Thursday, March 20, 2008

Building Through the Draft?

I was thinking of Rod's vision of an energetic, hard hitting, rock pounding,smash mouth, team full of draft picks while hacking my lungs out and feeling like Ernie Simms just blindsided me from 15 yards out last night, when I had a thought.

How's it going so far with that build through the Draft thing, Rod? This is his third draft. I am of the mind that there are three draft evaluations: Right away, you can do the first two; the third you need to wait at least 3 full seasons for. So, you can't truly judge even his first draft yet.

It also needs to be taken into consideration that the first draft is generally fairly shaky for a new coach -- they do not have a good enough handle on the current players to know who is all going to work out, and who isn't. Who will buy in, who won't? The scouting department also needs to get a handle on what type of players the coach is looking for -- talent, type for each position, character, etc. The second year is a bit better, and the third draft on out is where you usually see the personality if the coach really imprinted throughout as the scouting department has also finally had time and practice at finding the players the coach wants. Generally, there are more good hits in later rounds the longer a coach is with a team, as the scouting department can find gems that fit in that coaches scheme and criteria that will be available in later rounds.

The first method is what I call the "Publication Method" -- this is based solely on how the players are ranked/rated, and how many good ones you got based on where you were picking, reach, value, et al. Also, is whether the team filled positions of need, built depth, etc. I don't like this method as half of the "highly rated" players bust every year, on average. I get disgusted every year when the 3rd or 4th OT, or even the top OT, is always said to "plug in and protect [QB's] blind side for ten years." Why not 9? or 7? or 15? Who knows! Robert Gallery was a top pick, best OT in that draft. Rated just as high as Joe Thomas was last year. Jake Long this year. And he is struggling at G right now. Ryan Leaf and Peyton Manning were neck-and-neck. We all know how that turned out. It also punishes teams that actually do draft to fit their system! The highest rated CB's in this draft would be as useful to the Lions as Dre Bly -- they are the pure cover corners. The good cover corners who play the run better, essential to the T2, are generally to be found in rounds 2-3, sometimes 4. However, as none of those guys have played a down in the NFL, it is really the only way to look at success immediately after the draft.

The second judge of the draft is how pro-active the GM was in moving around the board. Many teams are content to always sit and see who falls to them, and almost never trade. Criteria include looking at what picks they started with and how many, and what they end up with. Did they give up too many picks to move up in a given round? Or did they parlay the often wasted 5-7th rounders into better picks higher up in the draft?

The third is what needs to wait three years, and that is how the players drafted worked out, whether they made the roster and contributed, at what level, did they leave and find success, etc. I don't say Pro-Bowls because that is a popularity contest that half of the people make on reputation, not current performance.

There are two types of GMs: Those who give their coaches what their philosophy will be, give them the players the GM wants, and then say go to it. (or the Owner telling the GM, in some cases.) Examples right now are San Diego, Oakland, and Miami. Then there are GM's that get whatever players their coach wants, such as Atlanta and the Jets. Most are a combination of the two - taking into consideration what the Coach would like, but also what is in the best interest of the franchise.

Millen with Morninwheg and Mariucci got them whatever players they wanted, at whatever price in FA, but also picked his own guys at QB, and other positions. In other instances, WCF made the call, for instance Joey or BMW. With Marinelli, it started out similar -- they gave him Simms and Bullocks in his first draft, but in the second went for CJ and Stanton (Stanton seems like a Marinelli type of guy, but was still, IMHO a Millen and/or Martz pick. CJ definitely Martz influence.) This off season, Millen has been signing the guys Rod wants, but they are not breaking the bank. They would have liked Duckett back, but only up to a certain price (which was exceeded.) Same for Woody, Julius Jones, et al. Marinelli also seems to have put his foot down in a guiding, teacher kind of way to maneuver how the Lions are drafting. While he may not be saying "draft him" -- it seems pretty darn close. WCF, and Millen - to a certain extent - never really had full confidence in Mornhinwhig and Mariucci -- he chose them because he went with what everyone else thought he needed. But it seemed they were on the hot seat from Day 1. Millen is more comfortable with Marinelli, and even WCF can see he is taking the Lions back to what they were traditionally in the 50's -- a blue collar, hard working, bring the hits to you team. He can also see that the Fans are resonating with this. Because of this comfort level, the longer Rod is here, the less they seem to be telling him who to play, and the more they are letting him build the team to fit his vision -- because it is one they (and the fans) share. I think he has also done the near impossible task of convincing the team that they really screwed up, and that fixing it would be painful, and would take a while.

Well, Lunch is over for me right now -- looking at the criteria I laid out, how would you rate Millen/Marinelli for their first two drafts? I'm going to use what we've seen of each player to rate them on all 3 criteria later hopefully today. In the meantime, give it some thought. I know that you will all have different, but equally valid and interesting ideas. Remember, this exercise is based on opinion, so is not the be-all-end-all fact of the issue.

Those of you home "sick" on the couch today, just hoping to find SOMETHING on TV...think of those of toiling away at work, and down a beer and some hot wings in our honor.


JJLions20 said...

What I disagree with is who made the picks. Backus and Riola were made by Millen all by himself. I'm not sure if we will ever know who made the Joey pick. From what I read, it doesn't make sense to think it was Morningweg. Drafting a QB and knowing your going to have to play him because you don't have an established veteran, would have been a death wish for a coach. Also remember Mornigweg really wanted a mobile QB, and he thought it was McMahan (sp). So I don't think it Morningweg, I think it was Millen. The Roy/KJ draft looked like a Millen draft. He was moving around getting the players he wanted. Of course Mouch would have agreed with those picks. Now the Mike Williams pick, I'm not sure. I think Mooch had a lot of say, but it was probably Millens pick. With the
Ernie Simms pick, Millen made the pick, but it had Marenelli's finger prints over that one. That was a loud signal that Millen was willing to listen to his head coach and draft what he said he needed. With CJ I think it was just a no brainer in the organization. He was simply the best player in the draft and the lions had him fall in their lap. With Stanton, I don't believe that was a Martz pick, because his ego says he doesn't need a great talent at QB, because he can make any QB successful. I think Stanton was a Millen pick, but once again it has Marenelli's finger prints over it. Although Rod likes Kitna, he knew he would be needing a new QB by 2009, or 2010. Stanton was an investment.

This year I think you will see more than ever, Millen and Marenelli on the same page with the type of players to pick. They may not even be the top guy on Kiper's board at the time they pick, but it will be the guy Rod wants. Rod’s philosophy is why take a guy that you really don’t want, just because of potential. Just take the guy you want that fits your system.

JJLions20 said...

oops, I didn't get the first paragraph pasted in there....

I agree with your three ways of analyzing a draft. It's fun during the draft to see your team get a highly rated player, or one that is said to be of great value at that point of the draft. But the first real evaluator of a draft is how many of those players are getting playing time come the first half of their first season. I do agree the final grade is after 3 seasons.

Anonymous said...

With Mohrneigweig we had a situation of 1st time & 1st year coach combined with a 1st time & 1st year GM organizing the warroom draft strategy..... We saw the results.

With Mariucci we had a situation where the coach and GM didn't see eye to eye organizing the warroom draft strategy...... We saw the results.

Now we got a coach and GM that do see eye to eye, with "upper management," a coach Marinelli quote, not putting up any resistance so far this offseason..... We will see the results come draft day.

Besides, it takes time for an organization that has continually changed coaches and with an organization where the coach and GM don't agree, to get on the same page wherever they are on the managerial hierarchy. The coach and GM depend on information provided by the scouting department in addition to combine and/or personal workout days. It would be logical to think that for coach Marinelli's first 2 drafts, the scouting department might not have known just what exactly coach Marinelli was looking for. I got to believe that the scouting department will provide reliable information rather than questionable information, and we won't draft "hunch" or "on an impulse" players, instead the players we draft will be gym rats and pound the rock types that coach Marinelli is seeking to turn this thing around. In addition, we won't have coach Martz skewing our picks with his contrarian input.

Go Lions


JJLions20 said...

After reading the post by 5BakerStreet, I think he may be onto something. Rod hit gold with his two first round picks since he joined the Lions. But in those cases he knew months ahead of time the players that would most likely be available at that position in the Draft. He could personally interview the players he considered an option. In both cases he got good talent, with good attitudes, and fit what he was building.

Now he can't really personally research and interview the top 100 players in the Draft, so he has to rely on the scouting department. What I'm hoping happened is Millen involved Rod in mentoring the scouting department, so they can look for the same things Rod is looking for, and report back.

Lets not blame the scouting department too much though, when they had to go through 3 coaches in 6 years. It started with a 1st time coach (Morningweg), they had no idea what he wanted (and he probably didn't either). Then they get Mooch. There was no doubt he was offensively oriented, and so was the Draft. Now there is Rod, and it's his third draft. Lets hope this is the right formula.

dreamweaver said...

I'm loking for a great draft this year. It looks like Millen is giving Rod more control on the players that are picked. I know it's still to soon to tell for sure, but it looks like the draft picks have improved each year under Rod.Not only did he inharit a bad team, the scouting department was in shambles also I'm sure. With new HC's and new systems every 2 years it's imposiable for everyone to be on the same page. I think rod has things sorted out now, The DB's were the weakest link last year, and that is what Rode addressed in the off season. he brought in vets that knew his system, add a few younger players that fit the system. that should make a big difference. now with everyone on the same page, they can fill the biggest holes this draft in the early rounds (DT, OT, MLB,DE) get a RB in the fourth, and add depth in later rounds. I look for the Lions to make a run at the playoffs as a wild card this year, and to win the NFC north next year.

CHIEFGER139 said...

the draft the last 2 years has not been great by any means-sims-a starter,cj a starter-alexander a starter-scott-i dont think so ever-calhoun in the 3rd seriously makes me doubt about you guys sayin get a rb in the 3rd-if thats what were gettin why bother-looks like at least were gettin our 1st pick right-so i say conners-but dont blame then if go with mendenhal-maybe big backs are a more sure thing so if go big back in the 3rd we can afford a tackle or lb in the 1st?? actually i think rod is running the show and i trust the guy-lets see what he does-winning 7 games last year and the guts to cut jones earned alot of respect from me this year towards rod

Anonymous said...

While I can understand that the scouting department had it tough developing a "type" of player to draft, with 3 coaches in 6 years. But that doesn't let them off the hook IMO.

I could understand if they drafted quality players that just didn't fit the system, but they drafted bad players for any system. Look at Joey Harrington, Mike Williams and Charles Rogers as the most obvious examples. It wasn't like they left Detroit and had great success.

The scouting department has been horrible right along with Matt Millen.

Lionise said...

Thanks to Detroit Fan 1979 for hosting this very good forum, and for posting some thought-provoking analysis. I'm not sure how you find the time, but keep up the good work.

As we move toward the draft (still 5 weeks away!), it's always interesting to see what the mock drafts are projecting. I found a good table of eight mock drafts located at USA Today's site. At #15I think the latest version shows six different selections by the eight gurus.

One of the most intriguing mock drafts is by Chad Reuter at Draft Scout. He has Vernon Gholston going #1 overall - certainly a possibility. If I were picking first for the Lions, I just might go for Gholston too. At #15, Reuter has the Lions taking Derrick Harvey. Still on his board at that point are Williams, Mendenhall and Connor! The rest of his draft has:
2 - Curtis Lofton LB
3a - Ray Rice RB
3b - Dre Moore DT
He seems to have a good feel for the Lions' needs. If those four rookies came to the Lions, I think it would be great; but I would still worry about the Offensive Line. Maybe Round 4 could produce an OT.
Back to the first pick... Let's just say that those four choices are all on the board for #15, i.e., Harvey, Williams, Mendenhall and Connors. Who would you choose? It would be a tough call for me. Maybe if I had Rod's insight, I would just take the best football player or 'Marinelli Guy'. As an impact player for the short term, I would lean toward Connors or Mendenhall. To build the trenches for the future, I would take Williams or Harvey.

Just some more ideas to toss around.

DetFan1979 said...

Off the top of my head, I would take Williams.

Better yet trade back. If those guys are all available there (If rivers is as well, all the better) then the 15th spot would have exceptional trade value. With Mendenhall there, I could see Millen - with his track record - of getting either both firsts, or their earliest first and a second from Dallas. They covet Mendenhall, and want to stay with a 2 back system. Also, they may give their two firsts as their other needs are WR and CB -- both of which they could fill in rounds 2 and 3.

With 2 picks near the end of 1, their 2 and 2 3's they could fill a lot of needs.

But first instinct: If Williams is there, and you're not trading, take him. Dropoff to the other positions in rounds 3+ is not as great as with the O-Linemen.