One thing Martin Mayhew said, after being promoted to General Manager of the Detroit Lions, was that he felt the Lions shared to much information about what decisions they were making and what direction they were moving in. He believed that not sharing gave you a tactical advantage when trying to make moves. Mayhew has not disappointed.
The Lions have been quiet. Much more so than in recent memory. There has been much speculation about what Free Agents they hoped to sign and which players they are targeting in the 2009 NFL Draft.
While it is a sound strategy, it is difficult on the fans and the media. We are left to speculate based off of what little we do know. Based on what we do know I will lay out the likely scenarios for the draft.
We know that Daunte Culpepper will be the starting quarterback this coming season, barring injury, and we know that Drew Stanton and Drew Henson are the back ups. We do not know if Stanton is capable of playing quarterback in the NFL due to his lack of exposure in the league. We do know that Henson is not going to be more than a third string quarterback at best.
We know that the running back position is in good enough shape and likely won't be addressed any further this off season.
The secondary has seen the most attention this off season and is missing only one starter at this point. A starting safety or another starting corner back is still needed as Anthony Henry can move to safety if necessary. Depth is not a significant concern.
The offensive line has also seen some attention. Daniel Loper was brought in as depth at the tackle position but he can fill in at guard. He may even be a starting caliber guard. The Lions currently do not have a starting left guard and lack depth.
The defensive line will benefit greatly from the addition of Grady Jackson but he will not be an every down player. The Lions have depth on the defensive line but could use an upgrade on the end and when Jackson is catching his breath.
The wide receiver situation is moderate with the addition of Bryant Johnson and the return of Calvin Johnson. Tight end is also in moderate shape with Michael Gaines as the likely starter. Another wide receiver in the slot is needed and depth could be a concern.
The line backing core is the biggest question mark. We know that Ernie Sims will show up to play but he has no one slated to start next to him. A starting strong side and middle backer is needed. With free agency winding down it would appear unlikely that the Lions will sign a starter at either position.
Draft Day Scenarios
The Lions have narrowed the No. 1 selection down to three prospects as far as we can tell. Jason Smith and Matthew Stafford have both made visits to Ford Field and it is likely that Aaron Curry will make the trip as well. Interest in all three candidates has been shown by management although no clear favorite is known at this time.
If the Lions choose to go with Matt Stafford, who seems to be the odds on favorite of the national media, then it will have a significant impact on the rest of the draft. It will put significant pressure on Mayhew to find multiple starters with the remaining picks.
No. 1 The Matt Stafford Scenario
With Stafford as the No. 1 pick the Lions will have to find a starter with the No. 20 selection. With line backer being their primary need, and seeing as how they would have passed on fan favorite Aaron Curry, they will need to draft Rey Maualuga or James Laurinaitis to fill the void in the middle. If neither is available then they will be in a bind. The best available line backer will be the best solution.
If it is too much of a reach for a line backer then they may look to fill a different need. A falling cornerback like Jenkins or Davis is an option as is a solid offensive line prospect like Alex Mack or Duke Robinson. This pick needs to be a starter. Spending two first round picks on guys that won't start this year would be devastating.
The second round will most likely be a line backer in this scenario. Clint Sintim would be the most likely candidate and would fit well on the strong side. In Gunther Cunningham's blitzing schemes Sintim could excel. He is able to play the three technique as well, giving him some added versatility.
A safety like William Moore or a corners such as Alphonso Smith, Darius Butler, and Sean Smith would all be solid options at No. 33 as well. Especially if the Lions get a middle line backer at the No. 20 spot.
The third round would then most likely be used on secondary needs. A defensive tackle such as Terrence Taylor or a defensive end like Lawrence Sidbury could be looked at. There likely will be a few solid offensive line prospects available here as well. Alex Boone, Fenuki Tupuo, and Trevor Canfield, to name a few, are real options. One defensive linemen and one offensive linemen would be the most likely scenario.
The late picks in rounds five through seven will be spent on depth while trying to find a diamond in the rough. I would expect the Lions to look for a wide out and tight end with some of their later picks.
No. 2 The Jason Smith Scenario
Selecting Jason Smith as the No. 1 pick would likely force Jeff Backus to either move to guard or become expensive depth. It should create a better pass blocking line but will only have small gains in running game.
With the offensive line addressed early the Lions will once again need to look for a starter on defense with the No. 20 selection. Again they have to hope a top line backer is available, Maualuga, Laurinaitis, or Brian Cushing would be looked for. If the top line backers are off the board then the likely the secondary or defensive end positions will be addressed. It appears that Cliff Avril and Dewayne White will start though so corner may be the best option with Vonte Davis and D.J. Moore being the most likely candidates.
A falling quarterback prospect like Mark Sanchez would be intriguing here as well. Picking up a quarterback in round one will put stress on the rest of the draft whether it's at No. 1 or No. 20 since they will not start this year. Josh Freeman may be available at the No. 20 spot and will have to be considered.
The No. 33 selection in this scenario will depend greatly on who they get at No. 20. If they get a middle line backer then they can go with Sintim or address the secondary. With a linemen and a line backer already selected they can afford to look at more options at No. 33. If one of the top three quarterback candidates fall then it would be hard to pass on them. The Lions could be in a position to take the best available player here.
If they select a quarterback at No. 20 then they will need to address the line backer situation at No. 33.
In the third round, assuming they have the at least one line backer and one secondary player, the lions would be looking, once again, for a defensive tackle. Terrence Taylor still seems to be the best available. If they select a secondary player at No. 20 and a strong side line backer at No. 33 then they will also be looking at a few guys, namely Darry Beckwith, Tyrone McKenzie, Jason Phillips,and Dannel Ellerbe for the middle spot.
A wide out, tight end, and a late quarterback prospect would be looked at in the late rounds most likely.
No. 3 The Aaron Curry Scenario
If the Lions were to select Aaron Curry with the No. 1 selection they would be addressing the most pressing need and be getting a quality starter. Curry would man the strong side line backer position.
The Lions would have some flexibility with the No. 20 spot. A quarterback could once again be an option at the No. 20 spot. The Lions could go many directions at this point. They could look for Maualuga, Laurinaitis, or Cushing again to fill the middle spot, they can grab a top corner back prospect, or they can fill the hole they have at left guard. The left guard spot would be the most likely fill with Duke Robinson or Alex Mack being the pick.
If the Lions address both line backer positions in the first round then they would most likely grab an offensive linemen at the No. 33 spot. William Beatty, Max Unger, or Andy Levitre would be strong considerations. The secondary could still use an upgrade and spending the pick on a safety or corner prospect would still be a solid move, considering how well the defense played last year.
If the Lions go with an offensive linemen at the No. 20 spot then the choices at the No. 33 spot will narrow down. A sliding defensive end could be an option but more likely a secondary player would be taken. William Moore, Sean Smith, Darius Butler and Alphonso Smith would be the likely candidates. in this scenario it would be wise to trade the No. 33 down for more picks and look for a guy like Darius Butler, Joe Burnett, or Patrick Chung to be there.
In the third round the Lions would once again look at defensive tackle with Taylor as the top prospect. A sleeper like big Sammie Lee Hill could be looked at. A wide out like Brandon Tate, Brian Robiskie, or Jarrett Dillard could be options as well.
It would seem logical that the Lions would target a late round quarterback prospect in this scenario. Tom Brandstater out of Fresno State is a big, strong armed passer much in the mold of Daunte Culpepper and may be worth a late pick.
The Lions have numerous holes to fill and don't plan on letting us know how they are going to fix them. Based on their off season moves and the options they have in the draft the most likely scenario would seem to be the Aaron Curry scenario. He fills the biggest need and leaves Martin Mayhew the most options.
The No. 20 pick would likely be used to address the offensive line, although with only two elite middle line backer prospects, a middle line backer would be a real option. Alex Mack provides more versatility as he can play guard or center, providing the back up the Lions need at the center position. Duke Robinson, on the other hand, is a massive run blocking guard. he would open up holes with more effectiveness than Mack.
The No. 33 pick would likely be used to address the secondary. William Moore has the tools and size to play the strong side and be able to come up in the box against the run. If he falls he'd be a great option.
The No. 65 pick could be used for a number of needs. Although my favorite sleeper pick in the draft, Lawrence Sidbury, will be available the Lions will need to look at a true middle line backer. Darry Beckwith is probably the best fit.
The No. 82 pick would now likely be Terrence Taylor. He would be used to back up Jackson and should be able to handle double teams.
For the late round picks the Lions will need a play maker for special teams and on offense as well as a quarterback prospect. A guy like Ian Johnson or Marcus Thigpen could become valuable third down backs and improve the return game for the Lions. Tom Brandstater and Chase Holbrook would be the best bets to attempt to groom under Culpepper. A pass catching tight end like Darius Hill or Travis Beckum could be a nice addition as well.
With so many holes to fill the Lions need to make the right decisions to fill the holes with as many starters as possible. They should have a plan for the next few years to come. Hopefully they can complete the roster overhaul in time for the new uniforms in 2010 and make themselves competitive this season.