Thursday, April 27, 2006

And the Lions select...

Well, it's the Lions Super Bowl season, that time of every year when Detroit fans have the honor of learning who the latest franchise savior will be. And of course, the Lions will find a way to break their spirit, crush them, and turn them into the exact opposite of the player they were in college. We've all seen it happen far too many times. But hope springs eternal, and the NFL draft is upon us, so what the heck, here goes nothing...

The Lions get to pick 9th as of right now. I say it this way because for some reason I think this year - more than any other - that they will get to trade down. The board just looks ripe for that to happen. The fact that Arizona picks 10th, and that Cleveland at 12, Baltimore at 13, and possibly Denver at 15, Minnesota at 18 and Dallas at 19 are all in the market for a QB sets it up. In all likelihood, there will be 2 of the top 3 QB's off the board when the Lions pick, and with Arizona in the market for a QB at 10, any of the teams below them I mentioned might be willing to move up. If all 3 QB's are gone, it likely leaves a few other highly coveted players still available that again teams might be willing to trade up for. In all, it puts the Lions in a great spot to make a move.

If they do actually make the pick at 9, there are a few certainties. They will not take a WR this year. I guarantee it. Of course Millen could prove me completely wrong and do exactly that, but that won't happen now... will it? Of the other possible players available around that spot, there are a few I don't like, and a few I like. I don't like the idea of the Lions taking a QB - any of them. Besides having 4 on the roster (5 if you still count Joey), none of these guys really excites me. None are ready to step in and start, and each has some serious flaws in their game. Young is still too raw, Leinart doesn't have a strong arm, and Cutler has never won anything. Don't give me the 'Cutler was the only weapon Vandy had' stuff either - can you say Jim Druckenmiller? He was the last QB that comes to mind from a big-time conference that never won anything and was picked in the first round. Ouch. Also, dont' forget that Mike McMahon never won anything and was supposedly the 'only weapon Rutgers had'. Not a ringing endorsement for not winning games in college, is it?

I'm also not in love with the latest 'sexy' picks, Broderick Bunkley and Ernie Sims, both from Florida State. It has something to do with 'how can a school have that many top players and not win every game?' Something about them just makes me want to take a pass on them. I'd also pass on Vernon Davis. I'll put it this way - how many times had anyone heard his name while he was actually playing? If you can claim you heard it more than once, I'll call you either a college football FREAK or a liar. I hate raising players up simply because of workout numbers, which fits Davis to a tee. Based on Rod's continual references to looking 'at the tape', I'd guess he's looking at a few of these guys and saying 'great workouts, where's the game film?' I'd also pass on Jimmy Williams - there's just something that I don't like about him. Not sure what it is, but I just have a bad feeling about him.

OK, so with that out of the way, there are players that of course the Lions would salivate if they fell into their lap. Of course nearly every mock in the civilized world has Reggie Bush going #1, but if he were there at 9, he'd be a Lion. There's only a 0.000001% chance that happens though. Of the other guys expected to be gone when the Lions pick, I'd take them in this order: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, Mario Williams, A.J. Hawk. Some sites think it's 50-50 that Hawk is there when the Lions pick, I think it's 99% likely he is gone.

And that leaves... Michael Huff. He would be a great fit here in Detroit, and like everyone else, I think he'll be the Lions pick. A playmaking safety who I've heard compared to Ronnie Lott is always a good thing. He's versatile enough to play corner or safety, and he'd be an instant starter. Not a bad pick to make at that spot in the draft.

The problem comes in if he's gone when the Lions pick. There are a number of situations where that could happen, but most of them present other opportunities. Most boards have Bush, Ferguson, Williams, Davis, Hawk, and Leinart all off the board. If any of these guys falls and is there when the Lions pick, the phone will be ringing off the hook. Of course I'd only let Leinart or Davis get traded for, the other's I'd keep.

The other two players most often mentioned as being gone when the Lions pick are Vince Young and Haloti Ngata. Ngata is most likely to fall out of that list and be replaced, but a lot of people have him being replaced by Bunkley or Sims - not Huff. If Huff is taken and not one of those three, it's about the worst possible situation IMHO for the Lions. While I wouldn't mind Winston Justice or Ngata at 9, either of them could be available at 15. And it only leaves Cutler as a player someone else would be willing to trade up to get. It cuts the market for trades. It's still possible with all the QB hungry teams below them, but just not as many trade possibilities.

If Young is still there, the market for trades is wide open. As I mentioned earlier there are a lot of teams that would likely be willing to leapfrog Arizona to get a QB, and if Vince is still on the board, the offers will only get greater. I'd hate to lose Huff in trading down, but the ability to pick up another pick is always a good one. If Huff is gone and Young is there, it's an easy decision to trade down.

The other possibility is that Young and Cutler are also both OFF the board when the Lions pick. Of course if that happens, and Huff is also gone, then someone else has slipped. As I mentioned earlier, if that player is Ferguson, Williams or Hawk, I'd take them and never look back. It won't be Bush. If it's Davis or Leinart, There are still trade opportunities as a lot of teams covet them. All in all, the Lions are in a really good spot to get either a player that they really want, or make a trade back for more picks.

If they do trade back, everything will depend on how far back, and who is still around. A few players I like later in the first round are Winston Justice, Haloti Ngata, Chad Greenway, Bobby Carpenter, and Tamba Hali. I can't predict anything as I have no way to know where the Lions would drop to. Of course Millen has a habit of trading up from the second to get into the late first or early second as well, and any of those guys, should they be available in the late first round, along with Marcus McNeil would warrant a trade up. If they stay where they're scheduled to pick in the second, I'd like to see Abdul Hodge or Max Jean-Giles as the pick. Both of them would fill a need and would be solid players. In the third, there should be a few good OT's left, and possibly a safety like Darnell Bing of USC if they didn't get Huff. Beyond the third, who knows - I'd be happy getting a special-teamer from the later rounds.

So, there you have it, my Lions draft strategy. Of course come Monday, we'll all be discussing how the Lions took Santonio Holmes and how he fits in, but this is still pre-draft, so here's to hoping Millen doesn't take another WR...

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