Dispatches from the Creation Wars

NFL Draft 2007

The NFL draft is the only good day of the year for a Detroit Lions fan. It’s the one day when we manage to delude ourselves in to thinking that the Lions have a shot at a winning record before we shuffle off this mortal coil. So I paid some attention to the draft this year and have a few thoughts on it. With the #2 pick, the Lions took wide receiver Calvin Johnson. I know Millen will take a lot of heat for taking another wide receiver in the first round, but I think it was the right move. I just don’t see how you can pass up a guy like that.

Yes, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams were busts and they wasted high draft picks on them. So does that mean that if you’ve taken two running backs that didn’t work out in the last 3 years and Barry Sanders is available, you don’t take him? Calvin Johnson is as highly rated as any player in the draft at any position in years. 6’5, 235 pounds with 4.35 speed and a 42 inch vertical, plus huge hands and a great work ethic? Yeah, sign me up. You just don’t pass up a player like this.

Unfortunately, that was the last really good move they made. They had 3 second round picks, and while I think Drew Stanton may develop into a very good NFL quarterback, I think they could have gotten him with a later pick in the same round, or gotten a comparable player at least. By taking Stanton early in the second round they passed up players they needed more, including Lamar Woodley and David Harris. They need a pass rushing defensive end and a run-stopping inside linebacker and they should have used the 1st pick of the second round to get one of those two, or perhaps even defensive back Eric Wright.

Their other two second round picks don’t do much for me. Ikaika Alma-Francis, a defensive end from Hawaii. has the potential for being a very good pass rusher, but having not played high school football he’s a long term project. And safety Gerald Alexander projects as a backup safety, not exactly an important position. They could have gotten a player with similar skills in the 4th or 5th round; second round picks should be expected to be solid starters. I don’t know what the point is of getting two extra 2nd round picks and then using them on 3rd or 4th round caliber players.

Will the Lions be better next year? Yes. Not good, but better. I expect 6 or 7 wins. But if nothing else, they’re gonna be fun to watch. Mike Martz gets to unleash his passing attack with Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams on opposite sides of the field. There are defensive coordinators in the NFL that are soiling their shorts right now trying to figure out how to stop that combination. Two receivers, both 6’4 or bigger, both with 4.4 speed or better, both great leapers who can make the difficult catch. 6’1 corners have no chance against them and you can’t double team both of them. The Lions are gonna lose a lot of 45-38 games next year.

The Patriots came out of the weekend looking very strong. The trade for Randy Moss was brilliant. Look for Moss to be motivated to play in New England, and when he’s motivated there are few that can come close. Moss and Dante Stallworth on the field at the same time with Tom Brady throwing to them and Lawrence Maroney keeping the linebackers and safeties honest? That offense is scary. And they improved their defense significantly in the draft. They are immediately the Super Bowl favorite. Yes, the Chargers are every bit as talented but if you’ve got to choose between Bill Belichek and Norv Turner to win an AFC championship game….well, that’s just a no brainer.

Which brings up an obvious question: just how bad does a coach have to be before they stop being hired? Norv Turner has been abysmal as a head coach in Washington and Oakland, but he still got a third shot. Cam Cameron has only been a head coach one, in college, and he stunk up the joint at Indiana. And Cameron pulled off the single dumbest move of the draft, passing up Brady Quinn to draft an undersized wide receiver who won’t go over the middle. A stunningly bad decision that had Dolphins fans booing when they announced it and the ESPN crew shaking their heads in disbelief.


  1. #1 Jason I.
    April 30, 2007

    Ed, I hope you’re right that the Lions will do better this season. But honestly, I’ve ceased caring. Call me a fair-weather fan if you want (on a side note, I’ve been a Detroit Tigers fan since I became aware of baseball, and they haven’t exactly been stellar every year for the past 26 years). Year after year of the disaster that is Matt Millen and the Ford ownership have made me apathetic (and almost hateful) toward the Lions. It boggles my mind that every year, Lions fans fill the stadium game after game to watch what is, in my mind (and based on statistics) one of the worst NFL teams ever. Don’t get me wrong, I respect hardcore Lions fans. They have a staying power I just don’t. I also feel bad for them in a way, because they keep spending their money on a team that, in my opinion, will never amount to even halfway decent until the management and / or ownership changes, which seems highly unlikely.

    Thanks for posting this. It’s not something I would have been aware of otherwise. Perhaps I’ll check up on them Monday mornings this coming season to see how badly they got their asses kicked in another glorious game that they fought to give away. But I won’t really care.

  2. #2 Jeff Hebert
    April 30, 2007

    Here’s a question for you, Ed. Who’s a worse General Manager, Matt Millen or Isiah Thomas? Granted they’re in different sports, but you get the idea.

    Personally I’d say Thomas, since he’s not only ruined franchises but an entire league comprising multiple teams. That’s pretty tough to beat in terms of outright ineptitude. Still, Millen’s getting into some pretty rarefied air in my opinion. You ask “just how bad does a coach have to be before they stop being hired?” but I think when it comes to the Lions you at some point have got to ask “just how bad does a GM have to be before they get fired?”

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    April 30, 2007

    Jeff Hebert wrote:

    Here’s a question for you, Ed. Who’s a worse General Manager, Matt Millen or Isiah Thomas? Granted they’re in different sports, but you get the idea.

    Oh, it’s gotta be Thomas. First, I think Millen has gotten a bad rap for a couple of draft picks that didn’t work out but that any general manager would have made. Charles Rogers and Joey Harrington were busts, obviously, but there isn’t a GM in the league that wouldn’t have done the exact same thing. Both picks were universally considered great picks at the time he made them. The Lions needed a QB badly and Harrington was the highest rated one available. And Charles Rogers was a stud coming out of college – 6’4, 220 pounds with genuine world class speed (he ran a legit 4.25). The Mike Williams pick was a disaster and didn’t fill a need, so there’s legitimate criticism there.

    And when it comes to the draft, Thomas actually hasn’t done badly. He’s drafted David Lee, Trevor Ariza, and Channing Frye, all promising young players. It’s in free agency that Thomas has been an unmitigated disaster and on that score, Millen hasn’t done badly at all. Thomas traded Ariza to get Steve Francis, a shoot first point guard to go along with Marbury, a short first point guard. He’s made outrageous trades to give monster contracts to has beens and never weres, something Millen hasn’t done with the Lions. Millen has made good solid free agent signings, getting solid vets at reasonable salaries and not overpaying over-the-hill used to be pro bowlers like so many teams do. If Matt Millen goes out this year and signs Ryan Leaf to an $80 million contract, then pays a $20 million signing bonus to bring Tony Mandarich out of retirement to keep the Lions $50 million over the salary cap every year, then I’ll consider putting him in Thomas’ league as a bad GM. As it stands, Millen is just mundanely bad as a GM; Thomas is in the bad GM hall of fame.

  4. #4 argystokes
    April 30, 2007

    It’s pretty ridiculous to dream of the Lions consistently topping 30 points this year. With a weak offensive line and no running game to speak of, Kitna’s going to be spending a lot of time on his ass, just as he did last year. He’ll also be throwing a lot of balls up for grabs with all the pressure he’ll be taking, so you can expect plenty of turnovers. The Lions receiving corps isn’t any better than Arizona’s. Detroit was 21st in scoring and 22nd in offensive yardage last year. A rookie WR isn’t going to propel them into the top 10. They would have been better off trading down and taking Quinn.

    Losing Dre Bly was disastrous – the Lions were one of the top teams in the league the last two years at defending opponents’s #1 receivers, and Bly covers the opponents #1 more than any other corner in the NFL. Connect the dots. The Packers are improving, and the Vikings have a good enough D to win a few games. Expect another year in the cellar for the Lions.

  5. #5 Reed A. Cartwright
    April 30, 2007

    Every time I hear about how great Calvin Johnson is I’m reminded how throughly dominated he was for two years in a row by Georgia’s Paul Oliver. Georgia played Johnson with 1-on-1 coverage, and he didn’t have 5 receptions in two years.

  6. #6 W. Kevin Vicklund
    April 30, 2007

    Lions in 2007: 2-14. You heard it here first. Their O-line is going to be worse than last year, and their D-line is going to crumble as soon as Big Baby’s knee does. Receiving was the closest thing they had to a bright point last year – that’s the place that least needed an upgrade. I love the Johnson pick, but the Lions aren’t good enough to win more than 5, and with any bad luck (which the Lions cultivate like pot), they’ll be playing backups that would be on the practice squad for most teams.

    I’m going to be stuck with my second team again this year. Go Steelers!

  7. #7 Bonzo
    April 30, 2007

    I’m not a Detroit Lion’s fan but I have to say that when Barry Sanders was playing I would go out of my way to watch Lion’s games solely due to Barry. On any given play you could be about to witness one of the greatest runs of all time and I think that Calvin Johnson might perhaps be a player of that caliber.

  8. #8 Scott Simmons
    April 30, 2007

    “And Cameron pulled off the single dumbest move of the draft, passing up Brady Quinn to draft an undersized wide receiver who won’t go over the middle.”

    Wasn’t that an … interesting … choice? I liked Norm Hitzges’ comment on the Dallas radio live draft coverage. In response to the phrasing of the recorded player highlight that they played after the selection was announced, that Ginn “prefers to work the sideline”, he commented wryly that Ginn might not be on the side of the sideline that the Dolphins were hoping for. 🙂

  9. #9 RickD
    April 30, 2007

    As a Pats fan, I have to say I’m pleased to see Nick Saban’s back and the beginning of the Cam Cameron era in Miami. One less team to worry about! Poor Jason Taylor. He really deserves better.

  10. #10 llDayo
    May 1, 2007

    I’m unsure as to whether I like the Eagles first round draft choice but (as a Penn State alumni) I was smiling when seeing them pick up Tony Hunt! A power back that can hit the middle AND catch the ball? Having him and Westbrook in the backfield should finally give the Eagles a decent running game.

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