"Report Card Year" For Detroit Lions Draft Class Of 2008: Time To Shine!

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Most NFL draft prognosticators, pundits, and pugilists would agree that three seasons of play should be allowed before “grading” a prospective team’s draft performance.  And that’s usually where the aforementioned parties cease to agree.

 

If such is the case, then this is the year when we are “allowed” to grade the Detroit Lions NFL Draft Class of 2008: the largest-surviving and final draft class of the Millen era.

 

Using robust fan comments to review our initial reaction to the Detroit Lions draft is always fun for everybody, especially when we get to “review the tape” after a couple of years.

 

I’ll present assorted and opposing comments regarding the Detroit Lions NFL Draft Class of 2008 and offer a purview on what those players must do to remain with the pride going into the 2011 campaign.

 

The first comment I’d like to share is from a dear friend of mine who is a Detroit Lions fan in Huntington, West Virginia.  He grew up a fan of Barry Sanders and when Barry quit the game, Click remained a loyal fan of the Honolulu Blue and Silver throughout his lifetime, never wavering:

 

lionsclick77 April 27, 2008 at 7:49PM

Matt and Rod,

I love the draft this year!!! We addressed all of our needs this year that were in doubt some of you so called fans still complain about our draft though and that baffles me, I'd say we did a darn good job!

1. Gosder Cheirlus OT 6'7 315 lbs- Blocked for Matt Ryan and gave him time to throw the ball and become the 3rd overall pick. We needed OL help so here's our guy. He can start right away.
http://www.nfl.com/draft/profiles/gosder-cherilus?id=210

2. Jordon Dizon MLB 6'0 229- Had better numbers then any other LB in college last year, he's a tackling machine 463 in his career, 8th best all time in NCAA and he was the Big 12 conference player of the year. He could be the next coming of Sam Mills who was also small but I'd say he did pretty good in the NFL.

3. Kevin Smith RB 6'1 217 lbs- Almost broke Barry Sanders single season rushing record in 2007 running for 2,566 yds which was only 62 yards shy of our boy Barry. He is a true workhorse scored in 12 of 14 games. He is the real deal and will work out very well for us.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFS-ApvyVa8

4. Andre Fluellen DT 6'2 296 lbs- We had a big hole to fill at DT after Rogers was traded and I’m not sure Darby could fill that hole all year. Had 93 tackles and 12 sacks last year in college. Clogs up the running hole. Seems good to me.

5. Cliff Avril OLB/DE 6'3 252 lbs- Can play either position well and is the pass rushing machine that we needed badly. Will probably play mostly at the Strong LB position, I believe he will still play some DE for us too.

6. Kenneth Moore WR 5'11 195 lbs- Had 98 catches for 1,011 yards last year in college and had 500 rushing yards his junior year. Will be that excellent WR/PR that we've been needing.

7. Jerome Felton FB 6'0 246 lbs- One pick that I was pretty disappointed in at first. I’m a WVU fan and I was really wanting to see Owen Schmitt in the Silver and Blue but after looking this guy over, I believe he's gonna be good. We needed a FB badly no matter what you guys believe. This guy can gain that short yardage that we need to pick up 1st downs and score those short yardage TD's for us. I like the pick of FB here.

8. Landon Cohen DT 6'3 274 lbs- Not real sure about this pick at all. Very small guy. I hope Rod knows what he was doing here. There's not to much out there on this guy but he does add depth to that D-Line which is a good thing, we have to pressure the QB.

9. Caleb Campbell S 6'2 229 lbs- Great pick Detroit!!! This guy is going to come in and give it his all. I'm sure we've all heard the story about this guy so I'm not going to write much. I think he's going to turn out to be a stud and a fan favorite for the Detroit Lions for years to come.

 

http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/2008/04/lions_pick_up_seven_prospects.html

 

Next are comments from my “Big Breaux”, Willy, also here on Bleacher Report:

 

willy3411 April 27, 2008 at 7:51PM

Lions B

They addressed their needs. They were very cagy on day 2. They took care of the trenches.

 

This guy always thought he was “on the money”:

 

pittbull78 April 27, 2008 at 8:39PM

who the hell can stop our offense now? good oline and a RB with something to prove, calvin johnson, roy williams!!!! im jacked , cant wait!!!!!!

GO LIONS!!!

Just so there is no ambiguity, let’s review how the Detroit Lions finished in certain categories in 2008:

 

 

Offensive Category

Rank

Total Yards:

30th

Rushing:

30th

Passing:

24th

Scoring:

27th

Games Won:

Zero

 

My guess is somebody (well, only everybody I suppose) found a way to stop the offense in 2008:  OwenXVI Champions.

 

Regardless, the pundits’ profession is that I should wait three years before casting judgment upon those poor souls invited to the Lions den in Allen Park, but I haven’t a problem departing from their suggestions early and often.

 

These were my post-draft thoughts and initial “grade” of the Detroit Lions 2008 NFL Draft:

GoLionsWin April 27, 2008 at 7:52PM

OVERALL: the usual bittersweet disappointment. I liked the way the last pick went. I liked the acquisition of Cliff Avril, but not how it was done. I thought trading down was good until it became Cherilus over Albert. That was plain stupid. Taking Dizon with the 45th pick was insanity. Trading up to get Kevin Smith was stupid and not necessary. No 4th rounder this year or next because they can't manage the draft. To me they wasted their 5th round picks too and traded away their 6th mismanaging the draft again.

Once again it's the people they passed on when they were on the board and could have addressed some real needs. Somebody's going to say they addressed needs in the 5th - I can see the argument that we need a KR/PR and a power back. I also understand you want your KR/PR to also make the team at his "natural" position as well, such as WR in this case. To me they would have been better off drafting Kellen Davis from MSU. I can only hope that the UFA market is stronger for the Lions than some of these picks.

To me it's all about the principle involved and that's why I give this draft an outstanding D-.

 

So, my initial grade for the 2008 Detroit Lions Draft Class was a “D-“.  Nice.

 

Going into the final “tri-season-mester” before report cards are issued, I’ll tell you where my current grade is relative to the pick and where I expect the grade to be by season’s end.

 

 

Rnd

Ovrl

Ovrl

Pos

College

Current Grade

Projected Grade

1

17

Gosder Cherilus

T

Boston College

C-

C+

2

45

Jordon Dizon

OLB

Colorado

I

I

3

64

Kevin Smith

RB

Central Florida

B

B

3

87

Andre Fluellen

DT

Florida State

C

C+

3

92

Cliff Avril

DE

Purdue

B-

A-

5

136

Kenny Moore

WR

Wake Forest

F

F

5

146

Jerome Felton

FB

Furman

C

B-

7

216

Landon Cohen

DE

Ohio U.

C-

B-

7

218

Caleb Campbell

DB

Army

I

B+

 

While Matt Millen’s selection of offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus was theoretically designed to provide the Detroit Lions with stability and strength at the right tackle position, the pick has yet to demonstrate either.

 

A recent article by Tom “Killer” Kowalski on mlive.com/lions brings to light the mental errors that Cherilus commits.  These errors result in penalties, sacks, losses, and disgruntled fans.  I believe this to be the “get off the pot” year for Gosder, as do many of the Lions faithful.  Hopefully RT Gosder Cherilus puts it all together and has the best year of his career for the Detroit Lions.

 

For the 2nd Round selection made by Matt Millen in 2008, I can offer only this:

 

“When you have nothing to say, say nothing.”  --Charles Caleb Colton

 

I had a hunch that former Central Florida RB Kevin Smith would somehow find his way to Allen Park via the 2008 draft and, with the 64th overall selection, it came to fruition.  His collegiate connection to Barry Sanders seemed like a compass pointing north from Orlando to Detroit.

 

Kevin’s rookie season featured what I felt was a good performance by a young man with a heart the size of Texas and a repertoire with the media equally as large.  Despite a winless season, Smith gave his all and then some.

 

Smith’s sophomore season ended in injury, but he’s already back for organized team activities.  He may not be 100 percent by the season opener, but his attitude sure is.  Smith provides a solid value based on his draft status.

 

I was pleased when the Lions selected former Seminole Andre Fluellen, but I wasn’t happy the Lions took him before Boilermaker DE Cliff Avril.  Fortunately for me, I was blessed to hear the news just a few picks later that Cliff was headed to Detroit via West Lafayette.

 

I think the addition of veteran talent, along with other young talent on the roster, makes this year critical for Andre Fluellen to continue to demonstrate his worth as a hybrid DT/DE.  When roster cuts are made, I think it will help guys like Andre Fluellen and Turk McBride to get “over the cusp”, as they offer Head Coach Jim Schwartz and DC Gunther Cunningham position flexibility.

 

I must unabashedly admit that the selection of Purdue DE Cliff Avril was my most favorite pick in the 2008 NFL Draft.  It is only fitting that the 92nd overall selection just happens to wear number 92 for the Detroit Lions.

 

I think Cliff has done a good job getting to the quarterback when possible, and I’m looking forward to seeing his play improve against the run.  I’m hoping his “junior” year in Detroit will bring him the same kind of success he found as a junior at Purdue.

 

This is the year where Gunther Cunningham will help Cliff take his game to the next level in his progression.  I would like to see eight sacks and brooding intensity from Cliff during his second year of mentorship under Cunningham.  Avril has all of the tools and just needs to explode off the charts in 2010.

 

GoLionsWin April 27, 2008 at 1:41PM

Did the Kittens just waste their 1st 5th round pick or what?! WR!!! Nice work jerks.

GoLionsWin April 27, 2008 at 1:58PM

Jonathan Goff, Kirk Barton, Nick Hayden, Carl Nicks, Keilen Dykes, Scandrick Orlando - got to be somebody here they don't have to "waste" a pick on who could possibly contribute.

http://www.mlive.com/lions/index.ssf/2008/04/lions_trade_up_take_purdue_de/2235/comments-3.html

 

Carl Nicks called the other day to thank Matt Millen and says it feels great to be a Super Bowl champion (wink, wink).  Can you say the Lions blew that pick???

 

I didn’t know much about Landon Cohen until the Lions picked the former Bobcat in the 7th Round of the 2008 draft, and honestly, I didn’t expect him to make the 2009 roster.  His return from off-season training produced a 300-pound man who could complete 50 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press.  We refer to that as “tremendous upper-body strength”.

 

Now, as an Army guy (not USMA, a former NCO with the 1st Cavalry Division and Recruiting Command), I was ecstatic when Matt Millen selected Caleb Campbell to join the fray at Fort Detroit.  The former Army safety is now competing at outside linebacker and on special teams for the 2010 Detroit Lions.

 

Of course, as no slack is due, I have to share a little service humor.

 

What’s the difference between a Private First Class and a First Lieutenant?

 

The Private First Class has been promoted twice!

 

The Department of the Army rescinded a policy that would have allowed Campbell to compete for the Detroit Lions in 2008, but, after two years away, Caleb is back at it and ready to go.

 

“LT 53” Campbell’s speed actually increased to sub-4.5 in the 40-yard dash when timed in Allen Park prior to the signing of his new contract in 2010.  Coach Schwartz has given Caleb his vote of confidence, stating that Campbell’s speed is outstanding and he hasn’t forgotten how to play the game of football.

 

To me, Caleb Campbell possesses the most unlimited ceiling of any of the members of the current Detroit Lions linebacker corps.  The pass-coverage skills he honed on the banks of the Hudson River should translate well when covering the tight end or a running back out of the backfield.

 

All in all, as Martin Mayhew continues to infuse talent into this once moribund roster, not all of the members currently on the roster from the 2008 draft class will remain with the club in 2010.  Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, and Sammie Lee Hill figure largely at the DT position, but after them, how many more will the Lions keep as they par the roster down to 53 men.

 

I expect Cherilus, Smith, Avril, Felton, and Campbell to make the 53-man roster.  I think that Fluellen, Cohen, and Dizon are all on the cusp.  All three could be roster casualties if each does not display exceptional value to this coaching staff as they go forward.

 

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