Draft Grades – 2012

Draft Grades: Detroit Lions

The Detroit Lions made significant strides in 2011, but have failed to make the necessary steps to build upon their playoff run. This draft class was an opportunity fill some holes, especially on defense, but GM Martin Mayhew failed to land any impact players on the defensive side of the ball.

Riley Reiff could have been a justifiable 1st-round pick if he filled an immediate need, but Lions don’t  have an immediate hole to fill on the offensive line. Jeff Backus may not have much time left in Detroit, however, so they could view Reiff as the future at left tackle. Unfortunately, Reiff does not project as an impact player on the left side, and would be better suited as a right tackle, where Gosder Cherilus appears to be entrenched.

Ryan Broyles is an intriguing prospect, but the 2nd round was far too early for an undersized receiver coming off a significant injury. This was the type of selection Lions fans thought they were free of when Matt Millen left the organization.

Dwight Bentley was also a reach in the 3rd round. He has some developmental value, but the Lions really needed to add an impact cornerback. Jayron Hosley and Brandon Boykin were both still on the board and are far more NFL ready than Bentley.

Ronnell Lewis has a chance to be a steal in the 4th round, but Lions will need to find the right place for him. In the 4-3 defense he could play end or strong-side linebacker.

Tahir Whitehead is a nice developmental prospect and was a solid value pick in the 5th round. He’ll likely compete for the backup role at strong-side linebacker.

Chris Greenwood was one of the Lions better selections. He’s raw and the level of competition is a definite concern, but his upside is undeniable. He may not provide much immediate help, but was well worth a flier in the 5th round.

Jonte Greene will compete with Bentley and Greenwood for playing time, but the Lions secondary is getting crowded. It’s unlikely that all three will be able to make the final roster cuts.

Travis Lewis is a great 7th-round pick. His upside is limited due to marginal athleticism, but he was a productive linebacker at Oklahoma and should be able to contribute as a backup and on special teams. He’ll likely compete with Doug Houge for the backup weak-side linebacker job.

The Lions failed to land any immediate help from this draft class, and the long-term value appears to be minimal as well. Reiff will likely earn a starting role eventually, but he is the only player from this class who realistically should be viewed as a long-term starter. This was a blown opportunity for the Lions.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Lions Comments Off

Detroit Lions select Riley Reiff, Grade B-

This is a solid selection for the Detroit Lions, but I’m not sure it was the right choice. Riley Reiff isn’t a left tackle, which is fine late in the 1st round, but Gosder Cherlius is already entrenched at right tackle. And if the Lions plan on moving Reiff or Cherlius to guard, then why not just take David DeCastro? It’s a questionable choice, but Reiff does have decent value here.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Lions Comments Off

Draft Needs: Detroit Lions

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Detroit Lions [full archive here].

Season Recap: Finally they put it together! The Detroit Lions had a successful season, and earned their first playoff appearance since 1999. Matt Stafford stayed healthy for all 16 games, and established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the league. GM Martin Mayhew has done an excellent job rebuilding a Detroit team that hasn’t seemed to recover since the departure of Barry Sanders. With young stars Stafford, Calvin “Megatron” Johnson, and Ndamukong Suh on the team, Detroit will be a competitive team for years to come.

Team Needs:
1. Offensive Tackle: The Detroit offense has a couple all-stars and a solid supporting cast. In order to continue the success, Detroit needs to protect the quarterback. Left tackle is Detroit’s top need and should be addressed in the first round. Jeff Backus was resigned, but will be 35 next seaon. Cordy Glenn would fit nicely.

2. Cornerback: Detroit has a collection of capable cornerbacks, but no real star. If Detroit hopes to overtake Green Bay at some point, they’ll need some solid defensive backs to cover. Janoris Jenkins, Dre Kirkpatrick, Stephon Gilmore, and Brandon Boykin are possibilities in round one.

3. Strong Safety: Amari Spievey seems destined for a depth role after his poor play in the 2011 season. Louis Delmas is solid, but would benefit from a solid counterpart. Harrison Smith would be a great addition in the second round.

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2012, Lions Comments Off

Lions looking to beef up offensive line through draft

The Detroit Lions are looking to improve their offensive line this offseason, and will apparently be looking for help from their incoming rookie class.

The Lions have already hosted three offensive linemen – Mike Adams, Kelechi Osemele and Brandon Brooks – for pre-draft visits.

Are the Lions targeting Mike Adams?

It’s worth noting that all three players tip the scales at a minimum of 320 pounds, indicating the Lions may be looking to beef up their line in an effort to improve their run blocking efforts, which ranked 22nd in the league according to Pro Football Focus in 2011.

Adams, who played left tackle at Ohio State, is a potential 1st-round target and could be their replacement for free agent Jeff Backus.

Osemele and Brooks are both projected to play guard at the next level, although it’s worth noting that Osemele did play left tackle at Iowa State.

For more info, follow our Draft Visit Tracker, updated daily. 

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2012 NFL Draft, Lions Comments Off

2011 Draft Grades: Detroit Lions

It’s hard not to like the players the Lions added in this class, but I do have some concerns about their strategy. You can add flashy players in the draft, and it appeases fans the media critics, but you still need to remember you’re the Detroit Lions. They weren’t in a position to make these luxury picks and expect immediate results, as many in the media are already predicting. Down the road, this could develop into an elite draft class, but only if they support these players with solid drafts in the years to come.

Nick Fairley certainly falls into the flashy category, and I would have no problem with the selection if he were their only flashy pick of the draft. While many have been quick to anoint Fairley and Suh the elite interior pass rush until in the league, they’re forgetting the fact that both players are liabilities against the run. Yes, they will make some bone-crunching hits on quarterbacks but if your interior line is incapable of stopping the run, you won’t be playing deep into January. Suh and Fairley are each at their best when supported by a nose tackle playing next to them to eat up space and multiple blockers.

Titus Young is an elite playmaker, and without character concerns would have been a 1st-round pick. However, I have the same mixed feelings about the selection as I did with Fairley. Were they really in a position to take a slot receiver over a less-sexy position such as an offensive lineman or cornerback?

I believe Mikel Leshoure was the best running back in this class so I can’t argue with the Lions taking him at No. 57. The combination of Leshoure and Best could be a dangerous weapon if offensive coordinator Scott Linehan uses them correctly.

Doug Hogue will add depth at linebacker, and due to their lack of playmakers at the position could actually compete for serious playing time at the strong-side position. Bobby Carpenter doesn’t exactly have the starting job locked down, so Hogue could make a run at the position at some point this season.

Johnny Culbreath is a left tackle project. He needs to bulk up, but definitely has the athleticism to play the position. He may spend the year on the practice squad before being given a chance to compete for a job in 2012.

As I said in the into, the Lions added three great playmakers but I’m just not convinced that this was the year to use three luxury picks. All the Lions did in this draft was make their strong suit even stronger, but it wasn’t the defensive line or the offense that kept them out of the playoffs in 2010. Until they find some serious upgrades in the secondary and on the offensive line, no amount of offensive weapons can turn them into a legitimate contender.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2011, Lions Comments Off

Lack of interest in Jimmy Smith?

Smith's off-field problems may keep him out of the 1st round

To the best of my knowledge only two teams have set up pre-draft workouts/visits with Jimmy Smith, the Baltimore Ravens and Detroit Lions.

Normally I wouldn’t put much stock in this fact since teams frequently take players in the late 1st-round without having met beforehand. However, Smith isn’t the type of player you take in the 1st round without doing your homework.

Smith already has multiple arrests and a failed drug test under belt, which has caused some teams to reportedly remove him from their draft board altogether. With that in mind, I simply can’t see a team spending a 1st-round pick on him without having spent a decent amount of time getting to know him first.

Of course, it’s possible that he has made other visits which the media is unaware of, and it’s also possible that more visits will be set up between now and the draft. But if we read between the lines at this point in time, it looks as though Smith may be a longshot for the 1st-round.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Lions, Ravens Comments Off

5 teams most likely to trade down on draft day

5. Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings need a quarterback, but the 12th pick is too early to reach for Locker or Mallett. To make matters worse, the 43rd pick may be too late to land either of those two, and possibly too late for Ponder as well. They may try to trade down to the late 1st-round in order to land a quarterback in a reasonable draft slot.

4. Carolina Panthers
There isn’t an obvious choice at No. 1 this year and the Panthers could get a similar player at a cheaper price if they trade down. If they can convince a team like the Bills or Bengals to trade up for a quarterback, the Panthers would gladly move down.

3. New England Patriots
The Patriots are a candidate here because, well, they always trade down. A great defensive lineman is likely to be on the board at No. 17 and the Patriots can probably find a trading partner. They may be able to pick up an additional 1st-round pick in the 2012 draft, continuing the cycle which Bill Belichick has mastered.

2. St. Louis Rams
If A.J. Green and Julio Jones are off the board the Rams will immediately begin shopping the 14th pick. There isn’t another receiver worthy of a top-15 pick and there isn’t anyone else that fills a glaring hole. The smart move would be to move down and possibly consider Jonathan Baldwin later in the round.

1. Detroit Lions
The Lions want a cornerback or a linebacker and there may not be anyone worthy of the 13th pick on the board at either position.  Unless Prince Amukamara or Von Miller somehow falls, the Lions will try hard to trade back. When they do, Akeem Ayers and Jimmy Smith could become targets.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Lions, Panthers, Patriots, Rams, Vikings Comments Off

Will Rackley drawing interest from nine teams

Rackley is one of the top small-school prospects

According to Josh Buchanan of JBScouting.com Lehigh offensive lineman Will Rackley is lining up a number of visits and private workouts.

He’ll be one of the busiest prospects over the next month, as he meets with the Browns, Cowboys, Rams, Chiefs, Dolphins, Lions, Jaguars, Patriots and Jets.

Rackley played left tackle in college but is probably best suited for guard at the next level. That said, his potential versatility certainly gives his stock an extra boost.

Based on the amount of interest in Rackley he is starting to look like a pretty safe bet to go in the first three rounds. A team like the Cleveland Browns, who could use help at both right guard and right tackle would be a good fit. The St. Louis Rams, who desperately need to upgrade their interior line would also make sense.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, Browns, Chiefs, Cowboys, Dolphins, Jaguars, Jets, Lions, Patriots, Rams Comments Off

Draft Needs: Detroit Lions

Matt Peterson tracks the offseason needs of every team in the league. Today’s franchise, the Detroit Lions. [full archive here].

Season Recap - Since becoming head coach in 2009, Jim Schwartz has made all the right moves in attempts of recovering from the mess left by ex- general manager Matt Millen. Detroit was very competitive this season and ended the season on a four game win streak, all without the play from young star quarterback Matthew Stafford, who still faces doubts over durability issues. With another offseason in the Schwartz era, look for the Lions to make a run at the playoffs in 2011.

1. Outside Linebacker
– Detroit has a young star in the middle with Deandre Levy, but lacks talent on the outside. Starter Julian Peterson was recently released and Zach Follett may be forced into retirement due to a serious neck injury. Detroit upgraded the D-line last offseason, but its main focus will be in the back part of the front seven this year. Read more

Posted on by Matt Peterson in Draft Needs - 2011, Lions 1 Comment

A quick “what if Luck stays in school” mock draft

It seems like every day a new reporter finds “sources” to tell him that Andrew Luck is leaning toward staying in school. I’m inclined to call “BS” on anyone who says Luck is leaning towards staying at Stanford, especially since it sounds as though Jim Harbaugh is as good as gone. But I’ll humor those who think he’s staying for a moment and throw together a quick mock draft based on the scenario that he stays. Here’s the top 10 of the “what if Luck stays” mock draft…

1. Panthers – Da’Quan Bowers – DE – Clemson
The Panthers don’t need a quarterback, so they won’t take one unless Luck is there. Their pass rush was abysmal this season, and they missed Julius Peppers even more than anyone could have anticipated. Bowers is coming off a monster year and should be an instant-impact pass rusher at the next level.

2. Broncos – Patrick Peterson – CB – LSU
With Josh McDaniels gone, the Broncos may be ready to give up on Tim Tebow after just three games. However, I don’t think they’ll reach for someone like Newton or Mallett with the second pick. The safe bet is to take Peterson, the best available player. Champ Bailiey may not return, and even if he does he’s on the downswing of his career.

3. Bengals – A.J. Green – WR – Georgia
One of the biggest decisions any team has to make this offseason is the Bengals’ looming decision about Carson Palmer. They could cut him loose and draft a new franchise quarterback here. I don’t think they’re willing to give up yet, however. A.J. Green is an elite talent and could be the young receiver Palmer needs to get the offense back on track.

4. Bills – Ryan Mallett – QB – Arkansas
The Bills need a quarterback to build around and should be able to get one in this year’s draft. But who will it be? Mallett, Locker and Newton are all worth considering. It’s pure speculation at this point, but I think Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix will lean toward the strong-armed Mallett.

5. Cardinals – Prince Amukamara – CB – Nebraska
The Cardinals are another team in need of a quarterback, but I expect Ken Whisenhunt to push for them to bring in a veteran.  As a result, they’ll turn their attention to the defense in the draft, landing either Amukamara, Cameron Jordan or Nick Fairley here.

6. 49ers – Cam Newton – QB – Auburn
Until a GM and a coach are in place it’s tough to predict how the 49ers will handle the draft. But one thing is certain: they need a quarterback. If they need to make a decision between Newton and Locker, expect Newton to be their guy.

7. Cowboys – Cameron Jordan – DE – California
Jordan isn’t nearly the most well-known of the top 3-4 defensive ends, but I believe he is the best of the bunch. The Cowboys will be looking to improve the defense, making Jordan a strong possibility here.

8. Texans – Nick Fairley – DT – Auburn
The Texans need to address their secondary, but with Peterson and Amukamara off the board they must turn their attention to the defensive line. Fairley is an elite pass-rushing interior lineman who reminds me of Ndamukong Suh.

9. Lions – Robert Quinn – DE – North Carolina
The Lions offense is progressing, but the defense still has some holes. Kyle Vanden Bosch hasn’t worked out and the Lions will likely look to upgrade their pass rush this offseason. Quinn may be the best pass-rushing end available in this draft class.

10. Browns – Julio Jones – WR – Alabama
The Browns are now committed to Colt McCoy, but now they need to supply him with some weapons. Jones, Justin Blackmon, Michael Floyd, Jon Baldwin and Torrey Smith could all be options depending on who leaves early for the draft.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers, Bengals, Bills, Broncos, Browns, Cardinals, Cowboys, Lions, Panthers, Texans 1 Comment