I've spent an awful lot of time telling all of you who the Detroit Lions should draft this year, and you've spent an awful lot of time arguing or agreeing with me.
At this point, you should have a good idea as to my take on the matter, so this is where I turn it over to you faithful Detroit Lions fans (and I know you're faithful, because you're obviously still following the team in April after a 4-12 disaster).
I'm going to make the case for the most likely choices for the Lions' first-round pick, and then you're going to pick the winner (or tell me I'm an idiot because I didn't even include the right choice). If you've read my mock drafts and other previous works, you know I'm biased in my own opinions, but I'm going to attempt a fair pro-con on each player, so as not to tip the poll results.
For once, it's not about my opinion or analysis.
Sound good? Here we go. Here are the cases for each player, before we get to the poll at the bottom.
Eric Fisher, OT, Central Michigan
What Fisher would do for the Lions is be an elite blindside protector to keep Matthew Stafford off his backside. For a team that set a record in passing attempts, and just had their left tackle of 12 years retire, that's definitely a need.
Not only is Fisher one of the best offensive tackles in the draft, he's among the top overall talents. One of the biggest arguments against drafting him might be that he won't last until the No. 5 pick.
Of course, one thing that people don't talk about are Fisher's flaws. They're slight, but they exist.
While Fisher was, and should continue to be, an elite pass protector, his run blocking is just average. His problems are more with technique and his pad level, which can be coached, rather than physical flaws, which cannot. Regardless, they are problems, even if they won't exist for long.
Still, Fisher is one of the best overall talents in this draft, and would almost certainly solidify the Lions at both tackles, with him at left and Riley Reiff at right. No other draft pick can settle the Lions in two positions at once.
Ziggy Ansah, DE, BYU
One of the more divisive picks in this draft, Ansah is one of those players that will get drafted by a team with the assumption that his best football is ahead of him. It likely is, but he's a particular fit with Detroit for a couple of reasons.
First, and least importantly, Ansah fits well in a position of major need for the Lions (defensive end).
But despite Ansah being the best-looking 4-3 DE in the draft, look at how he fit in the Senior Bowl. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz and his crew coached the South squad at the Senior Bowl this year. Ansah played on the South squad, which means that he was effectively playing in Schwartz's scheme.
In one week, Ansah went from looking completely overmatched to the most dominant player in the Senior Bowl. That's with one week of practice under the Lions' coaching squad. Consider what he could do with four months. How about two years?
Of course, it's often folly to draft based on a high ceiling. The list of draft busts over time is littered with untapped potential. Ansah is undoubtedly a high-risk, high-reward player, and the Lions would be massively set back with a bust at No. 5. Most likely, Ansah is the riskiest player the Lions would consider in the first round.
Ansah is a hard worker, and obviously very smart, to pick up as much as he did in just one week. He also has outstanding physical gifts for his position. The elements are all there; the question is just whether the Lions coaching staff can help him put them together on the football field.
If yes, the Lions have a star pass-rusher. If no, they have a colossal bust.
Chance Warmack, G, Alabama
The Lions have a gaping hole at right guard with the departure of Stephen Peterman. Arguably, they had a gaping hole even with Peterman.
Except on running plays, of course. Peterman never created holes on running plays.
So maybe this is the year. The Lions have been short on talent in the middle of the offensive line since Kevin Glover left town, and it's worth noting that when they had Kevin Glover, they also had a league-leading running game (though there may have been someone more responsible for that than Glover).
Maybe this is the year they finally fix the offensive line.
The Lions have needed to jump-start their rushing attack for about a decade, and they've run countless running backs into brick walls over the years, so maybe Warmack changes that. Some very good teams build their teams from the lines out, and Warmack could most certainly start moving people around in the trenches.
The Lions seem to subscribe to the "build the lines first" philosophy on the defensive side, but not the offensive side. Considering that a team just won the Super Bowl with Bryant McKinnie at left tackle, and notching 93 total rushing yards in that game, maybe they're onto something.
But this all misses the point. A guard has not cracked the top 10 in an NFL draft since the Saints selected Chris Naeole 10th overall in 1997. Naeole had a consistent but underwhelming 11-year career. The Saints let him walk after his rookie contract and he failed to make a single Pro Bowl or All-Pro team.
Strangely, it's almost like overdrafting a guard didn't help the Saints, who were apparently so greatly impacted by having such a highly-drafted guard they went 15-33 in his first three years as a starter.
Meanwhile, the best guards in the game today are drafted in the middle rounds. Oddly enough, the 2012 Saints and Bucs, who sported All-Pro guard play (Jahri Evans and Carl Nicks, drafted in the fourth and fifth rounds, respectively), both missed the playoffs. So I guess even great guards don't have much impact on the win-loss ratio?
So, to recap:
1) Warmack looks really good.
2) The Lions need to find a replacement starting right guard.
3) Drafting a guard early is no guarantee of getting a good one.
4) Quality guard play has very little correlation to winning football games.
5) If the Lions draft Warmack, and assuming he is a good football player and stays healthy (not guaranteed), he may still not be the best guard in the draft, and he will most likely have minimal impact on wins and losses.
6) The running game might be improved.
Do with this string of logic what you will.
Dee Milliner, CB, Alabama
It seems that when a team wins three national championships in four years, they tend to have players that are well-received in the NFL. So of four options discussed here for the Lions, two are from Alabama. I wish they weren't, but that's part of why I gave up on college football several years ago.
But that's a rant for a different time. Maybe on Twitter.
Milliner showed strong coverage skills at Alabama, though he spent most of his time there overshadowed by other defensive stars, especially current Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. Normally fifth would be a bit high for a cornerback, even the top one on the board, but there are a number of things pushing him up draft boards (besides an excellent scouting combine performance).
As the NFL becomes increasingly pass-oriented, positions like cornerback, offensive tackle and wide receiver are being drafted higher than ever, while more run-oriented positions, like interior linebacker and guard, are becoming less and less important.
Perhaps more importantly, this is an awful draft class, and so it doesn't appear there are a whole lot of impact players to be taken before Milliner. Better yet, Milliner might have the ability to give the Lions a true shutdown corner, a commodity that is growing in necessity these days.
The downside to drafting Milliner is that it most likely means giving up on the development of one of the cornerbacks they drafted last year. The Lions won't want to do that because each of them have shown great promise in their young careers.
Bill Bentley earned a starting job out of of training camp as a rookie. Jonte Green played as an effective spot-starter late in the season. Chris Greenwood spent all of last season on the PUP list, but is far and away the most athletically gifted cornerback on the team (and that's including Chris Houston).
If the Lions drafted Milliner, they would end up bailing out on one of those three players. Who would it be? And why would they do that?
Milliner could be the Lions' next shutdown corner, but so could one of the guys already on the team. So goes the dilemma.
So that's my take on the four most discussed (if not necessarily most likely) first-round picks the Lions can make this year.
This is the part where you make your pick. Vote in this poll that I made you myself, and see who you think is the best pick at No. 5 overall. I even added a couple options that I didn't discuss, just for you dissenters.
Of course, if I didn't cover your guy, or you want to make the case for your vote, there is a comments box, and I will talk to you there. To some degree.
So have at it, folks! Let's see what a fan-run Detroit Lions team would look like after the night of April 25th.
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