Friday, April 25, 2008

Almost Time For the NFL Draft

This is perhaps my favorite weekend of the year (and we'll ignore for the moment the Detroit Pistons trying to ruin it by sleepwalking through Philadelphia -- Like the Tigers 0-7 start, I'm not upset or panicked because I just can't see the Pistons losing to Philadelphia in the long run, but if they play like they did Friday night, it'll be over, and not in a good way, by this time next week. Okay, speech over.) The NFL Draft, and even though the format has been tweaked a bit (Rounds 1 and 2 start 3:00 Saturday, Rounds 3-7 start bright and early at 10:00 Sunday) and the Detroit Lions, for once, aren't drafting in the Top 10, it's still veyr exciting.

And very nerve-wracking at the same time. This time last year, the debate was whether the Lions would stay where they were and take Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson (or even perhaps offensive lineman Joe Thomas) or trade down and take defensive end Gaines Adams or linebacker Patrick Willis. My top choice, at the time, was to trade down and take Willis who was a monster of a linebacker coming out of college. The Lions chose not to do that, Johnson was injured most of his rookie year with a back problem, and Willis won Defensive Rookie of the Year and was everything people thought he was and more. And linebacker continued to be a glaring need for the Lions.

Which is why the Lions can't make the same mistake again. If Keith Rivers or Jared Mayo are still on the board when the Lions draft at 15, unless Florida defensive end Derrick Harvey is too, you can't pass either one of those two players up. Yes, the Lions need help on the offensive line and a running back would be a sexier pick, but I'm so tired of the Lions drafting offensive skill players in the first round. I don't think it's a coincidence that Matt Millen's only successful first round draft pick (okay - Maybe Roy Williams should count as "successful") was a defensive standout, linebacker Ernie Sims. Paring Sims with either Rivers or Mayo would put bite into a Lions defense which really needs the help right now.

And thus we get to why I'm worried. While the Lions top choice, the aforementioned Derrick Harvey, is almost certain to be gone, and Rivers is too, Mayo seemed like a sure bet for the Lions at 15. Plus, because he's the better middle linebacker prospect, which is a more valuable position in the "Tampa 2" he may even fit the Lions scheme better. But, in recent days, as some players tend to do, Mayo has shot up the draft boards, and some have him now going in the Top 10 picks. It's very possible that Harvey, Rivers, and Mayo will all be gone by the time the Lions pick. And it's not like taking one of the better offensive lineman in the draft would be all bad (we do need a right tackle) or a running back (otherwise, as it stands now, Tatum Bell will be our starter, which doesn't inspire a lot of confidence) but we need such help on defense, it's imperative that Harvey, Rivers, or Mayo slide to 15 or the Lions consider trading up. To get Harvey, we'd only have to jump up 3 or 4 spots (he's likely going to Carolina at 13, two picks ahead of us) so maybe we can trade the third round pick we got in the Shaun Rogers trade, and slide up a few picks.

In the first three rounds, the Lions have four picks, and I would select Linebacker, Defensive End, Running Back, and Offensive Tackle, in that order. And if any other position is drafted in the first four picks, even cornerback, it's a mistake. LB, DE, RB, OT. Those positions have to be filled and have to be filled with players who can play.

Will the Lions do it, or will they take another wide receiver? In just over twelve hours we'll find out.

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