Detroit Lions Must Trade Their 2012 1st-Round Pick

>> 4.23.2012


After three full drafts by Martin Mayhew, with Tom Lewand, Shack Harris and the scouts, and Jim Schwartz and the coaches providing input, we’d like to think we understand the Lions’ approach. BATFAN, a term first coined by Josh at Roar of the Lions, seems to encapsulate it: “Best Available that Fits a Need.”

This strategy can be seen at work in the selections of players like Brandon Pettigrew: Tight End was a need at the time, if not nearly the most pressing one, and Pettigrew a special talent. Pettigrew was derided as a “luxury pick,” but it became apparent that locking down the tight end position with a dynamic two-way player was a luxury the Lions couldn’t have afforded to pass up.

We see BATFAN at work in the selection of Titus Young; he perfectly fit a need we were barely aware the Lions had. Was he the “best available player”? It didn’t seem so at the time, but quick flip through the players drafted after him reveals many walked into camp as starters and ended the season on the bench. Few made the impact Young did, or have as clear of a long-term future.

But with the Lions’ draft slot lower, and roster better-stocked, than it’s been since I was but a fanling, BATFAN is being twisted around to mean “whoever I like the best.”

Who are the best prospects that could fall to the Lions’ spot at 1.23? What are the Lions’ “needs”? These are murky concepts. Martin Mayhew said last week there are “about 4-7” prospects the Lions would feel ‘very comfortable’ taking there. When I heard that, I knew the one thing the Lions absolutely should not do: draft a player at 1.23.

Let’s look over our (as yet incomplete) Old Mother Hubbard needs list, sorted in my own opinion of most-pressing to least-pressing:

  • Dominic Raiola's heir at starting OC, possibly backing up or pushing starters at OG.
  • A CB who can immediately contribute in nickel and dime packages, and push to start in 2013.
  • Jeff Backus' heir at starting LT, possibly pushing Gosder Cherilus at RT.
  • A pass-rushing DE to compete with Cliff Avril, Lawrence Jackson, and Willie Young for a long-term starter's role.
  • An OLB who can stop the run and cover the pass, ready to start in 2013.
  • A S who can rotate/compete with Amari Spievey.
  • A developmental TE.

Note that I haven't completed the RB, WR, or QB OMHs yet. Something like "Home-run threat RB to compete with Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure, and Kevin Smith" will likely be added, as will "Boom-or-bust developmental quarterback."

This puts our list of positions that have a need at: QB, RB, TE, OT, OG/C, DE, OLB, CB and S . . . basically, the whole team. Outside of QB and probably TE, the Lions could justify spending a late first-round pick on almost any position on the roster—yet, don't NEED to spend a first-round pick anywhere on the roster.

If the Lions get on the clock at 1.23, and have seven players they’d be equally happy with, they must trade down. They’d ideally slide down six slots, add a pick or move up in another round, while still nabbing one of the players they’d have been “very comfortable” taking at their original position.

That sounds great, but the window of opportunity a late-first-round rookie has to contribute to this team is small. Nickel corner, situational runner or situational pass rusher . . . that's about it. If the Lions stand pat at 1.23, it's likely they'll be drafting a developmental player who'll help the team in very specific, limited ways—much like Young’s role last season.

BATFAN, by definition, is a passive strategy. It’s one thing to take the “best available player” when you’re drafting 2nd, or 13th. You can let the draft board come to you. But at the 23rd pick, how other teams draft has a huge say in who the Lions will end up with. If the Lions are going to get a player that has a major impact on how many games the Lions win this year, they must trade up.

Don’t be scared. As I wrote for Bleacher Report, Trading Up is the New Trading Down. Don’t forget, the Lions traded up from the second round into the first for Jahvid Best in 2010—then in 2011, traded up from the third into the second to get Mikel Leshoure. In both cases, the Lions saw a player of great value, the last of a tier, sitting high atop the remaining prospects on their draft board. In both cases, they saw the value of getting an impact player at a position of need, and went and got them.

For years, the going thought has been that the Lions should add value by adding draft picks; by trading down and fleshing out the middle of the roster they’ll get better. But now the strategy must change. It’s no longer about accepting the best of what falls to them, because their needs are so vast almost anything will do. It’s about getting the best possible player to fill their very specific needs.

The Lions cannot risk being left with no immediate-impact prospects, not unless they’ve been compensated for a slide down the draft board. They must aggressively target the player they believe will help them win the most games in 2012, and go get him.


Angus Osborne,  April 23, 2012 at 5:50 PM  

"They must trade up" is excessively emphatic in my humble opinion. I would be surprised if the Lions Brains Trust were as sure.

The Draft is a fascinating game of its own. I read somewhere (it might have been here) that they run mock drafts that establish scenarios for planning purposes. Picking lower in the draft, the number of possible scenarios to predict who will be available at pick 23, or what trades could be made with that pick, would be huge. Personally I have no idea what will happen.

I'd love to be in the secret basement where the board is constructed to see how it really works. I'm curious about how the balance of research and instinct. Do the prospects get converted into numbers and those numbers matched up with picks to assign value? How heated are the debates? What qualities are really important to the Lions?

Jimmerz,  April 23, 2012 at 6:39 PM  

Funny, when I saw the headline I thought, "Hey, finally a post from TLiW that I actually agree with." But I should have was to trade UP. I couldn't disagree more. If anything, they should trade DOWN and stockpile as many 2nd/3rd round picks as possible. After the top 6 players, the depth in this year's draft might be better than it's ever been. Picking 7th you have just about as good a chance of getting an immediate impact guy as picking 30th.

And you bring up Best & Leshoure. And why not throw Kevin Jones in there as well. To that, I have one question - how'd that work out for them?

Anonymous,  April 23, 2012 at 9:04 PM  

Yeah, and I bet the Lions feel that way as well. Probably because Mayhew (who's about to already be inducted into the Detroit Sports Hall-of-Fame for drafting well inside the top 2) just doesn't trade down and wouldn't know what to do with the extra 3rd or 4th round picks anyway.

Trade up for Leshoure. Trade up for Best. Tried to give (practically) the whole draft to AZ for Peterson? See a pattern...?

I'm really starting to wonder about the Lion's drafting prowess under Mayhew. Seriously, take out Stafford and Suh, are you really all that impressed? No other NFL teams wanted Levy or Hill, so stop thinking they're all that special. Delmas? Let's see, but I can't say that he's really a "value" at 33.

Ben,  April 23, 2012 at 10:02 PM  

This whole article assumes there will either be none of the "4 to 7" prospects they want left at 23 or lots, which is an assumption I can't see a good reason to make.

Flamekeeper_Ty,  April 23, 2012 at 11:42 PM  

Actually, the big assumption here is that the Lions are prioritizing coming away from this draft with an instant-impact player. From participating in several mock drafts, I'm finding the "4 to 7" are going to be a mix of talented players with big question marks, and solid players who won't have a starting spot to slide into.


Flamekeeper_Ty,  April 23, 2012 at 11:47 PM  

Ah, Jimmerz, I greatly appreciate you sticking with me even when you don't agree.

If you read carefully, you'll see I think trading down is just as valid as trading up . . . but I don't think the Lions come away with an immediate-impact player if they trade down.

The only hope for that would be a safety or a corner, and I'm not sure any of the options available in the very late first/early second are instant upgrades over Spievey/Berry.


Flamekeeper_Ty,  April 23, 2012 at 11:52 PM  

In my opinion, if the Lions want an instant-impact player, they'll need to move up. Unless their favorite of Jenkins/Kirkpatrick falls to them, the rest of the prospects will have, at best, to win an odds-against-them camp competition to get any significant reps.


Jimmerz,  April 24, 2012 at 12:16 AM  

It's all good Ty. I like your writing, even when I don't agree with your opinions (which is often). I think one of Gilmore, Kirkpatrick or Jenkins will be there at 23. Jenkins likely, but will be interesting to see if they would risk it.

Rob Stoker,  April 24, 2012 at 8:38 AM  

I would prefer the Lions trade back. I fully agree that a starting-calibre impact player will probably not be there 23 and that to aggressively target say SS Barron or CB Gilmore (though I'm not that high on him) would make sense for the 2012 season. I am all about the dynasty; and for me the best way to do this is to develop talent. I'd rather the Lions come away with 3 or 4 Hill's or Young's (either one) instead of one star. Maybe this doesn't help so much next season but will pay it's way over the next 5 years

Eric,  April 24, 2012 at 10:34 AM  

The Lions are I'm a rough spot at 1.23. What I believe Ty is trying to say, which I strongly agree with, is that at the 1.23 position, they are right at the cusp of likely losing out on all of the real strong selections that fill areas of need. Barron, Gilmore, Kirkpatrick will all likely be gone. Btw, Jenkins is a 2-3 round pick. He absolutely won't be considered at 1.23. The Lions need to get pretty lucky to have a clear cut BPA falling to 23. Fairley falling to 13 is a situation that we will not see at 23. Early in the draft, teams lock in on guys creating falls for guys like Fairley. Those guys will come off the board between 13-23 this year. If we don't trade up for Kirkpatrick, who is the ultimate prize in Mayhew's eyes, the Lions will likely not see a guy at 23 that will make them sprint to the podium. If this is the case, this draft class simply offers way way way too much value in the 2-3 rounds to not trade down from 1.23 to take advantage of those rounds more than two times. Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is what ate is saying. And he is absolutely correct.

Dennis Schwartz,  April 24, 2012 at 12:14 PM  

I understand that there is a need for a CB, but I just do not see the value in drafting one in the first round unless you are dead set that you are getting Revis. I can understand the steps they took to try and acquire Patrick Peterson last year, but even I would hesitate to pull the trigger on that one.

The league does not allow CBs the ability to impact a game as they used to and the attrition rate, especially for the Lions, makes me even more certain that selecting CBs high is not a good use of the pick.

I am more inclined to think that a front seven selection is in the cards; however I do agree that trading down is a better option for them this time.

Stamandron,  April 24, 2012 at 12:48 PM  

Hey Ty,

Remember, someone who is highly ranked by the experts inevitably falls. Aaron Rodgers, d'Quan Bowers, Brady Quinn and even Nick Fairley all fall into that category. I'm just hoping that Gilmore or Kirkpatrick are the victim of such a fall this year.


Angus Osborne,  April 25, 2012 at 2:00 AM  

Greg Coseel has Jenkins as the best corner in the draft.

Angus Osborne,  April 25, 2012 at 2:09 AM  

Sorry that's not correct: Greg Cosell has Jenkins as the 5th best player in the draft, but 2nd corner after Gilmore.

Jimmerz,  April 25, 2012 at 1:29 PM  

Well, that's how he has them being drafted in his mock draft, but not necessarily how he ranks them. For example he has Richardson going 4th overall, but he's his highest rated player. But yes, he does have Gilmore as the best CB.

Ronald Van Roekel,  April 25, 2012 at 9:10 PM  

Do love your acticles and agree on the BATFAN terminology. Since Josh kind of stop blogging, I stopped reading for the most part since the season ended. It is draft time again, so I am zoned in again. My input in the past as been limited but fairly accurate, like Gosselin accurate, in the past.

Here is my take going into the draft from the Lion's point of view. First it has to fit what they are trying to do. Second is after thier skill and versatility, what did they mean to the team, like were they a captain for them. Then it comes down is if they can make our team. As we saw last year there was a debate on a corner for the Neb., so Meyhey went outside the circle to talk to Deion Sanders, which turned out to be a great move. My first take from it is to not take a DB with short arms. Next is if you want difference makers, then why draft otherwise.

I do not see a secondary person that will be available when it comes to the 1.23 pick. So my guess in that pick is RB Doug Martin, with the second choice being OL Cordy Glenn.

My take on our greatest need in the secondary is a safety, thou there may not be one that grades out for the second round. The next priority is finding an outside guy to compete with Aaron Berry and provide depth. With a dinged up nickle/dime person, we could still play a 4-3 defense. It is rough plugging a nickle on the outside. And I have no confidence in Smith for I believe he may be partying (drinking) too much the night before games. So we may need to move up to grab Josh Robinson or take the nickle in Brandon Boykin.

This draft does not provide too many options for the ideal players we need at OLB or S, so my guess is we go for OLBs Nigel Bradham, Bruce Irvin, or safety Trent Richardson.

The fourth round is anyones guess. In the third round a couple years ago I had us picking up Sammie Lee Hill, with the stipulation that there was no trades.

If we drafted a RB, CB, and S, by now, then they go for an OL. Unfortunately I just dont see one here. In fact I see very little value at the end of the fourth round for any player that fits our needs, so I am going with WR Greg Childs or perhaps C David Molk (not or profile type but good value). David Molk fits the Dominic Riola mold in being undersized, smart, and a great motor to over perform for the talents he has.

I just dont see the depth, or talent, in this years draft to find good prospects after the third/fourth round talent is taken. There maybe a QB, RB, or S still, but I dont see it.

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