8 Players That Matt Stafford Would Most Love for the Detroit Lions to Draft
I mean, think about it. He has Calvin Johnson to throw to for the next eight years, a competent front
office (!!!) committed to his success, and a fanbase ready to crown him Eternal King of Detroit the
moment he leads the Lions to a Super Bowl (or even makes a Pro Bowl).
But what doesn't he have? What pieces could the Lions pick up that would make Stafford's life easier on
a day-to-day basis? Megatron is the gift that keeps on giving, and the Lions have a cohesive offense even beyond his impact for the first time since he joined the team. It isn't as though the team needs to load up on offensive skill position players, though there are no areas absolutely devoid of talent.
Still, I'm guessing Stafford wouldn't say no to some talented new teammates to take into the huddle
with him, especially on those plays where Johnson is triple-covered.
Cordy Glenn, G/T, Georgia
What, like they were all going to be skill players?
These aren't the Lions of 10 years ago, you know.
Admittedly, though, the Lions have invested precious little into the offensive line under the current regime, and that should probably change sooner rather than later.
The first thing Stafford should want in 2012 is to get hit less. The Lions can achieve that by improving the running game, which in turn can be achieved by putting Cordy Glenn on the offensive line. See how all that works out?
Besides, why wouldn't Stafford want to be reunited with his old Georgia teammate?
Jonathan Martin, OT, Stanford
It's not likely, but neither was Nick Fairley at 13 last year.
The fact is, Jonathan Martin could fall to the 23rd overall pick (especially if there's another early run on quarterbacks), and if he does, it's silly to think the Lions wouldn't take him.
Jeff Backus is on board for another two years, which is a good thing, but it's not typically a good thing to throw a rookie left tackle into the fire in his rookie year, unless he's a once-in-a-generation talent.
Since Martin is rated roughly the third-best tackle in this draft, I think it's safe to say that he's just really good, not freakish with talent. So he could do with a year or two at right tackle (maybe Gosder Cherilus can play guard?) before taking over the blind side.
This is approximately how the Packers are handling the Chad Clifton/Bryan Bulaga situation, and that seems to be working according to plan, so why couldn't it work here?
Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
In Week 17 of last season, Matthew Stafford threw for 520 yards and five touchdowns. And do you know why?
Because he had to keep throwing the ball to keep up with Matt Flynn and the shell of the Green Bay offense.
Don't think for a minute that Stafford would turn his nose up at a defensive upgrade, or that one wouldn't make his job a lot easier. After all, Stafford's job is easier when the score is 21-3 as compared to 21-21, right?
Now, Brandon Boykin certainly isn't going to be the silver bullet answer to the Lions' defensive woes. For starters, knowing Gunther Cunningham, Boykin won't even see the field in 2012, barring a mass of injuries in the secondary (which wouldn't be unthinkable).
And even if Boykin started straight away and played at an All-Pro level, he wouldn't even be fixing the Lions' greatest need. The Lions have the biggest need at safety, but since the Lions' two starting safeties have a combined five years of experience, the last thing they need is more youth.
LaMichael James, RB, Oregon
Stafford loves having Jahvid Best around. He is both an insurance policy and a valuable weapon.
When Stafford feels the pressure, he can dump it off to Best for a few yards. Alternatively, he can dump it off to Best and have him take it the distance. Because of Best's explosiveness, he's a home-run threat even on plays not designed for him.
Best is still on the team, but nobody knows for how long. He was a medical red flag because of concussions coming out of college, and that issue has only gotten worse. He has been a fantastic player when healthy, but he has had injury issues for almost the entirety of his pro career.
And Best's injury issues aren't like Stafford, who injured an ankle, then a shoulder, then the other shoulder.
This is repeated, cumulative abuse to the head. These are concussions, which have lasting, building effects. There are doubts about whether Best should continue playing now, and if he suffers another concussion, it's almost certainly game over.
Enter LaMichael James. James isn't quite the explosive force Best is, but his skills (particularly as a shifty pass-catcher) are similar, and his draft status will be lower.
If the worst happens, he can replace Best with less falloff than, say, Aaron Brown. In the best-case scenario, he won't have to, and the Lions will have a stable full of distinctly talented running backs who can spell one another and keep defenses off-balance.
Joe Adams, WR/KR, Arkansas
I figure in a list of targets for Stafford, I should include actual targets for Stafford.
Of course, there will (and should) be widespread rioting if the Lions, one of the most prolific passing offenses in the league, spend a first-round pick on a wide receiver, but they absolutely need more depth at the position.
Joe Adams could provide Stafford with two very good things. He could be that shifty possession receiver Stafford needs to catch passes over the middle (and as such, a natural successor to Nate Burleson).
But perhaps more importantly and immediately, he could be a kick-return threat who can replace Stefan Logan and bring actual value to the offense.
Adams needs to improve his route-running and learn the receiver position at the professional level, so he won't be an immediate upgrade to the Lions' offense. But he has great upside, and gives Stafford one more prospective target to go to in the future.
Kelechi Osemele (G/T, Iowa State)
If the Lions can't come up with Cordy Glenn in the first round, Kelechi Osemele is a decent consolation prize in the second.
Like Glenn, Osemele is a massive human being with the capability to play guard or right tackle (but probably not left tackle), and would undoubtedly help the running game almost immediately.
Osemele needs some polish, so he might not be able to step in and succeed from day one (like Glenn probably could), but his ceiling is arguably just as high.
At this point, anybody who serves as an offensive line upgrade, either now or in the future, is likely to be Stafford's new best friend.
Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
In the highly likely event that Jonathan Martin isn't available with the 23rd overall pick, Mike Adams is the next most logical pick at left tackle.
Adams hasn't helped himself a great deal since leaving Ohio State, but Stafford still needs somebody to protect his blind side after time runs out on Jeff Backus, and Adams fits the bill.
Again, Stafford is a tough kid, but he'd have to be crazy to actually want to take punishment every game.
Now, as maligned as the Lions' offensive line has been this year, they did a better job of keeping Stafford's jersey clean than they get credit for, especially considering the absurd number of passes Stafford had to throw last year. But the guys on that line (Backus especially) aren't going to last forever, and none of them are good enough to try.
Getting Adams now wouldn't likely do anything for Stafford in 2012, but it would give him piece of mind that he'll be taken care of in 2014.
Whoever Mayhew and Schwartz Decide on
Stafford isn't a general manager or a coach. He's not the offensive coordinator. He's not even a veteran player with 10 years of experience under his belt. He's no team builder.
He's a 24-year-old quarterback.
Now, the Lions are Stafford's team, as much as any team can belong to a 24-year-old quarterback, so I'm sure general manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz will consult with their young team leader on who he wants to see in his huddle next season, but ultimately, the decision comes down to the war room, and Stafford understands that.
Stafford was the first overall pick of the new regime on an 0-16 team, and by the time he was able to play and finish a full season, the front office had put a playoff team in place around him. Stafford's a sharp enough kid to understand that, and I'm sure he trusts the front office completely.
So yeah, Stafford may have a wish list of players he wants in Detroit next year, but I'm willing to bet he'd much rather Mayhew and Schwartz just go through with whatever their plan is. He'll reap the benefits either way.