Over the years I have been accused of being an enabler, Polly Ann, delusional and drunk with Kool-Aid.
Wait, they may have been right about that last one.
Now I'll admit I do tend to look on the bright side of life and that's not always an easy task with the Lions so you would think I would get more love. You know, sympathy for the man scraping the floor for a few bread crumbs. Problem is there are so many of us down here and I'm sure we drive the Dark-Siders nuts so I understand all the good-hearted jabs.
What I would like to tell everyone is how after all those years we can finally find the bright side without using night vision goggles.
Finding life on these Lions isn't exactly like Columbus finding a world full of life; we see some signs but maybe not cities full of it. Nor is it like saying we found life on Mars because of some water molecules in rocks. We don't have to look quite that hard.
This is more like finding green shoots after a long and hard drought (you know, if they named droughts like they do hurricanes we could call it drought Matt). Still a few dry patches but what's growing sure looks good.
Got a good looking safety growing over there. Sure, he looks all alone except for a few little green sprouts around him but we took out some weeds and we've been fertilizing the sprouts like crazy, I'll let you decide what kind of fertilizer they're using.
We can see green spots and they might be at different heights and health right now, but they're there. While Calvin is still the biggest plant, that Stafford plant sure is growing fast and now I hear we got an exotic new hybrid we call Suh.
But enough about the farm, I want to talk about the farmers.
Maybe the most overlooked man is Martin Mayhew, he was given near barren land and he has a promising crop growing that we hope produces fruit for a while. But this article isn't about any future food supplies, this article is about right here, right now. Well, more like the last year and a half.
Put yourself in Mayhew's shoes. You've just been handed the keys to what could be called the worst franchise in who cares how long. What do you do? (death not an option)
First off, it's just temporary. The old guy is saying he is keeping everybody through the end of the season and then we'll see. Okay, a couple of months and a timely phone call to Jerry Jones wrapped that up but then what?
Mayhew had two big decisions in front of him, a head coach and the scouting department.
In both instances he stuck to his guns, Schwartz wasn't a big name and keeping the entire scouting staff was pretty courageous stuff around here. The easy thing to do would be tear everything apart and the media would have loved him. Instead he did his homework and tweaked assignments a little.
The jury is just beginning it's deliberations on those two decisions but where do you go next. You got your scouting and coaching staffs together, now you have to assess your talent then get what you need right?
Unfortunately this team was Calvin and the chipmunks so that didn't take very long. Got some veteran "okay" OL guys and maybe some decent young front seven guys plus the rookie RB had a good year but that's about it.
You know you need to upgrade about 40 positions and it sure would be handy to get a couple of really good players too. No easy task, so what do you got?
Well you got a little cap room, not much but workable. However, there is no rush by Free Agents to book those flights to Detroit and I don't think it was all weather related. The only free agents you're getting are looking for playing time.
Unfortunately there are usually reasons why a player is looking for playing time but you got holes to fill. We ain't turning this around for a minute so lets sign some two year contracts while we figure some things out. Welcome Phillip Buchannon, Grady Jackson, Dan Loper and Eric King, have some playing time.
Might get a little lucky and find a waiver pick-up or two that works out but if we want talent it has to come out of the draft. Now we can't draft 40 players but we need to find that dozen or so players we can build around and you can't realistically do that in less then 3 drafts.
So now you got to make a three year plan for the draft and what do you have in those top three round picks? These are where you are getting top 100 prospects that you expect to hit on a high percentage because by the 4th round it's a little iffy. You do your research and take your best guesses to find guys that fit your system but if you're finding one player a year out of the late rounds you're doing a good job.
Fortunately you were able to get the Cowboys to take Roy Williams so you are sitting better then most teams and you got that No. 1 overall to start with. If we ranked the value of picks over the next 3 years it would look like this:
1. 2009 1st round first overall, gold star value, you expect a stud. This is the pick that sets it all up and it sure would be nice if there is a QB.
2. 2010 1st round pick, another gold star player. You had to figure this would still be a high pick, at least top 10. Hopefully you will find a front 7 player for your defense to build around.
3. 2011 1st round pick, this is kind of where you transition to Silver value players. We hope this will be in the mid-teens at least and those 15th to 40th picks are usually real nice players but not the absolute studs of the Gold club. This particular pick will be your wild card, you will have 2 years to identify where you want to add a very good player. It's looking like CB, DE or OT right now but we'll see.
4. 2009 extra 1st round pick. Maybe this ends up the 3rd highest ahead of the 2011 pick but only if the Lions start winning a bunch of games. With this pick you want to add a difference maker, someone who can create some mismatches and be a Pro-Bowl caliber player for years. It's not a given you can find someone like that at No. 20 but you have the advantage of not being locked into a position.
5. 2009 2nd round pick. Sitting at the top of the 2nd round is like drafting late 1st round, you still want a difference maker who can stick around for a while.
6. 2010 2nd round pick. Similar to the 2009 2nd round pick, still want difference makers. If you get a nice solid starter here you still whiffed if a Pro Bowl type guy was available, you need starters but you need stars more
7. 2011 2nd round pick. Your last chance for a play maker in the 3 year plan. It gets a little hairier finding one in the 40s range of picks but there generally is someone available. Probably not at a position you want though so you might have to work a little trade magic to go up and get your guy.
8. 2011 3rd round pick. You have four 3rd round picks and these are your Bronze level picks. Now it's okay to find a ten year starter, the guys with top skills are gone unless they have huge red flags and we are not in a position to take chances. With these four 3rd round picks you hope to find three good starters, love to get four but history says three would be pretty good.
This is also a place where you can figure need into it more, the talent kind of evens out at this point in the draft. It's also a great spot to take someone a little under the radar if you really like someone.
So those were our our top eleven assets when Mayhew took over. We'll call it our Detroit Dozen (always one player short). We need to hit on eight or nine of those players with a couple of them being stars. You want those players sprinkled around the team and you want a couple of key positions filled like QB, a playmaker or two and maybe a stud OL guy on offense, plus some cornerstones to lead your defense.
With this defense your key positions are a stud DT, a three-down LB calling the signals and a top safety that can cover. Sure, you want a top DE or CB but the strength needs to be up the middle, you can scheme the edges if you have solid players out there.
So far Mayhew is scratching all the right spots with our Detroit Dozen, add a stud OT next year plus another starter or two and he's covered all of the top needs. Too soon to tell if he hit on those picks yet but the early returns sure look good.
You have what looks like Gold standard players at QB and DT. Apparently filled key positions on both sides of the ball with Silver standard players. The bronze players look good with the exception of D-Will, and the whole story hasn't been written on him yet.
Even looking good on those late round picks with Sammie Hill and now Follett expected to at least contribute. Love that Fox pick this year and the Willie Young pick is intriguing plus I don't write off A-Brown and Gronko yet. Throw in the trades for Sims, Williams, Houston, Hill, maybe Simpson and Mayhew is getting great value out of the late round picks too.
Mayhew can bring in free agents and make trades to fill important spots and let's hope this years crop is better than last year's. He can also keep turning over those rocks to find contributors like Hunter and Heller while Schwartz can hopefully coach up players like Cherilous and Avril.
These are ways to fill out your roster but in the end it's how well Mayhew drafts and most importantly it's how well he does with the "Detroit Dozen" that determines our harvest.
So far the crop is looking good and Schwartz appears to be getting the kitchen in order. It might be too soon to sit at the dining room table but I like the smells coming out of the kitchen.
Of course I've been starving for a while now so just smelling any food cooking is a nice change.