Path to the Draft, Day One: Detroit Lions
I follow this series on NFL Network so I decided to put my own spin on it and make it a draft preview blog.
I will preview each team in first round order, give an inside look to each team, their draft pick with analysis, potential starting lineup with the draft pick(s) and where they will finish.
Today, we start with the NFL's worst team with the first and 20th overall picks: the Detroit Lions.
2008 in one paragraph
In a word: ugh.
The Lions completed the NFL's first winless season since 1976 and each loss was worse than the last.
The Ford family finally gave into pressure and released general manager Matt Millen of hus duties after eight struggling seasons and also fired resilient head coach Rod Marinelli, replacing him with Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz.
Despite the futility, some bright spots emerged: second-year receiver Calvin Johnson broke out to become one of the league's top young stars (78 rec., 1331 yards, 12 TD) and rookie Kevin Smith (238 att., 976 yards, 8 TD) gave the Lions a legitimate game-breaking backfield threat.
1. Quarterback: It's been a while since the Lions have had a franchise quarterback. From Andre Ware to Scott Mitchell to Dan Orlovsky, Detroit has had its history of "close but no cigar" and its a real shame. The Lions had only 18 touchdown passes last year from four different quarterbacks.
2. Offensive line: Quarterbacks and running backs can't have time to throw or find open running lanes without a tough, physical offensive line. The Lions allowed a whopping 52 sacks last season and scored a grand total of 28 touchdowns.
3. Cornerback: Detroit grabbed a total of four interceptions last year...yes, four and by four different players. They also allowed quarterbacks to complete 69 percent of their passes at around 233 yards per game and 25 touchdown passes with a 110.9 rating, all ranking in the bottom third of the NFL.
4. Defensive line: Within that 69 percent completions allowed by quarterbacks is the inability to get pressure and Detroit had a real problem with that, gaining only 30 sacks last season.
Pick (First overall): Matthew Stafford, QB (Georgia)
Analysis: The Lions need a face to their franchise and Stafford fits the bill to a 'T'. With the ideal size at 6'3'' and 215 pounds he has the physical and mental toughness to take the punishment he will get at the next level and with a gifted arm like his, the Lions should have no other option but to take him.
Second pick (20th overall): Vontae Davis, CB (Illinois)
Analysis: Detroit got torched constantly in the secondary last season, grabbing those aforementioned four interceptions. Davis, despite some off-the-field complications, is the best corner available on the board and gives them a permanent fixture in the defensive backfield.
Even with the acquisition of Anthony Henry in free agency it is not enough and the Lions need more.
Potential Starting Lineup
QB Matthew Stafford (3,459 yards, 25 TD, 10 Int in 2008 for UGA)
RB Kevin Smith (976 yards, 8 TD)
FB Moran Norris
WR Calvin Johnson (1,331 yards, 12 TD)
Shaun McDonald (35 rec., 332 yards, TD)
TE Michael Gaines (23 rec., 260 yards, TD)
Tackles Jeff Backus, Godser Cherlius
Guards Damion Cook, Stephen Peterman
C Dominic Raiola
DE Jared DeVries (29 tackles, 2.0 sacks)
Dewayne White (38 tackles, 6.0 sacks)
DT Chuck Darby (32 tackles, 2.0 sacks)
Corey Redding (38 tackles, 3.0 sacks)
LBs Ernie Sims, Paris Lenon, Alex Lewis
CB Vontae Davis, Anthony Henry
S Daniel Bullocks (F), Gerald Alexander (S)
It will be hard for this team to contend in the NFC North with the likes of Adrian Peterson, Brian Urlacher and Aaron Rodgers breathing down their necks. They most certainly have the talent to win but the question will be consistency and the ability to produce in the clutch.
They could be spoilers for potential playoff teams down the road if they have nothing to play for late in the season. Calvin Johnson should have another monster season and Kevin Smith should eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.
The offensive line should work better together under Schwartz who will preach discipline and toughness but I'm not sure it will be enough in not just a brutal division but a very physical conference.
Finish: 5-11, last in NFC North
On a personal note, I want to send my condolences to the family of Corey Smith whom we all fear the worst has happened to since he was lost at sea on Sunday. The Coast Guard called off the search for him, Marquis Cooper and William Bleakley at sundown Tuesday and now their families must prepare for the tragic, unnecessary news.
Tomorrow, I will preview the St. Louis Rams, who have the second overall pick for the second consecutive year.
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