Showing posts with label russell okung. Show all posts
Showing posts with label russell okung. Show all posts

Old Mother Hubbard: Going Shopping at the 2010 NFL Draft

>> 4.22.2010


twenty-odd years later I still know EXACTLY what this kid was supposed to get


We have the Lions' 2010 draft shopping list:

  • A developmental quarterback who could push Stanton in camp.
  • A starting, three-down power runningback with speed.
  • A developmental power-blocking fullback, to complement Jerome Felton.
  • A left tackle, who could be groomed to replace Jeff Backus.
  • A power-blocking center, to be groomed behind Raiola.
  • A starting, disruptive pass-rushing DT to rotate w/Williams & Hill.
  • A starting, three-down, two-way defensive end, a la Kyle Vanden Bosch.
  • A developmental middle linebacker.
  • A starting, athletic, blitzing outside linebacker, a la Julian Peterson.
  • At least one starting cornerback.
  • A starting safety, who’s very strong in pass coverage.

So, let's go shopping.  With each pick, I’ll give you the players who could fill the above needs, and then rank ‘em as I feel the Lions have them ranked, based wholly on my own ill-informed opinion.


Round 1, Pick 2 (#2 overall): Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska DT

2. Eric Berry, Tennesee S

3. Gerald McCoy, Oklahoma DT

4. Bryan Bulaga, Iowa LT

5. Russell Okung, Oklahoma State LT

I've been banging the Suh drum for quite a while, though not as long as some.  The fact of the matter is, he's the best overall prospect in the draft, and--just like Calvin Johnson a few years ago, the Lions are going to be in position to get the best player in the draft, because the #1 overall team will take a quarterback.  Don't stress if the Rams, as rumored, trade down--nobody's going to give up the necessary king's ransom to move up to 1.1, just so they can turn around and hand a defensive tackle eighty million dollars.  Even if, through some ridiculous machinations, Suh goes #1 overall, the Lions will hold all the cards to trade down.  So don't stress.

Berry, I'm not sold on.  I haven't watched much of his play, but have heard rumblings from those who have that he's still more "jawdropping potential" than "actually a phenomenal safety".  Besides, building the defense around two athletic, playmaking, gambling, hitting safeties seems like putting the cart before the horse, especially given the salaries involved.  But, a not-insignificant school of thought holds that Berry is the best player in this draft, or the second-best behind Suh, and he inarguably fills a need on the shopping list.  Ergo, I place him at 2, over my own objections.

McCoy, I still don't think is the right fit for the scheme--but Schwartz has said there isn't as much separation between Suh and McCoy as everyone thinks, and these two are clearly the two best non-QB prospects in the draft.

Okung, everyone knows my feelings about.  When Mayhew was asked if Okung was clearly the best tackle in the draft, Mayhew said he thought there were "two best tackles in the draft," and refused to elaborate. Some have speculated the Lions would prefer Trent Williams, but from what I've read, Williams is a little stiff in pass protection, and needs a lot of technique work.  No, I think the more complete LT is Bryan Bulaga.  I know he's not the elite ƜBERTAKKEL that everyone has been screaming for since Lomas Brown, but to be brutally, brutally honest, folks, I think the Lions would be happy to Jeff Backus with Next Jeff Backus.

Round 2, Pick 2 (#34 overall): Ryan Mathews, Fresno State RB

2a. Kareem Jackson, Alabama CB, 2b Devin McCourty, Rutgers CB

3. Jahvid Best, California RB

4. Everson Griffen, USC DE

5. Roger Saffold, Indiana OG/OT

While most have the Lions ready to take Jahvid Best if he's there, Mathews is the "power back with speed" the Lions truly covet, not the "speed back" that Best is. I Tweeted Sports Illustrated's Peter King about this, and he said the Lions brass would "do handsprings" if Mathews was there for them at 34.

Kareem Jackson didn't get the attention that his partner, Javier Arenas, did--but Jackson is the much more NFL-ready prospect, even if he isn't quite as head-turning of an athlete.  He's a much headier, smarter, more polished cornerback--exactly the kind of Jackson, like Mathews, is about a 50/50 shot to be there for the Lions--essentially, if the Chargers take Mathews, Jackson should fall, and if the Chargers take Jackson or Rutgers CB Devin McCourty, Mathews should fall.

In the unfortunate scenario where Mathews, Jackson, and McCourty are all gone, it's hard to count out Jahvid Best.  Best was an absolutely lethal tailback before his frightening neck injury; Scott Linehan's word "eraser" almost doesn't do him justice.  Personally, I still question his size, and between-the-tackles mojo.  I have a sneaking suspicion that the Lions aren't as high on Best as everyone thinks. That leads me to my next possibility . . .

Everson Griffen is cut right from the Schwartzian cloth: 6'-3", 273, technique, speed, great against the run and a gifted pass rusher.  The only reason I hold back my prediction on him--the fourth(ish) option instead of the first or second--is that I don't think he possesses the high-motor, high-IQ psychological profile that Schwartz and Cunningham love.  But it's undeniable that he, physically, is a perfect fit.

Roger Saffold is a very versatile guard, who's frame and skill set remind some of Branden Albert, the famed one-that-got-away-when-we-passed-on-him-and-got-Gosder-Cherilus-instead-even-though-Albert-hasn't-been-very-good-at-LT LT. Saffold would fill the swing guard/tackle role that Daniel Loper vacated, and might push Jon Jansen out the door.

Round 3, Pick 2 (#66 overall): Corey Wootton, Northwestern DE

2. Chris Cook, Virginia CB, 2b Brandon Ghee, Wake Forest CB

3. Ricky Sapp, Clemson LB

4. Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana CB

5. John Jerry, Mississippi OG

This pick is going to turn some heads, but everything I read about Corey Wootton just SCREAMS Jim Schwartz.  He’s extremely smart, very driven, extremely high motor, perfectly framed at 6’-6”, 270, has first-round tools but fell due to an injury that hampered his senior year, a true three-down, two-way monster.  The troubling thing is that the Lions would be turning down a step-in-and-start cornerback, and they need at least one, but remember what I said?  There are too many needs.  They’re not going to fill all the needs, they’re going to take the best player on their board.

#2 is kind of wishful thinking; most mocks I've seen have Cook going in the low second. But, his combination of physicality and football IQ are in the Schwartz mold, and his excellent size (6'-2") and speed (4.46) should help him make up for his lack of polished technique. He can also flex between corner and safety, so the Lions can use him as needed—and really, they need two of him!  Ghee is a guy who could go anywhere from the late first to the mid-third, from what I’ve seen, but he’s also fast and loves to hit.

I've been trying and trying to figure out who Gunther's "nobody else thinks I can do what I think this guy can do" linebacker is, and I think I have it narrowed down to two: Clemson LB Ricky Sapp, and Washington's Donald Butler. Either would have the blend of size, speed and high-impact tackling that the Lions want. I'll put Sapp here . . .

Awkasi Owusu is the consolation prize if neither Cook or Ghee fall.  Another big (6’-0”, 207), fast (4.47) CB/S flex guy, Owusu has excellent ball skills—and is a great returner, both on special teams and after the interception.  He’s a D2 guy, so he’ll need some time to develop. but as with Sammie Hill, the Lions aren’t afraid to take the guy from the small school.

Okay, Google disabled my account again, and I've run out of time. No round four, but keep an eye out for Donald Butler, Washington LB, Awkasi Owusu-Ansah, Indiana CB, Ciron Black LSU OT/OG, Mitch Petrus, Arkansas OG/OC, and John Connor, Kentucky FB.

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2010 NFL Draft enters the “Silly Season”

>> 4.12.2010

Graham Chapman as Colonel: 'Haynesworth to the Lions?  Too silly!'

Stop that! It's too silly.

Last Thursday marked the the endpoint of sanity in the NFL League Year, and the beginning of what Tom Kowalski calls “The Silly Season”.  Every NFL team employee either shuts their mouth tightly, or begins speaking out of both sides of it.  From now until April 26th, every statement a GM or Head Coach makes is at best a half-truth; at worse a vile lie.  You will encounter increasingly ridiculous trade chatter, mock drafts, hot rumors, late risers, and falling stocks, culminating in a fever pitch of ridiculous scenarios where black is white, up is down, and the Lions are locked on to Dez Bryant.

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.

. . . and on and on, throughout the rest of the first round.  There might be some tweaks—Washington could take a quarterback for the future, the Seahawks are probably hoping Trent Williams falls, etc.—but essentially, what most reasonable people think is the ‘standard take’ is what’s most likely to happen.  If you want to see a great example of what this two-weeks-out snapshot is, look at the beat writer mock draft that Sam Farmer of the L.A. Times put together.

Note: I am not talking about what each team’s fans want to have happen, I’m talking about the national football hivemind.  As an example, the national media wrote “Matthew Stafford” next to the Lions’ name, in ink, in January 2009.  All of us Lions fans spent five months ranting and raving and frothing at the mouth about Andre Smith, Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe, Aaron Curry, and everyone’s favorite player, ‘Trade Down’—but the national groupthink was right the whole time.

The Lions have already had a spate of the “silliness”.  As if on cue, word began to break on Thursday that Albert Haynesworth was interested in coming to Detroit—and according to Michael Schottey and several others, the interest was mutual.  Amist talk of the Redskins sending the 1.4 and Haynesworth to Detroit for the 1.2, I gleefully speculated that the Lions would then trade again with the Seahawks, in a spectacular double-move.  The Redskins would get Suh, the Seahawks would get Okung, and the Lions would get to pick from  Spiller, Haden, Williams, Morgan, or Bulaga—plus pick up some mid-round selections!  Everybody wins!

Though Neil from Armchair Linebacker's . . . eyes . . . engorged at the thought of Mayhew pulling it off, it's purest fantasy.  When was the last time a team moved down out of the top five, then again out of the pick they acquired?  Don’t say “last year”; the Browns don’t count.  Seriously, though: while the possibility of a double move is nonzero, there are way too many moving parts for me to consider this scenario likely.

For starters, the Redskins would be giving up on a pass-rushing 4-3 DT with a huge contract, why would they then take Suh, and get another one?  They’d more likely take Okung—but then, if the Lions are taking Suh, and the Bucs are sitting on McCoy, the ‘Skins don’t need to move up.  Even if we suppose that they’re just that desperate to get rid of Fat Albert, I’d think the Lions would be more interested in simply trading with Seattle, and getting a better pick package out of them, than taking on Haynesworth’s deal in addition to the 1.6 contract.

This feeds into my latest theory: with Bradford a clear-cut #1 overall, and Jimmy Clausen failing to push his stock up to match, the Lions are trying to get people to believe that they’re going to draft Russell Okung.  Just as Mayhew spent the two weeks prior to the draft trying to create leverage by negotiating a deal with Aaron Curry, I believe Mayhew is going to spend the days up to this draft convincing the hivemind that he’s going to take the best LT on the board off the board.

If Okung is gone, Washington will have to settle for Willams or Bulaga. If Okung and Williams are gone, Kansas City might go Berry—or, they might take Bulaga, and leave no tackles for Seattle.  Further, Seattle would vastly prefer the athletic  Williams to the powerful Bulaga—they’re implementing the zone blocking system, remember?—so if the Lions take Okung, they’ll likely lose out on their man either way.

Of course, the Lions might really be interested in taking Okung.  They might really be completely put off by spending $70M on a defensive tackle, regardless of how awesome he is or how desperately they might need him.  They might really be willing to elevate money over need, to take a lesser prospect who offers better positional “value”, and to pass on a smart, hardworking, once-in-five-years talent at the position around which Schwartz has built his defense and his reputation . . .

But that would be silly.


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Rob Sims to the Lions, Martin Mayhew for the Win

>> 4.06.2010

Rob Sims Detroit Lions  The Lions have traded a fifth-round pick, plus reserve-roster DE Robert Henderson, to the Seahawks for LG Rob Sims and a seventh-round pick.  The acquisition of Sims, a 26-year-old left guard with three seasons atop the Seahawks’ depth chart, for a fifth-rounder would have qualified as a steal.  Getting a seventh-round pick in return for Henderson, himself a 2008 sixth-rounder who’s never made an active roster, is gravy.

As I wrote last week, the Seahawks were willing to deal Sims so cheaply for two reasons: One, he’s a poor fit for new Seahawks OL coach Alex Gibbs’ zone blocking system; two, he’s a restricted free agent on a one-year tender, who will walk after this season without a long-term deal.

That brings us to the draft.  On first blush, this eliminates Russell Okung as a possibility for the Lions—with well-compensated starters at LT, LG, C, RG, and RT, paying Okung $40,000,000 to either ride the bench, or relegate one of those starters to the bench, makes no sense whatsoever.

However, Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com thinks Martin Mayhew's about to make no sense. Since Sims has signed his RFA tender, by definition a one-year deal, the Lions have nothing invested in him but a fifth-round pick.  If they don’t sign him to a long term extension before the draft, then Okung can sit on the bench for one year, and then force Backus to slide inside for 2011.

Kowalski correctly points out, as I have over the past few months, that the Lions are drafting for the long-term; the 2009 and 2010 draft classes will become the core of the team for 2011 and beyond:

But drafting a player with a #2 overall pick? That’s a massive investment. If the Lions stand pat and draft Okung—or Suh, or Berry, or whoever—then that player must be a cornerstone of the roster for years to come. If the Lions are convinced that one of those players is going to be a perfect fit for the team, on and off the field, with Hall of Fame upside . . . well, they’re going to take him, Chester Pitts be damned.

Now, Sims is not Pitts--he's much younger, just entering his prime.  But if Sims isn’t extended before the draft, then there’s no reason to believe he’s going to be here in 2011, and therefore no reason to believe the Lions won’t draft an offensive tackle.

Still, I think the Lions don’t draft Okung at 1.2.  I don’t think he’s the right type of player for what Scott Linehan wants to do on offense, and I don’t think that the Lions want to spend that much money into three offensive tackles—or really, spend 1.2 money at all.  I think they want to trade back, and take a tackle who’s a better fit, like Oklahoma’s Trent Williams, or Iowa’s Bryan Bulaga.

Not only would one of these players be a better fit for the Lions, but if they were drafted at, say, Seattle's 1.6 spot, they'd cost practically half the price that Okung at 1.2 would.  Seattle, as we know, is desperate to replace aging LT Walter Jones, and could certainly use an upgrade at RT as well.  Seattle’s clearly not afraid to spend money to reshape their franchise in new HC Pete Carroll’s image, and they’re clearly not afraid to make deals with Martin Mayhew and the Lions.


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Suh at Number Two! But, Why Not ________?

>> 3.30.2010

19 September 2009: Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh (93) during the Hokies 16-15 win over the Nebraska Huskers at Worsham Field at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, VA Yesterday, I argued that Lions should take Ndamukong Suh with the #2 overall pick.  The reasons the Lions should take Suh are numerous: he’s a remarkable, once-every-five-drafts talent at the Lions’ greatest position of need, he’s by all accounts a great person, he’ll make everyone around him better, and he could be the catalyst that transforms the Lions’ defense from “terrible but trying hard” to “hardnosed and effective”.
Suh’s physical presence will command double teams, make Sammie Hill’s job easier, allow Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch to beat tackles man-to-man, and make Gunther’s beloved B-gap blitzes much more effective.  Rotating with Hill, Corey Williams, and Landon Cohen, the Lions should be able to keep all four fresh, and present a variety of effective defensive fronts.

All Images: Icon SMI

* But, why not Russell Okung?

Detroit Lions draft Russell OkungThere’s been a clamoring, again, for the Lions to take the best available left tackle—this time, it’s Oklahoma State’s Russell Okung.  Like Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe, Andre Smith, Michael Oher, Joe Thomas, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Alex Barron, and Bryant McKinnie before him, he’s currently getting all the Lions fan love as Any Left Tackle Who Is Not Jeff Backus.
I've said it like sixty-two times, and I’ll say it yet again because it's apt. Russell Okung is everything that Jeff Backus is not: a massively-sized, incredibly agile athlete with the potential to be an elite pass protector.  However, he’s nothing that Jeff Backus is: a tough-as-nails competitor, a savvy veteran, polished in his use of positioning and technique, or an effective run-blocker.

"Yeah," thinks the Lions fan, "but all that stuff is boring and not awesome.  Having a guy who looks, runs and jumps like Shaq at left tackle is awesome!”  Unfortunately for all of the Okung fans, the Lions don’t want to run four-wideout sets fifty snaps a game—they want to run a balanced, traditional offense that can run and pass equally well.  Okung solves a problem, Jeff Backus’ pass protection, that is far from the Lions’ biggest—and he introduces a whole set of weaknesses Jeff Backus doesn’t possess.

Look at this this way: when the Lions were looking at drafting Matthew Stafford, everyone was ranting, raving, crying, and wailing about how the Lions would be making a huge mistake: Stafford was just a big arm and a head of endorsement-worthy hair!  He played too much from the shotgun, didn’t have great TD-to-INT ratios, didn’t “win the big one” like he was supposed to, and he played with first- and second-round talents at RB and WR . . . the objections went on and on and on, with the same underlying theme: he’s a flashy talent who might not excel in the NFL.

Yet somehow, when it comes to left tackles, all Lions fans want is the biggest, flashiest talent in the room.  Shredded upper body, huge vertical leap, blazing 40 time, OMG THE LIONS MUST DRAFT HIM!  Nobody cares if he played almost exclusively in a two-point stance, as Okung did.  Nobody cares if he can run block at all, as Okung rarely had to.  Nobody cares about his technique base, his game film, his consistency, or his work ethic—if he looks like Hercules in an Under Armour singlet, give him forty million dollars!

Unfortunately, all that flashy talent will not translate into "protecting Matthew Stafford", at least not right away.  A guy who’s almost never come out of a three-point stance is going to get beat like a drum as a rookie starter.  He’ll need some time, some coaching, and some seasoning before the Lions will be able to trust him with Matthew Stafford’s health.

Unfortunately, Okung is so trim, agile, and athletic that he wouldn’t be well-suited for playing guard or right tackle—the natural way to season a rookie LT.  Drafting Okung would mean hoping that either Backus or 2008 first-rounder Gosder Cherilus can slide inside and play well, which may or may not be.  Finally, the Lions would then be paying on Backus’ monster 2006 extension, Cherilus’ 2008 first-round contract, and Okung’s sure-to-be-massive #2 overall deal—and at least one of them will be playing out of position.

Look at the transition Jason Smith had to make in 2009: Smith, an athletic two-point LT like Okung, played mostly RT for the Rams in his concussion-shortened rookie season. ProFootballFocus.com graded Smith out as a mediocre-to-decent RT in what time he saw. Impressive for a rookie, yes—but if the Lions got 7 games’ worth of “mediocre rotational RT” out of Rusell Okung in 2010, fans would be despondent!

That all having been said, if the Lions truly believe that Okung, or Trent Williams, is a clear-cut, no-doubt, franchise left tackle, and they also truly believe that either Backus or Cherilus can play guard at a high level, or that both of them will be gone in two years, then they have a very difficult choice to make . . . but they should still take SUH AT NUMBER TWO.

* But, why not Gerald McCoy?

Detroit Lions draft Gerald McCoyMcCoy, like Suh, is an explosive, pass-rushing defensive tackle.  He looks a little faster and more agile than Suh, shows much better leg drive off the snap, and many Mouse-and-Keyboard Scouts say McCoy is a more polished, NFL-ready prospect.  Unfortunately, McCoy simply doesn’t fit what the Lions want to do on defense.

You all remember Cory Redding?  McCoy is what the Lions thought they were getting when they made Redding the highest-paid DT in football.  While the 8-sack season Redding had certainly made an impact, Redding was playing in the attacking, one-gap Tampa 2 system, where stopping the run is the linebackers’ job.  In Schwartz’s system, the DTs have to stop the run—and at 295 pounds, McCoy won’t be able to hold the line.

In fact, McCoy would probably play outside on running downs, filling the Kevin-Carter/rumored-Anthony-Hargrove inside-outside role.  I can’t see spending a #2 overall pick on a rotational ‘tweener like that; I’d rather see the Lions draft Okung, or trade back for Haden/Spiller/Morgan, and then pull the trigger on Hargrove, surrendering the third-round pick.

It's true that McCoy *looks* like a more explosive player.  I watched a little bit of Suh, and agreed with the Keyboard-and-Mouse Scouts: he seemed to play slow and high, standing up off the snap instead of bursting forward.  He’d then use his upper-body strength to throw guards around, shedding blocks after the play develops to make tackles.  That won’t translate well to the NFL; even the Lions’ iffy left guards each go 6’-4”+ and 330+.

However, Suh played a lot of read-and-react at Nebraska.  Often, he wasn’t bursting off the line because his role in the defense was to stand and wait.  Schwartz compared Suh and McCoy's differences, and thinks they're partly due to their college defensive schemes, and not their talents.  Talent, scheme, or otherwise, though, there’s no denying the difference in production: Suh, in his senior season, had 82 tackles and 12 sacksMcCoy, in his junior and senior year combined, had 58 tackles and 12 sacks.

The Lions have been slowly shedding all of these 290-to-300-pound Tampa 2 pass-rushing ‘tweeners since Schwartz took over; I can’t imagine they blow the #2 pick on a really good one, especially if Suh is available.  And, since either Suh will be available, or teams will be calling about Sam Bradford, they won’t.  Tampa Bay will be loitering at #3, waiting for either DT, so essentially, there’s no scenario where McCoy will be a Lion.  SUH AT NUMBER TWO.

* But, why not Eric Berry?

Detroit Lions draft Eric Berry Because that would be super dumb.

I mean, like, duh.

SUH AT NUMBER TWO.


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Trading Spaces: Lions Dealing #2 Overall Pick?

>> 2.23.2010

mayhew1mayhew2

Lions GM Martin Mayhew, with and without wig he wears while performing as his alter ego, bass virtuoso “Victor Wooten”

Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network is reporting that the Lions are already in active discussions with several teams to swap the #2 overall pick.  My reactions to this are varied, intense, and conflicting:

Good luck, fellas.  Given the financial realities of the #2 overall pick, there has to be a team out there that wants to shell out thirty million dollars, guaranteed, to a player that hasn’t taken a snap in the NFL—moreover, they have to be willing to part with a value package that the Lions would accept in order to move down.

I told you so.  As obvious as the connection is between two excellent defensive tackle prospects at the top of the draft, and the Lions’ burning need for defensive line help, the Lions must not be sold on either as a long-term fit for the system.  Both are listed between 290 and 300 pounds, depending on who you believe, and various scouts will tell you various things about their respective potential to get bigger.  The bottom line, though, is this: they may be inside/outside ‘tweeners in this system, and you don’t build your franchise around a ‘tweener.

*&!*^%#$%%#^!&*.  These are two elite DT prospects!  Elite DTs don’t grow on stinking trees!  There are only a handful of top-notch interior disruptors—and with the trend towards the 3-4, they’re in higher demand than ever, either as tackles or ends.  Unless the Lions are moving down only one or two spots, to a team that wants a quarterback, a trade down would mean sayonara to Suh or McCoy.

If not Suh, then who?  I maintain that until the Combine is complete, all talk about specific slots for specific players is moot, especially at the very top of the draft.  Remember, at this time last year many Lions fans were threatening to never watch the team again if they didn’t draft Andre Smith.  A lot is still in flux at this point, and slides up and down a spot or two radically alter the draft board.  Still, there are a few logical targets:

  • Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech DE:
    Morgan is by far the most versatile defensive end in this draft class, but the talent is right there to match it. He has the ideal frame, measurables, technique, and attitude for life in the trenches.
  • Eric Berry, Tennesee S:
    Just about everything about Berry is impressive — and that’s not even including his pure football skills. He was a captain of the Tennessee team and regarded as having great character.
  • Russell Okung, Oklahoma State OT:
    An agile player who moves well on the field. Can get to every angle and the second level. Will not struggle against speed rushers due to his ability to take smart angles.
  • Rolando McClain, Alabama ILB:
    McClain is the most sure-thing as a middle linebacker prospect in the draft since Patrick Willis. He’s a prototypical combination of size, athleticism and intelligence.
  • C.J. Spiller, Clemson RB:
    His talent is undeniable and the fact that he can change a game in so many ways is going to boost his stock even more. On top of his unmatched talent level among running backs in this class, Spiller is a high character, team captain tough guy. He will be an early impact player that could evolve in to the next great dynamic threat out of the backfield.
  • Joe Haden, Florida CB:
    There is no better college cornerback than Haden. He’s come along this season as a complete corner capable of shutting down a side of the field and helping against the run.

Depending on who you listen to, and who of those you listen to you believe, the Lions could be in the mix for any of these players at any of the positions between 1.2 and 1.10.  Martin Mayhew even codified something I’d been saying for weeks: the Lions are in the market for any position in any round, except for quarterback.  That brings me to my final take:

Yeah, right.  This is Martin Mayhew and the Lions we’re talking about.  At this time last year, Tom Kowalski was running into the “unprecedented information lockdown” at Allen Park.  Today, Jason LaCanfora of NFL.com comes out of nowhere with a report that the Lions are actively shopping the 1.2—scooping all the local media?  With this tagline?

Some teams have interest in Lions LB Ernie Sims as well, according to league sources, but the prospect of him being included in any deal along with the second overall pick seems bleak now because Detroit values him as a building block on defense.

The Lions are beating off potential Ernie Sims trade partners with a stick, because they can’t afford to let him go?  Forgive me, but—yeah, right.  This blogger took quite a bit of heat for suggesting last month that the Lions need to get what they can for Sims, since he’s likely a spare part after 2010 . . .

Therefore, I’m calling this a calculated gambit; the Lions leveraging the media to generate their own circumstances.  They’re leaking that many teams want to trade up to 1.2, and they’d be willing to settle for three or four pieces of value in exchange to sit in their catbird seat.  They’re also leaking that while many teams are calling about Sims, teams had better be willing to bring value, because he’s a valuable piece of their future.

Am I right?  Is this a PR conceit, a great scoop by LaCanfora, or something in the middle?  As Kowalski noted, it almost doesn’t matter; the Lions are in a strong position whether they stand pat or move down.  Still, Mayhew is all about maximizing his leverage—and by design or by accident, the games have already begun. 

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