2011 NFL Draft Grades: How Detroit Lions Can Earn an 'A' in Round 1
I will be following the draft with great anticipation this weekend like all of us who bleed Honolulu blue and silver. We are entering the third year of Martin Mayhew (GM) and Jim Schwartz (head coach) approaching the draft with their homework done and contingencies intact.
There have been several mock drafts drawn up for Detroit. I threw my own thoughts out there on who would end up being the next players in a Lions uniform, but we all know, that ultimately, it comes down to the next three days. The draft is now in the extremely capable hands of Mayhew and Schwartz.
The day we have all been waiting for has arrived.
I am honored to be covering the draft for the Lions and hope to do justice to a team that deserves our full attention and support. This draft may not hold all of the answers for the Lions to make the playoffs this year but important pieces will be added. Any outstanding needs Detroit has will be met with through free agency.
Yes, the Lions will make the playoffs this year. Mark your calendars.
Schwartz and Mayhew will bolster the lines and it will all start tonight.
Here is a "heads-up" on how the Lions can once again come out of the first round with the highest grade possible.
First Player to Earn Detroit an "A": CB Prince Amukamara
If Prince Amukamara falls to Detroit they will not hesitate to select him. He played on the same team as Ndamukong Suh, and Suh can vouch for his talent. Putting these two players together on defense would be a dream come true.
This would be my first choice for the Lions in the first round.
Lions score an "A+" if they can get Prince.
Second Player to Earn Detroit an "A": CB Jimmy Smith
I will admit that I was not on the bandwagon at all to take Jimmy Smith, period. I was concerned about his "character issues" as much as anyone else reading what the press had to say about him.
I've changed my mind.
Why? Because Smith has been under the microscope since the day he became eligible for the draft.
The media likes to play favorites as much as they love to throw draft prospects under the bus. It is due to all of the negative press that I have come to appreciate Smith. He's as human as you get. His life has been exposed and his character put to the test.
Smith was invited to come to Detroit so the coaches could get some of their own questions about his past behaviors answered. They too want to know how much of a liability or asset Smith would be.
I have Detroit taking Smith in the first round if they don't get Amukamara (they may trade down to get a better value on him).
If anyone thinks other players coming into the draft have never done anything in their past that could haunt them, they must live in a world that I haven't seen.
What is important to know about Smith is that he has kept his nose clean for the last three years.
Is he a risk? Sure, just like everyone else.
Are there players on the Detroit Lions team who could be positive mentors for Smith and help him continue to mature? Without a doubt in my mind.
This kid (bear in mind that he is just a kid) has incredible skills that would upgrade the secondary the moment he stepped on the field.
As much as the media has spent time on his "flaws" what gets overlooked is where he is now. At least he is forthcoming about his past mistakes. He knows everyone will be watching him and wondering if he will fail. He has probably dealt with this most of his adult life and yet he keeps moving forward.
He has been likened to two players in the NFL: Nnamdi Asomugha and Aqib Talib. Which one could he become more permanently linked to?
I submit that it comes down to a story widely known in the Cherokee Native American community. *
The legend told is about two wolves living inside of the grandfather telling the story to his grandson. The one wolf represents thoughts and actions that could destroy him. The other wolf represents the good in him. The grandson asks which wolf will win this battle. The grandfather says simply, "the one I feed."
The moral of the story is that Jimmy Smith will become whichever Jimmy Smith he chooses to become. With support and guidance he could be the next great shutdown corner in the NFL.
I believe that he can and will get this kind of support (that one that feeds the second wolf) in Detroit.
* I share this legend with great respect for the Cherokee Nation.
Third Player to Earn Detroit an "A": OG/C Mike Pouncey
This pick is contingent on not getting a CB in the first round.
With so many outsiders saying that the Lions need an upgrade at OT it makes me wonder if they know the Lions at all. Could the Lions use help at RT if Gosder Cherilus isn't able to play in the first couple of games? Yes. Do the Lions need to begin preparing for LT Jeff Backus to retire? Probably. Worth a first round pick? No.
The Lions would do better to go with a player like Mike Pouncey who can play OG/C. Stephen Peterman, the current OG struggled to hold the line last year and C Dominic Raoila, who is a lion of a player, can also get beat down on the line. It would be good for the Lions to have some depth here and add someone to compete for Peterman's job.
If they pass on Pouncey or he is already gone then I think they trade down to get Stefen Wisniewski if they want to target this position.
Final Players to Earn Detroit an "A": DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan or Aldon Smith
I put these last two guys together because they are so much alike. The final two prospects that would earn the Lions an "A" are the DE/OLB hybrid players Ryan Kerrigan and Aldon Smith. My only concern with taking them in the first round is that both would need to bulk up before they could play in a 4-3 scheme as an OLB. The OLB position for Detroit is what I see as the greater need.
I believe that most Lions fans know that OT is not the biggest issue for the Lions offensive line right now. The first round has to go to players who can start right away. Any of the players highlighted in this article could do that.
Ultimately, I completely trust Mayhew and Schwartz to know who to target in every round.