Before you read this, read "Building Through the Draft?" and all of the great comments.
Part Two: Building Through the Draft? Evaluating 2006 and 2007 and their impact on the current and future success of the Lions.
From our first installment, there were many good points made. First of all, while I agree there were many factors working against the scouting department (as have been pointed out) - I am of the mind they still did a pretty piss-poor job of finding talent at any level. The first round busts, I wouldn't place on just the scouting department. The Coaches/GM's get very involved in evaluating the possible picks for the first two rounds - Especially the first. So I place busts like Joey, C Rog, BMW, et al square on the GM/Coach. Don't tell me the scouting dept didn't inform Millen of C Rog's failed drug test...or point out that Joey had a less than stellar accuracy rating in college, and the last 2 guys from his system/mentor failed in the pros... The GM took that info and made a decision (as they must) and they were bad.
Where the scouting department really comes in is the later rounds - 3-7. Your 6th and 7th round picks rarely contribute their first year, and are not much better off in camp than UDFA's. People will point to examples like Brady, but if you look at 6-7th rounders, most are OOF (Out Of Football) or, if lucky, hanging onto a practice squad somewhere, within 2 years. All 7 rounds of the draft add roughly (with compensatory picks) 240 new players. Add in the 20 or so UDFA for each team, and remember only about 1900 players end up under contract in the NFL, and guys who didn't stick from the prior year looking for a shot...and you know that a high percentage -- especially from the lower rounds who were a low investment -- are not going to make it. But, the 3rd - 5th round is where the solid middle of most teams comes from. You try to add play makers round 1, hopefully starters within a year round 2, and depth for your team with the occasional breakout gem in rounds 3,4,5. It is in those rounds that the Scouts have the biggest impact, and in those rounds that Detroit has done historically awful as well.
In evaluating the first two Marinelli drafts, lets first look at who they took where:
Rd Sel # Player Position
1 9 Ernie Sims OLB
2 40 Daniel Bullocks SS
3 74 Brian Calhoun RB
5 141 Jonathan Scott T
6 179 Dee McCann CB
7 217 Fred Matua G
7 247 Anthony Cannon LB
Rd Sel # Player Position
1 2 Calvin Johnson WR
2 43 Drew Stanton QB
2 58 Ikaika Alama-Francis DE
2 61 Gerald Alexander FS
4 105 A.J. Davis CB
4 117 Manny Ramirez G
5 158 Johnny Baldwin LB
7 255 Ramzee Robinson CB
Let me remind you this is all opinion, and since I am sure you may have different ones, I want you to voice them. That is what makes this stuff exciting!
2006 Detroit Lions Draft
Method 1: The "Ranked" method. Looking at this method, 2006 was a decent draft, but by no means spectacular. Ernie Simms was a "surprise" pick, and the pundits don't like being surprised. The ratings for him were in the lower half of the first, into the second depending on whether his size was an issue or not. Bullocks in round 2 was a solid pick at #40, but was still considered a bit of a reach. Calhoun was a flier in the 3rd -- he fell that far because teams were afraid he might have durability issues. (those of you clamoring for M.Hart, he has the same issues as Calhoun.). Millen took a flier that was viewed as a value pick at the time. [remember, this method is based on how players were ranked for the draft - before they played]. Of the remaining picks, Dee McCann was considered a steal with great upside and listed as the "hidden gem" of the draft.
Method 2: What did the GM do? In 2006, not a whole lot. No real trades of substance, other than not having a 4th rounder due to a stupid earlier trade for a FA (can't remember who off the top of my head.)
Method 3: Player Contribution [for both drafts, this is too early to judge real well, but I will look at what is there] In the first round, Ernie turned out to be a great choice, and it is funny how short memories are for those analysts who seem to remember praising the pick...hmm.... The jury is still out on Bullocks, but only because he was injured early in pre-season and placed on IR. Before that, he had a solid Rookie Campaign and word out of Allen Park was that he was starting and had made great strides when he got injured. The fortunate part about him being on IR is that he has had time to fully rehab the injury without pushing to get back, and re-injuring it. I'll still see him as a solid pick as this will be his 3rd pro year (2nd playing) and he should be starting -- which is what you want to see out of your typical second rounder. Making an impact on the rotation in year one, starting at least half of year 2 and full time starter by three. [when they draft your replacement to repeat the process...]
In the third Calhoun is unknown, but may have run out of chances. He's been injured every year, and this off season is likely his last shot to earn a spot on the the team. So far, it was a risk that didn't pay off. I like Calhoun and hope this is his year...but I doubt it. Jon Scott in the 5th has been a pleasant surprise for the Lions -- playing his way to the starting RT spot midway into his second year before getting injured - again. He needs to prove he can stay healthy so they can feel comfortable with him at the RT, but for a 5th round pick, he is at worst a very dependable backup. That is a successful 5th rounder -- guys who fill out your team, and can step up when needed. McCann and Matua in the 6 & 7 -- The dreaded "P" word again. Never showed up and that "hidden gem" McCann was apparently too well hidden. However, the Lions did pick up a solid special teams player, and good backup for Ernie Simms in Anthony Cannon in the 7th.
Final Analysis: GM didn't do any real maneuvering other than to lose a pick, and it was rated mediocre by the pundits. However, the Lions garnered 1 great starter (Simms), 1 solid starter (Bullocks), 1 adequate starter (Scott) [could be upgraded] and a quality back-up/ST guy late (Cannon). 4 out of 7 staying on, with 3 of 7 picks in the round 6-7 "cast off" range, that qualifies as a successful draft heading into year 3.
Method 1: Mixed results. Draft guru's had a hard time grading a draft that included 3 picks in the 2nd round...when they all had prepared for the bevy of guys they expected Millen to take in the 5th round ( 4 or 5 picks to start) I think this bitterness led draft pundits to give the Lions an above average grade. CJ was rated as the best talent in the draft. He fell to the Lions at #2 (if that can be called falling) so they took him. The rest of their draft hasn't been evaluated as much about who they took as who they didn't. Seeming to ignore current needs (which they did, much to my and many others' chagrin) the pattern of who they took was hard to figure out. Setting that aside, though, they got good value on most of their picks. Stanton was the #3 QB on most boards (outside of Buffalo, apparently) and they got him with pick #43 overall. While some will call this a reach, #3 QB taken halfway through round 2 when they are all considered very close in overall talent level... I just can't bring myself to call that a reach. Based on his ratings, it was a good place to pick him. (As I said, we're evaluating how the players were ranked and value/reach, not necessarily if they filled what we perceive as need. That is method 3.) As for the other two 2nd rounders, they had quietly moved up draft boards, and teams were targeting them both at the beginning of round 3. Alexander's strength was his almost CB worthy cover skills combined with a hard hitting safety. Perfect for the T2, and one of the top 10 S in the draft. IAF was/is considered raw, but again top of round 3 talent. Now, while both were chosen in the second -- they were picks 58 and 61 -- which is still a slight reach, but not by more than 4 or 5 spots. The rest -- Davis was considered a 4th rounder, so right on by Ramierez was projected at the end of the 3rd, so was a value at the end of the 4th. Baldwin was projected to be gone by the 4th, so getting him in the 5th was also a value proposition. Ramzee Robinson was the last pick of the draft. How do you put value on that?? I say NA. On the whole, a handful of reaches early, but some value picks in the 3-5 rounds got them an above average grade.
Method 2: Saying anything short of spectacular would be lying. I've talked about this before, but Millen's moves in the 2007 draft were a thing of beauty. He has a knack for trading around the board at value. He managed to garner 3 2nd rounders -- 2 of them targeted to players the Lions wanted, and were aimed about 4-5 picks at the most ahead of where they would definitely be off the board. All that while retaining 2 4ths, a 5th and a 7th. A+ for GM influence on where they picked in this one.
Method 3: This is really tough, because these players have only had their Rookie year, and that makes it tough. But I'll give it a good go, and you can rip me a new one when I'm done. Round 1: CJ was hurt, and underutilized. I'm worried the "hurt" will become a habit like KJ, but for some reason, I'm not getting that vibe. Just a hunch, but I'm thinking Roy and CJ both have monster a monster 2008. CJ is still a starter, and an upgrade over Furrey who is a great #3 and slot receiver. So that pick has to be termed a success.
[At this point a quick aside -- I would have liked to see Joe Thomas. And I'm also sure there are more than a few teams who wished they had picked Barry Sanders, or Jerry Rice, or Tom Brady...the list goes on. Looking in hindsight at guys who turned out better than expected, for another team, is impossible to include in looking at your subject team. Would that player have developed the same? Been trained the same? Utilized the same? Etc. Cannot all be realistically looked at. Plus it just gives me a headache, and isn't this analysis long enough as it is? So please -- no coulda shoulda's -- I'm looking at how the players the DID pick turned out for them, not the players they didn't. When it comes to analysis, I prefer to look at the reality of the "now" instead of some dream scenario that didn't happen. I probably didn't say that too well, but I hope you understand what I'm saying. Maybe another time, but not in this analysis]
Round two had an unbelievable 3 picks. Remember, my second round criteria is at least in rotation (if applicable) rookie year, seeing time by mid 2nd year, and better be starting by year 3. Stanton is an unknown. There is an established starter and we will get a view fo how developing under a savvy veteran leader can help when we see how Aaron Rodgers does this year after a few seasons on the bench. No doubt they took Stanton to develop, learn under, and eventually replace Kitna. Kitna is a serviceable starter in the interim, and only has one or two at the most seasons left before he will not be able to handle starting. Most likely, one. He will make a good backup for a couple years after that, if he stays -- which seems likely right now. However, right now I have to place Stanton in the negative column as he was on IR and saw no time in his rookie year -- not what you want for a 2nd rounder. If he sees time this year, that will start to tip toward the positive. Alexander is easy. A+ -- well above average starter his rookie year, and will continue to get better as he learns to maneuver within the system, and with the veteran guidance of Smith. IAF - right now, based on the Det Lions official assessment - I am neutral. Even playing injured, I saw great flashes when he did play his rookie year. But he will need to either earn a starting spot, or a spot in the starting rotation to keep from slipping into the negative category. The Lions have too many holes to focus on DE, and he really needs to step up this season. The pick made sense as Marinelli was intent on giving Kalimba one last shot, so a DE that needs some development makes sense. Class is over now, and he needs to show up big time, or the Lions D will suffer greatly.
In the 3-4 range, the Lions had 2 4ths and a 5th. I really truly believe that the Scouting department, and the coaches, screwed up these 3 picks. Ramierez is the sole bright spot, and only pick still on the team. He served as a backup to Mulitalo last season, and if he wins that job again, and develops into a starter by year 3 or 4, he will be a success. Davis in the 4th was just awful scouting. He didn't fit a T2 corner profile, was not known as a return specialist, and was not even a mediocre ST player. He had speed of feet but not of mind and that is about it. Bad Bad pick. Baldwin was a good pick, screwed up by a rookie HC mistake. He was a solid pick, great ST player, showed he could push for playing time as SLB and then...they cut him in a routine move to put him on the practice squad, and the risk backfired as KC signed him off waivers. Rod and Joe learned the hard way that sometimes you need to take up a roster spot for someone who is being developed, or you will lose the chance to develop them. I will say that Baldwin looked pretty good, but got injured just a few games into the season and went on IR. I think if he gets cut loose, the Lions would be wise to look at picking him back up. Ramzee Robinson didn't show anything special, but he did seem to be learning well -- he is on the roster for now, though I seem him back on the practice squad this season with one more shot to stay on with the Lions. So far, just one season in we have: 2 above average starters (Alexander, CJ- 3 if IAF starts), 2 backups (Stanton, Ramierez) and that's really it. So 5/8 picks at best were solid after just one season -- and it could go as high as 6/8 or as low as 3/8 depending on how players continue to develop.
Final Analysis: Early indications are good, but still too close to call. I am still at the too much "P" hanging out there stage to tell. It ranks average player rank wise, and while the GM moves around the board were great, what they garnered is thus far average as well. In other words, it could still go either way folks, and this season will determine a lot of that.
Sum Total: Taking into consideration the lack of draftees remaining from the drafts prior to Marinelli, I am actually quite excited about Rod's progress in building through the draft. Instead of having a "core" of players with potential, he has already in 2 drafts built a "core" of players who are showing they will make a solid foundation.
* Bullocks and Alexander combine to form a young, positive base at safety that has moved that position to a place of strength from one of total weakness.
* CJ is a great starter opposite Roy, and they will stretch defenses for whoever they actually get to pound the darn rock.
* Scott has helped stregthen the Line
* I think IAF will step up this year, and prove to be good enough to play opposite Dwayne White (with IAF on the right, moving White to his natural position on the left...or the other way around, but you know what I mean...)
* Ernie Simms is a LB to build around (say by adding a nasty MLB in the 1st or 2nd this year)
Add in the backups/contributors, and this is just two drafts in...and already, I can see the impact. I can see a team, 5 -10 years down the road filled with talented, motivated players (like those listed above)...and the Lions as perennially playoff contenders. Pardon me, I think my coffee is done brewing.
I'll be gone for a lot of the Easter Weekend, especially, at Family Functions. I may or may not have a chance to write before Monday evening...but check back, as I can't wait to see your thoughts, and will hop in to respond if I can.
Happy Easter to All from DetFan1979 and the Pink Lions!