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.