had good reasons for having those expectations.

Peace
Ty

Ty May 2, 2011 at 3:02 PM  

HSOMGF--

Thanks for the backup! Honestly, I think "Lord Anonymous" has done a pretty good job of being intelligent and constructive, even if they're the only one who feels the way they do . . . and even if it stings.

Still, though, and again--thank you.

Peace
Ty

Ty May 2, 2011 at 4:03 PM  

Anonymous--

First, again, I thank you--both for the amazing praise, and for the reality check.

"But, if you're going to take the view that Mayhew can do no wrong, what is the point of discussing any of this? We can all just shut up and watch as the anointed does his work."

You're right--Mayhew isn't perfect, and I'm not clueless. For example, Mayhew took Derrick Williams when I was SCREAMING for Brandon Tate, and look how that turned out.

I think most of this comes from my sheer ignorance of Fairley; I knew next nothing about him beyond "Auburn DT who's supposed to be a Top 5 pick." Doing a little bit of digging returned pretty damned amazing results, and forcing myself to consider where Fairley will fit in ended up returning results I was surprised by, too.

I can't lie; I was, and am, just plain high off the thrill of damned near every national analyst putting the Lions at or near the top of their draft "Winners," and talking earnestly and openly about the Lions as a contender. We haven't heard talk like that for over a decade . . . and pretty rarely before then.

I think you brushed up against what this is really about when you quoted me:

"As a unit, the Lions’ defensive tackles are complete...every member of the active DT rotation was graded above average... Unless the Lions want new blood to replace Fluellen (unlikely, as they just tendered him an RFA offer), the Lions should make no moves here."

Michael Schottey (who actually HAS some training as a scout, flies around the country to see these guys in person, etc.) frequently uses this way of looking at it: Nick Fairley will take Andre Fluellen's spot on the roster. In terms of impact in 2011, replacing Flu with Fairley should be comparable to replacing, say, Jack Williams with Prince Amukamara.

Finally, sometimes it just comes down to value. Back in the 2001 draft, I fell off my chair when the Saints drafted Deuce McAlister; they already had Ricky Williams and copious holes elsewhere. Their GM at the time explained it like:

"Look, our draft board looked like this:

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|
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Deuce McAlister
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The Next Guy.

What's the point of grading players and building out a draft board if you're just going to ignore it when the time comes? He was an incredible value where we picked, and we're thrilled to get him."

I was furious, full of my you-ruined-my-mock-draft-what-were-you-thinking indignation. But you know what? After that season, Ricky was sent packing--and Deuce rolled through 2002 to the tune of 1,388 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Ever since, I've had that lesson in the back of my mind . . . sometimes, you just shut up and follow your board, and deal with the problem of having too much talent later. Right now, I'm thinking having the consensus "best player coming out of college football" fall to the Lions at 13 is one of those times.

Peace
Ty

telemakhos,  May 2, 2011 at 4:07 PM  

Ty, I went into the draft with the same expectations as you, but I've realized something from these picks:
The lions determine value based on fit for what they're looking for rather than immediate need and stick to their board. They weren't going to take a corner for the sake of taking a corner. They weren't going to take mason foster over titus young because young was the exact deep threat they needed, but with added quickness and acceleration. Leshoure was the short yardage back that they needed, but with an added bonus of good speed for his size. If they took a guy like amukamara that apparently doesn't fit what they exactly wanted, they'd be looking to replace him eventually, whether he panned out or not. Millen was a guy that never knew exactly who fit or was needed so he picked guys that never got a fair shake like Stanton.

I was pissed by this year's picks when they were first made. After the Leshoure pick, I tweeted, "Epic fail so far this round" because I'm an impulsive fan that finally sees light on the horizon and I'm having that "win now" craving, but I'm glad we finally have a GM with a head on his shoulders willing to disappoint the fans for the sake of the team.

Anonymous,  May 2, 2011 at 9:28 PM  

Ty,

There are smart, informed, analysts out there but most of the chorus is made up of air-heads, wind-bags, or over-concussed ex-players. Who cares about the national pundits and their shallow analysis? How many can tell you anything significant about Corey Williams? Know that some considered him to be 'just as deserving' of all-pro status as Suh last year? Realize that Sammie Lee Hill is the same age as Suh, yet outperformed him by PFF's metrics? Some, but most do not.

Players that went to Stillman and Arkansas State do not get attention from national pundits compared to players from Auburn and Nebraska. Especially award winners. Especially in the trenches.

If Fairley is really replacing Fluellen then we just used a 1st round pick for a guy who played less than 25% of snaps. That assertion seems dubious though, as Schwartz said something about wanting to split snaps between 3 guys. So now you're talking not so much about putting Fairly beside Suh as a complement to him (as most pundits seem to want to imagine this) but sending to the bench one of two guys who performed on par with Suh or at least not that far off. More likely, Fairley spends most of his time on the bench 'developing'. I can't get that excited about that for a 1st round pick, unless maybe we're talking about a QB, but even then...

All of the above is obviously hogwash if Fairley becomes the all-pro some seem to think. The big issue there is IF. There are legitimate concerns from many people including Mike Lombardi, who called him a 'one year player', questioned his work ethic, criticized his body, and called out his technique ('plays high'). Disagree with that? Fine, but a dozen teams passed on a guy who people now want to consider a top 5 talent in the draft. Lombardi's not the only one with doubts. Maybe Fairley is that good, but there's serious and legitimate doubt there.

You always win over the pundits by getting value. Mel Kiper loved the pick of Leinart at 10 because "I had Leinart as the third best player in the [2006]draft". But that perceived value is frequently incorrect. The real experts generally aren't showing their cards.

Its also worth considering the alternative hypothesis - the Lions were ill prepared. Perhaps they didn't do their due diligence on Fairley like teams in the top 10 did because they never really expected him to be there. They were surprised by it. Therefore they picked apart Amukamara, Solder, Smith, etc. and didn't worry as much about Fairley's potential flaws because he wasn't viewed as a realistic option. It's nice to think that they covered every single player thoroughly, but realistically, they put more attention on some guys than others....I know, I know - crazytalk - the anointed can do no wrong.

I'm not as pissed as I sound here, believe me. I'm disappointed in the selection but my fingers are crossed that it works out and Fairley is as much of a killer as the optimists think. Theres a good bit of chance to all this, I just think the Lions could have placed their bets a little more wisely.

---------------------------------
The Williams-Amukamara to Fluellen-Fairley equivalence is hard to swallow given that Amukamara would almost certainly be the #1 or #2 CB on the roster instantly. And Fairley, if you think he's going to be the 2nd or 3rd guy, is mostly replacing either Hill or Williams - guys performing at an above average level - well above any other potential Lions CB other than possibly Houston.

NetRat's Lions Blog May 2, 2011 at 9:32 PM  

There's never any way to determine who the Lions have ranked higher then who. I too was surprised that Fairley fell to #13. I think if the teams that reached for quarterbacks (and they all did) would've stayed true to their boards then the Lions would've been looking at a completely different outcome.

Until Gosselin came out I never once saw any mock come up with Fairley falling to 13, no one expected it. Had more mocks been that way the "shock" of the pick wouldn't be there.

I never expected the Lions to upgrade the Fluellen roster spot (DT) with another #1 pick. No other DT in the draft may have been ranked higher then Fluellen or other positions at their next pick so you can't say they actually planned to take a DT, they just did because he was there, he was ranked higher then everyone else and he was an upgrade to someone on the roster.

The Lions take the Best Player(s) Available that fill Any Need. They add to the roster the best talent they possibly can with this method without "wasting" the pick on someone they don't actually need at all. But, there is a difference between "not needed at all" and "any need".

Would I be happier about the draft with a CB and a LB instead of a RB and WR? Probably. Now. Later though, I might not.

Sooner or later, somehow or other, they had to get a LB, CB, RB, WR, and I figured DE (but DT does work). Whether it's the first 3 picks in the draft or in FA, those were roster spots that I think would be addressed (along with backup guard and center). One thing I mentioned in my blog... the Entire FA group is still available, not just the dregs that are usually left after the draft. This is unprecedented.

Who's to say that the DT, WR, RB in the draft with LB, G, C and CB in FA is better or worse then CB, LB, C in the draft and RB, G, WR and DE or DT in FA?

Many who didn't like this draft will be singing a different tune once FA is done. Many, not all. I'm pretty sure I will be.

Anonymous,  May 2, 2011 at 9:33 PM  

Its just odd that Prince was talked up by everyone as an ideal and now that he's a Giant, he 'doesn't fit' and 'would be replaced anyway' and suddenly was 'a reach'.

Well...we'll see in the years to come Iguess.

Anonymous,  May 2, 2011 at 10:31 PM  

Anonymous -

The Lions definitely weren't "ill-prepared" for Fairley falling to 13th. In multiple interviews Schwartz has stated that the Lions went through many different mock draft scenarios, with one of them having 4 QB's go in the top 12, which left Fairley available for the Lions. Also remember that they had him in for one of their alloted on site visits. The Lions definitely did their home work on him.

Also, based on the quotes I've heard from Schwartz since the draft it's clear the Lions had a much higher grade for Fairley than Prince or anyone else left on the board. Schwartz has called Fairley an elite talent who perfectly fits what the Lions like to do. There were multiple reports that the Lions were desperately trying to trade back if Fairley wasn't available. That wouldn't be the case if they had Prince valued at anywhere close to a top 15 pick. I believe the Lions had Fairley ranked as a top 3-5 talent while Prince was 20+. If that's the case, you just can't pass up that type of player even if you're taking some one else at a position of strength.

James,  May 2, 2011 at 10:54 PM  

*edit (previous post was by me as well)

If that's the case, you just can't pass up on that type of player even if he plays at a position of strength.

Mike May 2, 2011 at 11:13 PM  

I think the general consensus from Lions fans that Amukumara was a bigtime CB came mainly from the hype put on him by pundits. I admit that I was sucked into it just like most people, but in the days leading up to the draft I spent some time talking to a buddy of mine who wasn't sold on him.

He talked about how he has short arms which can be detrimental to a CB, lacks elite closing speed regardless of what his combine 40 time was, and is average at best when faced with elite talent. He said that Amukumara will be a decent-to-good CB in the NFL, but we already potentially HAVE decent-to-good CBs on the roster.

Honestly, I don't know how good Fairley or Amukumara will be. Ten years from now we'll know whether or not it was a good pick, but for now I feel more comfortable with the talent that we have than the one we passed on.

Matt,  May 3, 2011 at 2:48 PM  

There's a lot to say here, but I wanted to make a quick point to anyone suggesting that the Lions were ill-prepared, shocked when Fairley was available, and/or made a panic pick or something.

Anonymous
"Its also worth considering the alternative hypothesis - the Lions were ill prepared. Perhaps they didn't do their due diligence on Fairley like teams in the top 10 did because they never really expected him to be there. They were surprised by it."

http://www.prideofdetroit.com/2011/4/21/2124628/nick-fairley-jonathan-baldwin-others-visit-detroit-lions

4-21-11
"The Detroit Lions' official site reported that Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley and Pittsburgh wide receiver Jonathan Baldwin visited the team on Wednesday. It's unlikely that Fairley will fall to the Lions, but they are doing their homework just in case. Baldwin, on the other hand, could be someone they look at if he's available in the second round."

Kinda' sheds some light on the Titus Young pick, too

Matt,  May 3, 2011 at 3:56 PM  

I think the best points made here are not about the specific players (Fairley and Prince), but about the overall situation, namely, that the draft came BEFORE free agency. Usually we fans begin the off-season with a list of team needs after some initial releases and re-signs. Then the team patches some of those holes in free agency (in theory, anyway). So now we go into the draft with a shorter, more specific list of needs and, in theory, the team tries to fill as many as possible with as much talent as possible. Then we get a little more free agency to spackle over the last holes and we're pretty much done.

This year, each team went into the draft with a big ol' list of needs because the draft was the first chance to address them. Teams really had to evaluate themselves, the draft prospects, a billion different draft scenarios, and who they might like in free agency (again, AFTER the draft). The Lions' list went something like this:

CB, OLB - Need 1 or 2 guys who can immediately challenge for, if not win, starting spots
OL - Basically, the story across the board is any spot could use a legitimate developing starter (not a late round "project"), but it is/was very unlikely a rookie would start in 2011.
WR, RB - I think these were bigger needs than most folks realized. You go "They got Calvin & Burleson & Best (not to mention BPetti & Scheff)" and kinda' forget that there's NO ONE behind them and they all have injury history.
DE - Same story as OL. Rookie unlikely to start, but depth/a starter of the future is needed.
S, MLB - Have solid, young starters who have yet to hit potential, but depth is a minor issue.
DT, QB, TE - Really have no need whatsoever. The only reason to draft a player at this position is if you are highly confident you're getting a long-term stud.

Normally, the Lions (and every other team) would have crossed off some of these items with free agents. The Lions crossed off #s 4 and 5 and added a "luxury pick" along the DLine, which the coaching staff & front office have decided to make the centerpiece of the entire team. While in hindsight 1st-round draft picks are about 50:50 prospects, when a team makes a pick they are much more confident than that. Mayhew doesn't think Nick Fairley is a coin flip; Mayhew is "highly confident [he's] getting a long-term stud." In hindsight, he must also have been more confident in THAT assessment than he is/was that Prince Amukamara "can immediately challenge for, if not win, [one of the] starting spots."

So, now that the draft has passed and the picks have been made, where do the Lions' needs stand? We don't NEED to replace anyone on the OL to contend in 2011, though depth and "longevity" are still issues. Same goes for QB, TE, MLB, S, RB, and WR (though some "warm bodies" may come and go). Same also goes for DE and DT except that depth is really not an issue. Most of these remaining issues are minor in terms of 2011 and can/will be addressed NEXT off-season. So, in order to contend in 2011, our post-draft/pre-free agency needs basically boil down to CB and OLB. Oh, and by the way, we might just have the greatest DT combination in the history of the NFL for the next 10 years. I don't know how you can be unhappy with a draft that leaves the Lions in this particular situation.

Mike May 4, 2011 at 2:54 AM  

Love your analysis, Matt.

One thing, though.

QB, TE, RB, DT, and WR are really the only positions we can be set on for roughly 2-3 years at a minimum. MLB we're set at if Levy continues his progression and remains healthy, although we could stand to increase depth behind him. S we absolutely could use a starter opposite Delmas. If we could find a solid cover safety to play opposite Delmas we could finally allow him to play to his strengths rather than pigeonhole him into coverage. DE we need depth at the very least and a solid heir-apparent for KVB at the most. QB/TE/RB/WR are all pretty solid for the time being.

Matt,  May 4, 2011 at 2:34 PM  

Thanks, Mike. A brief rebuttal. First, I think the Lions believe they have their other starting S in Spievey. I completely agree that we could use some depth/heir(s)-apparent at S, MLB, and DE, as well as OL, though. However, I think the overall condition of the Lions' roster that you described is pretty much the case league-wide. No team ever has a roster that's Aces top-to-bottom.

My point was basically directed at those people who are bashing this draft. Again, if we can fill those glaring holes (CB & OLB) through free agency that "everyone" thought we'd fill in the draft, then I believe we have a roster that can contend in 2011 regardless of the few, relatively minor issues that remain (which, as I said, can be addressed in the future).

Ty May 4, 2011 at 5:09 PM  

Original Anon ("Lord Anonymous")--

"Generally 1st rounders should deliver an immediate starter, perhaps even a franchise cornerstone. Something like half won't but no one knows which half."

I hate to cherry pick one sentence out of all that, but if I don't I'll never respond to everyone! This is the key bit right here: just because other teams' first rounders are stepping into "immediate starter" roles doesn't brighten or dim their prospects of being a franchise cornerstone someday. In fact, it's typically a function of who's already on the roster, not how good the player is--see Sammie Hill starting 16 games two years ago.

I think this is the idea: the Lions got a franchise cornerstone with Fairley, even if he's not going to be a cornerstone of the 2011 team. Of course, you want every first-round pick to be Ndamukong Suh--both an immediate upgrade, and a long-term solution.

Unfortunately, those players are rare, and the circumstances that allow for a rookie to both A) step in right away and B) be really successful are also rare . . . just because Fairley doesn't play a thousand snaps in year one doesn't mean he won't play 600 to 700 snaps in years two, three, four, and five--and make multiple Pro Bowls doing it.

Peace
Ty

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