Well, Lions fans, the NFL has assigned the Detroit Lions the 13th pick in Round 1 of the 2011 draft.
This was accomplished without the momentary use of BCS computer time, a magic “8 Ball” or a Bozo Decoder Ring. Amazing!
We are unaccustomed to drafting talent at such a lowly position, and I wonder if you feel an impending sense of vertigo, as I do at the prospects.
After all, we are only one month removed from garnering the second overall pick in the draft, a position with which we are far more comfortable.
However, it is what it is. We can only pray to St. Martin of Mayhew that he has a plan for dealing with such a novel situation, and trust in the Lions GM that all will be well.
Drafting 13th means that the Lions will miss out on three gifted players who would have made for Honolulu Blue salubrious dreams. The Lions will miss a chance to grab CB Patrick Peterson, CB Prince Amukamara and OLB Von Miller.
While we know that the Lions' draft policy is to take the BPA (best player available), the BPA becomes blurry when one considers that the Lions no longer need to turn over their roster, or make major overhauls in most of the offensive, or defensive units.
Only the linebackers, the secondary, and to a lesser extent the offensive line need immediate attention. That’s real progress, folks.
So, what to do with that 13th pick? The closest player that possibly projects to be a starter in Detroit is Miami (Fla) CB Brandon Harris. According to DraftTek.com, Harris is a modest reach, but isn’t the shutdown CB that the Lions really need.
The Lions can trade down, and bring Harris, or Florida CB Janoris Jenkins, into play. Doing so would artificially create a BPA who would be a “value” pick, while possibly adding a pick later in the draft.
The other option is trading up for that certain player that would provide immediate impact as a starter.
Trading up is expensive, and entails certain risks. In 2011, there are some mitigating factors that make trading up much more palatable than you might think.
Here’s why trading up would be beneficial, and should be the Lions option of choice.
Mitigating factor No. 1: Talent, talent, talent
Let me ask you a question: Who is the most talented free safety in the draft?
It’s LSU’s CB Patrick Peterson. Second place is not even close. Peterson is a ball hawking coverage stud as a cornerback. So why move him to free safety?
Peterson suffers from the Amari Spievey syndrome. Stiff hips. Add to that his high backpeddle and you have a CB who covers short routes poorly.
The other knock on Peterson as a CB is that he wears down badly as the game progresses. In the first half, Peterson won most of the one-on-one battles. In the second half, Peterson was repeatedly burned against Alabama, Arkansas and South Carolina.
While it can be argued that Peterson is also a great return specialist, thus adding to his work load, the truth is that Peterson’s immaturity is the leading contributor in his poor stamina.
Like Spievey, Peterson is best suited as a free safety. The Lions will coach that stamina problem out of him. Peterson should be patrolling the deep secondary, making his customary great reads on the QB, while Louis Delmas can play the strong safety position.
Delmas is a much more natural strong safety than he is a free safety. The safety tandem of Delmas and Peterson would be lights out.
Mitigating factor No. 2: The CBA
The CBA, if ratified, will almost certainly contain a Rookie Wage Scale (RWS). This will make NFL teams more upwardly mobile as they will no longer be on the hook for $40 to $50 million rookie contracts. This is a big incentive to be aggressive in trade-up scenarios.
Mitigating factor No. 3: Free agency
We will not know the details regarding free agency rules until the CBA is (hopefully) ratified. General Managers must project players as both restricted, and unrestricted free agents, and plan for either scenario.
In either case, free agent acquisitions would obviously alter the Lions approach to the draft. Knowing the Lions' draft position is a key piece of the puzzle.
Lions head coach Jim Schwartz alluded to the Lions broad philosophy regarding the targeting of free agents when he stated that the Lions will not necessarily pursue the biggest “name” free agents, but would target free agents who best fit what the Lions do.
The mitigating factors of talent, the CBA, and free agency will all play a prominent role in formulating the Lions' draft strategy.
As I mentioned in John Farrier’s latest article, having that 13th pick puts the Lions in “no man’s land” talent wise. Mayhew will not reach into the second round for a first round pick.
I believe that the Lions should aggressively trade up into the top of the draft. I know, it seems counterintuitive to everything the Lions do, but if they can do so as soon as possible, the following will likely happen:
First, the Lions would get a shot at Peterson, Amukamara or Miller—starting talent.
Second, with a high draft pick, the Lions will gain a measure of leverage in free agent negotiations. The same kind of leverage that may have been a factor in the signing of Kyle Vanden Bosch last year.
Finally, the price will be extremely high, but not prohibitively so as was the case prior to a rookie wage scale. If the Lions can put a sure fire starter on the field with a trade-up gambit, then they should do so.
Mike Sudds is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Mike is also an analyst and correspondent for DraftTek.com.
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