Detroit Lions Draft Analysis

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Detroit Lions Draft Analysis
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The fans didn't get what they wanted on draft day, but for the sake of new GM Martin Mayhew, let's hope they get a little bit more of it on Sundays.

With such a wide variety of needs, there really was no position Detroit couldn't touch in this draft, and undoubtedly at its conclusion there will still be additional holes to patch.  Here's how it has shaken out.

 

Round One, pick one (First overall) - Matthew Stafford, QB, Georgia

Profile: Much has been made of Stafford's big arm.  He can make all the throws you would expect an NFL starter to make.  He's mobile enough to stay upright and played amongst elite competition at the college level in the SEC. 

On the down side, his completion percentage was a tad low, though it did improve every season, and he throws more interceptions than one might like to see.  He should be helped by the pro-style system he ran for four years.

Fit: Stafford seems to be a candidate for the Carson Palmer treatment as a rookie, given the lack of stability on the offensive line and the presence of Daunte Culpepper.  He'll have one of the premier wide receivers in the NFL to throw to in Calvin Johnson, as well as a potential top flight safety valve in TE Brandon Pettigrew.  Before risking their investment, however, the Lions must solidify their front five.

My pick: Aaron Curry, LB, Wake Forest.

Why: We have all seen what Curry can do on the field, but just seeing the way he carries himself, steeped in character, catapults him to the top of my draft board.  He is a high constitution guy, and that's exactly what the Lions need.

 

Round One, pick 20 (20th overall) - Brandon Pettigrew, TE, Oklahoma State

Profile: Pettigrew's physical tools are also well known.  He's a mammoth at his position, weighing in at roughly 260 lbs., and as such he won't stretch the field.  However, he has consistent hands, can settle into pockets in zone coverage, can exploit the seam in a defense, and is big and agile enough to create mismatches.  He does a great job using his body as a weapon.

Fit: Pettigrew should be a real asset to whomever starts under center.  The Lions have not had a quality pass catching tight end since David Sloan, and Pettigrew is likely to develop into a much better player than Sloan ever was.  Anything that takes focus off of Calvin Johnson is sure to help the Lions' offense move the ball.

My pick: Michael Oher, LT, Ole Miss.

Why: Jeff Backus is simply not good enough to play left tackle in the NFL.  Oher has been through a lot in his life and has developed excellent character along the way, and his physical tools are comparable, on the whole, to the other top tackles in this class.  The Lions could have really helped to solidify their offensive line with this pick.

 

Round Two, pick one (33rd overall) - Louis Delmas, S, Western Michigan

Profile: Delmas was one of the best safeties in this draft, but there was no true consensus at the position.  His measurables are all there and he was no doubt helped by his Senior Bowl performance.  He makes good decisions and was a team captain at WMU as a senior.  His small frame raises questions about his ability to help against the run, but Bob Sanders's success has probably reduced concerns of this type.

Fit: The Lions clearly view the 2010 Draft very differently than I do.  Instead of looking at guys like Sam Bradford, Jermaine Gresham, and Taylor Mays next season, they have filled those spots in this year's draft. 

The team selected Delmas to be the quarterback of the defense.  Just as at tight end, Detroit has not had a big time safety in a number of years, really since the days of Mark Carrier, Ron Rice, and Bennie Blades.  It really appears as though Detroit is looking for the second coming of the Colts' Bob Sanders.

My pick: Rey Maualuga, LB, USC.

Why: Safety is a position of need for the Lions, but it is not the position of greatest need.  Julian Peterson was a nice addition, but he is an outside, pass rushing linebacker and does little to solidify the middle of the defense. 

While Delmas will help toward that goal, Maualuga, despite lacking elite instincts, is an aggressive, punishing inside linebacker that flows to and attacks the ball.  He will need to develop more discipline and restraint in the NFL, but he would go a long way toward changing the defensive culture in Detroit.

 

Round Three, pick 12 (76th overall) - DeAndre Levy, OLB, Wisconsin

Profile: Levy was certainly an above average linebacker in college, but questions remain about his ability to transition to the NFL game.  His numbers in the weight room aren't elite but it didn't really show up on Saturdays.  It probably will on Sundays. 

He flows to the ball nicely but doesn't have elite change of direction skills, likely making pass coverage a difficulty.  He has shown flashes of greatness, but will have to work hard to develop into that kind of player.

Fit: If he can maintain his speed and add some bulk to his 235-lb. frame, he might be able to contribute on defense as well as on special teams right away. 

Detroit might look to move him to the middle, given his ability to recognize the play and get to the ball, or they might opt not to plug him in on defense right away and develop him as an heir apparent to Peterson on the outside.  He seems like a long shot to solve the Lions' problem at linebacker.

My pick: Rashad Johnson, S, Alabama.

Why: Looking back at my picks, the Lions would not yet have addressed safety.  Johnson didn't actually go until the end of this round, but he brings leadership, toughness, and great recognition to the table.  He might not be as good a prospect as Delmas, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that he develops into every bit as good a player, and in the third round he represents a far better value.

 

Round Three, pick 18 (82nd overall) - Derrick Williams, WR, Penn State

Profile: Derrick Williams is not a big, physical wide out, but he does possess elite athleticism and versatility.  On top of his top end speed, he has outstanding acceleration and is always a big-play threat with the ball in his hands.  He needs to put in some work to develop more consistent hands and he isn't the best route runner around, but he is a worthwhile prospect.

Fit: Detroit seemed to really need a No. 2 receiver, but that spot will likely be occupied by another Penn State product, Bryant Johnson.  A quick, shifty slot receiver, however, won't hurt this offense.  He should step in immediately to return punts and/or kicks and will compete with the newly-signed Ronald Curry and holdovers John Standeford, Shaun MacDonald, and Keary Colbert for playing time.

My pick: Derrick Williams, WR, Penn State.

Why: I actually like this pick, mainly for the athleticism Williams brings to the table.  The Lions have lacked a return threat since releasing Eddie Drummond a few off seasons ago, and they will need every opportunity to generate points, considering the number of holes still present in their defense. 

Several combinations of Williams, the Johnsons, Pettigrew, and whomever wins the final few roster spots at wide receiver, should be effective in providing matchup problems for opposing defenses.

 

Round Four, pick 15 (115th overall) - Sammie Lee Hill, DT, Stillman

Profile: There isn't much not to like about Hill.  He is quick, agile, large, and strong.  He's also versatile enough to play on the edge, if necessary, but will probably be best utilized inside, given his size.  More than anything, he will need to prove that he can do all the things he did at Stillman at a higher level of competition.

Fit: Grady Jackson will really help to shore up the middle of the Lions' defense, but he is 36 years old and clearly will not be around forever.  Hill will be able to play sparingly this season behind Jackson, Landon Cohen, and Langston Moore. 

The Lions also drafted a defensive tackle out of Florida State last season, Andre Fluellen, who showed some promising flashes.  This pick shows a commitment to getting younger and bigger up the middle.

My pick: D.J. Moore, CB, Vanderbilt.

Why: While there is no shortage of corners on the Detroit roster, there is a serious deficit in playmaking ability.  Moore would be able to compete for playing time immediately, and a combination of Anthony Henry, Phillip Buchanon, Travis Fisher, Eric King, and Moore should be able to hold their own against most NFL receiving corps.

 

Round Six, pick 19 (192nd overall) - Aaron Brown, RB, TCU

Profile:  Brown was productive in college, showing good elusiveness and quickness.  However, in the confined space of the NFL tackle box, Brown will have to prove that he can shed defenders.  He is a hard worker with several desirable traits, but doesn't figure to be a difference-maker at the next level.

Fit:  With Kevin Smith and Maurice Morris headlining the backfield team, the Lions figured to try and find some value later in the draft at running back.  With MSU's Javon Ringer gone to the Titans in round five, the Lions elected to tap TCU's Aaron Brown.  He could fill the third-down back role, as his ability to create in space makes him an attractive passing target out of the backfield.

My pick:  Michael Bennett, DE, Texas A&M.

Why:  Detroit has a serviceable stable of ends, headlined by second-year man Cliff Avril.  However, Dewayne White is unreliable and Jared DeVries is best used off the bench.  Bennett is able to send tackles back into the play with a great motor and above average lower-body strength.  He's also good at play diagnosis.

 

Round Seven, pick 19 (228th overall) Lydon Murtha, OT, Nebraska

Profile:  Murtha is lanky by offensive tackle standards, but he makes up for it with spectacular agility.  He has pretty good awareness and an understanding of the game.  He struggles with proper technique and bends too much at the waist.  He is a good pass blocker despite short arms.  He isn't exactly a mauler at right tackle, but he can get between defenders and the ball carrier in zone blocking schemes.

Fit:  Murtha won't challenge Backus the way an earlier pick would have, and he isn't likely to do so down the road, either.  He has many of the same issues that Backus has, and he played right tackle as a senior at Nebraska.  His future likely casts him as a utility/backup type of lineman.

My pick:  Gerald Cadogan, OT, Penn State.

Why:  He represents a good value at this slot, he is exceedingly intelligent, and he possesses at least adequate skills in all parts of his game.  He has good strength, exceptional awareness, and has always stayed healthy.  He does need to work on technique, especially using his hands.  He could play a number of different spots along the line, and in a few years might have been able to play left tackle.

 

Round Seven, pick 26 (235th overall) - Zach Follett, OLB, Cal

Profile:  Follett is a solid tackler that can bring people down in a crowd.  He plays downhill and can get to the ballcarrier, shedding blocks along the way.  However, he isn't as agile as a typical NFL linebacker and doesn't possess top flight range.  He has tools that could develop into a starting-caliber linebacker, but is far from a sure thing.

Fit:  Follett would project as a middle linebacker for the Lions, given his tackling ability, if he could cover more ground.  He doesn't have a great lateral movement, rendering him almost useless against stretch and toss plays.  He will also have trouble in pass coverage.  However, he might still get some reps inside given the above average range of Julian Peterson and Ernie Sims.

My pick:  Zach Follett, OLB, Cal.

Why:  At this point in the draft, a player as productive as Follett at a school like California is worth taking, especially to add to a unit as uncertain as the Lions linebackers.  That being said, they could have looked at Tennessee guard Anthony Parker with this pick.

 

Round Seven, pick 46 (255th overall) - Dan Gronkowski, TE, Maryland

Profile:  Gronkowski has decent hands, is effective attacking zone coverage, and can be helpful in double team blocks.  He does not have the ability to take on defenders himself and was not very productive in college.

Fit:  He will have to fight to make the roster next season and might end up on the practice squad.  His skill set doesn't seem likely to take a roster spot away from anyone.  He'll compete with Casey FitzSimmons for time alongside presumptive starter Brandon Pettigrew.

My pick:  Otis Wiley, S, Michigan State.

Why:  Wiley is a local product (born in Flint, MI, attended Carman-Ainsworth High School, former Michigan State Spartan) with exceptional instincts.  He is something of a ball hawk and gives it his all on every down.  He could stand to bulk up a bit, but he is able to make plays on the ball and the receiver.  He does lack elite agility, but this can be masked fairly effectively if he is used in cover 2 situations.  He also fills a much greater need than does Gronkowski.

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