Saturday, May 3, 2008

Draft Recap/Eval, Part 1: The GM

I know all of you are familiar with how long I think it is before a draft can be fully evaluated. However, as I outlined in March, there are a couple of methods that I will use immediately following the draft to see how A. The Lions did getting guys based on "projection" and "potential" (two words that end up wrong 50% of the time.) and B. How the GM did running the draft.

In Part 1, I am going to address the GM. Part 2 will address rounds 1-2. Part 3 will address rounds 3-7. Part 4 will be my final overview of the big picture.

After that, it will be on to the off season and information from mini-camps, off season moves, and new position evaluations as the players/situations change.

Before the draft, I mentioned that Matt Millen has an uncanny ability to move up and down the draft board to get the players the Lions are targeting, within reason. Many times, he can get a team to engage in a trade that really makes the most sense for the Lions...and not really for the other team. For instance, when the Browns wanted Kellen Winslow Jr and the Lions got an extra pick to flip-flop with them -- when the Lions got Roy Williams, who they wanted all along.

Draft weekend saw Millen have another strong draft -- not in terms of players, but in terms of his movement on the draft board. (which is what I am evaluating him based on tonight) Mayo and Harvey were the top two guys the Lions had targeted -- funny enough, although the talk leading up to the draft had Mayo as a "reach" for the Lions, both he and Harvey were gone at 10. In our Jax scenario, we had Jax trading the farm to get Harvey -- which was correct --- what I didn't anticipate was just how badly they wanted him, and just how likely they must have thought Detroit, the "other" team in top contention for him, would be willing go. If it was Detroit they were worried about taking him, then they were really off-base, in my opinion. Detroit wasn't going to trade up from 15.

What I like about what Millen did is reports indicate when their guys were gone at 10, they looked at the board and figured guy #3a, Williams OT, would also be gone by their pick. So the worked out the basics of the trade with KC, and then when Albert was there, they pulled the trigger to trade down two spots in exchange for an extra 5th, and moving up 10 spots in round 3. What I like here is that Alberts, G and Cherilous OT were both on the board at 15, and Detroit knew Ariz was going DRC. Really, it was a matter of knowing if the Chiefs were going to go for their guy -- or conversely, convincing the chiefs that Albert was who the Lions were leaning towards taking -- and he is the player that KC coveted. Millen got to move two spots -- it was conservative enough to ensure he got the guy they were targeting - Cherilus - but also a good enough deal to improve their position for day 2 of the draft, and give him some more ammunition. The top of 3 is the best place to be to snag the guy you wanted in 2 who slips a bit.

In round 2, there was a lot less action than I anticipated. I will say that I blame this partially on the fact that two teams traded out of round one entirely for multiple 2nd rounders, and they wanted to use those picks. Also, with multiple teams actually looking to move up this year, the market dictated that the price was pretty high. Both Carolina and Atlanta had to give up some valuable picks to get back into round one and snag their OT's before the top players were all gone. Atlanta ended up giving up 2 2nds to move up for Baker -- who was originally projected to be taken by them with one of those #2's -- but they knew Houston, who traded to the 20's earlier, was waiting to snag a lineman. Originally the Texans expected, based on projections, that they would have either Cherilus or Baker there for them at 26...but it turns out, both were gone already, and they ended up taking Brown -- the last of the 2nd round rated OTs!

My point with all of that, is that in rounds 1 and 2, I liked Millen's small move back to improve their position both on day 2 picks/location, and to be sure they got their targeted O-Lineman with their top D prospects long gone, and knowing that with a run on OT in the 1st there would be little/no help to be had there in 2.

Then came the break before round 3 and day 2. I think that, with the position the Lions were in, and the players they were targeting, round 3 being moved to Day 2 benefited them far more than any other team. I agree with them engineering the trade with Miami (giving up a 6th rounder) to move up to the top of the round and snag Smith. This trade costing as little as it did is totally reliant upon the day one trade back -- Parcells and Irish were looking to pick up draft picks wherever they could, but didn't want to slide back more than a couple of picks in 3. I read several places, especially on Rams blogs, that St.Louis was fielding offers from team wanting to move up for Smith if Miami didn't take him, and that Miami fielded a half dozen offers for their spot. In the end, the Lions won because Miami only moved down two spots, picked up a 6th, and the Lions weren't targeting a player they wanted. It is great how Millen's earlier maneuvering downward paid off in allowing him to cheaply move up in 3.

His next 3rd round move is a little more controversial, and really is what keeps me from saying this was one of his best drafts. Who they picked with the move up back into 3 for a 3rd pick is not at issue -- but Millen had to give up 2 4ths to do it. I really would have loved the move if he had been able to do it with the Lions' 4th this year, and the early 5th from KC. While a 4th next year, if they do well, is going to be pretty close to what that early 5 was rated this year -- I would still have liked to see them go into next draft with a full complement of picks.

That being said, teams were paying Kings Ransoms to move up, and Millen's move in the 3rd was again done with clear purpose, just like the other two trades earlier. Point wise, it was pretty close on the Value Chart.

Overall, at the end of the weekend, Millen essentially was able to get two additional picks -- a 3rd and a 5th, while only giving up a 4th and 6th. (I didn't count the two spots in round 1, because they still got the player they wanted.) On the whole, that is an equitable, if not spectacular outcome. Add in the significance of moving up with the 3rd, and I will leave it at this:

As a GM, Millen did exactly what he needed to do to get Rod the players he was wanted, to fill the teams' needs, in the best place they could reasonably get them. It also seemed like the Lions had done enough practice, and looked at enough scenarios, that when round one especially looked to be going totally against them, they had a back-up plan in place to turn it to the best advantage they could under the circumstances.

Kudos Millen. One pundit stated that "Matt Millen finally seems to be getting the hang of this draft thing..." I say, funny how every year Rod has been around, Millen's drafting skills keep improving...

But one skill he had in the past, and continues to utilize efficiently, is the ability to make the trades he needs to in order to get his coach the guys he wants - at a reasonable price.


CHIEFGER139 said...

was a disasseter-i think if you followed the bloggers on that day-most seen it as we were getting nowhere-millen and company saved it on day two-with the picks they got day 2 made the picks they got day one more legit-if they would of missed on smith they would of failed the draft-getting him saved im imho-then the picks after smith just kept making it better and better-i think your right-they went the cheap route-hope it pays off

Dreamweaver said...

Chief, with the cap space they have this year cheap was the only way they could go. I was happy with the way day one went, Gos filled our biggest need this year, and he was the best OT on the board. Yes his stats were down this year, but that was becouse he was moved to LT, he is a RT normaly, and that is where we drafted him for. The fact that he has played LT is just an added bonus, and makes him an even better pick up. Dizon in round 2 was good pick IMHO, he was the number 2 rated MLB, and the best fit for our system, Conner fell to round 3 for a reason, the scouts saw something that that draft "experts" did not.
I look for 4 of them to be starters by mid season on O & D, with 2 more starting on ST. I'm very happy with the draft this year, and I'm looking forward to great season.
GO LIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Everyone knows why you don't like the 1st day draft selections. I have an opposite opinion and am glad they did not select any RB in the 1st round. Every yr there are good RBs in the draft. I think once a team has its lines established, then they could address the skill positions. If Smith does not work out, they can get another good RB next yr because it is easy to fill that position. RBs are a dime a dozen. Mendenhall and Stewart will likely have great careers for their teams but that does not translate that they would have similar fates with the Lions. The Panters and Steelers are both established, consistent teams with good offensive lines who will open holes for them. Just like last yr, Peterson had a great rookie season beause the Vikings already had a good Oline. I am not saying that the Lions will win the Superbowl next year with the picks they made but it is a step in the right direction. All I want from the Lions is for them to be a hard team to beat. Mendenhall could be the second coming of Barry and all that would result is same old Lions. They would have been fun to watch but ultimately going nowhere. To use the Detfan's car analogy, Mendenhall is a Porshe that looks great and goes fast but the Lions would not know how drive it or even have the money to fill the tank. If they can consistently field good teams thay may get lucky ala the Giants and Steelers. I agree that the Lions will pay Cherlius less than what a RB at that position would have made but why is that a bad thing. The Lions went for need and value with their picks.
Another thought just occurred to me. If Mendenhall would have been selected, he would have been received by the writers and fans like you as the 1st round conquering hero to save our sorry team. How would that have affected his work habit. Cherilus, Dizon and Smith at least has something to prove. Mendenhall now also has an incentive to prove the other teams wrong.

CHIEFGER139 said...

for what its worth
im very happy with what they did and totally undestand it-in fact im glad at what they did-theyre telling me we want to win now-they could of went for the big guy who will be for us forever and be a star like mendenhall or traded up and got ryan or mayo-they didnt-they drafted at least mediocre guys at all needs that needed filled-i would of done the same-actually i dont think smith is that much a drop off from mendenall or dizon that much a drop off from mayo or lofton or cherlius that much a dropoff from williams,otah or albert and avril that much a drop off from harvy-flullen was a great pick too-so i belive we have real hope-
but to say at the time-i was happy with day one wOuld be a lie-i was sick-but day 2 made me realize they did damn good-end of subject-

Riley said...

I actually think that Millen has done a very good job managing trades in order to maneuvering around to get targeted players at value positions in the draft (e.g. moving up to get Kevin Jones and to get Boss Bailey looked like a great moves!).

The problem has been partly bad fortune (injuries) and the unfortunate fact that the team has been in constant panic mode ever since the third year of the Millen draft era, trying to get the quick fix to make up for past failures, switching schemes every year desperately trying to draft that one big difference-maker player. This has led to an onslaught of high talent, low football-character players.

I'm glad to see that this year it's back to bread and butter. Steady as she goes.

JJLions20 said...

I've got a question. Was Mayo not sliding to the Lions a blessing in disguise. Go back and look at the draft board and lets say Mayo was the Lions pick at #15, and they planned to get a RB and OT with the next two picks. I think most can agree those were the top three needs. Given that the Lions would have been picking at the #45 and 76 slots, and the trade to the #64 position would have been highly unlikely, what would have been the availability of players to fill those other two needs. Looks to me if the went RB in the 2nd, they could have gotten Ray Rice who eventually went #55, but then for the OT, your looking at Anthony Collins (#112).

Lets consider taking an OT with the #45 pick, the only one there was Greco who went #65, and the RB in the 3rd would have been Steve Slatonwho went #89.

Now I know this is not an exact science because the board would have changed depending who was available for other teams. But lets look.

Cherilous (#17), Dizon (#45), Smith (#64). the total of their draft position was 126.

Mayo (#10), Rice (#55) Collins (#112). The total of their draft position was 177.

Mayo (#10), Greco (#65), Slaton(#89). The total of their draft position was 164.

I know there is an argument that Charles may have been available because the Lions would not have take Smith. In that case Mayo, Greco, & Charles, would have had a total draft posion of 148.

So, I have to ask... Is Cherilous/Dizon/Smith better than Mayo/Rice/Collins, Mayo/Greco/Slaton, or even Mayo/Greco/Charles.

Maybe Day One wasn't a disaster, maybe it was a blessing in disguise.
Your thoughts?

CHIEFGER139 said...

your right-it turned out great because of day 2- i didnt mean to be so negative on day one-it was to me at the time- but seeing what tjey did on day 2- day one was a win-i truthfully believe that-needed day 2 to make day one a success -from the picks on day2 thet did this

Anonymous said...

Glad to see you back.

Also glad you are starting to realize that this draft appears to be a good draft. But in all reality it is still a crap shoot, nobody knows how anyone is going to turn out, there are no guarantees, only educated guesses that will show their worth in time. I love this draft but only time will tell if it pans out or flops...

I couldn't have said it any better myself. That is a very similar message I have tried to convey to others in the past. I agree with and liked your post.

That was a nice break down, maybe it will open some of the peoples eyes that just can't seem to understand why we drafted the way we did. It really shows that they did their homework on the draft and that their board was pretty much dead on.

I can't believe football is still so far away... I'm excited and ready for pre-season to start. :)


Anonymous said...

Dear LionFan in PA

To use the car analogy, it would've been like trying to drive a Porsche on a two-track north of Newberry trying to make it to the Reed 'n Green Bridge.

The STYLE of runner that Mendenhall and Stewart are are different than Smith.

Mendnhall and Stewart are pounders. A jab step or two, but then its straight north and south power run football.

Smith is the make-you-miss guy. This is going to be a cutback offense where the back (Smith) has good enough vision to cut back runs against the grain if there is over pursuit. This Smith kid will not get caught in the wash much when a play flows right or left. He will bounce around and come out two holes (gaps) from where the play was supposed to go because he has terrific vision.

He isn't Chris Johnson fast, but that's rare. He is still fast enough to break 30-40 yard plays.

With this zone blocking scheme, don't be surprised if the "signature plays" come from the Old Snorts/Hogs/Smurfs of RFK lore.

You may find the scissor or "counter tray" as the play that gets things going right again.

This play is a double trap play away from the strong side (TE on one side). You pull your guard and tackle from the strong side around to the weak side. The first guy (guard) kicks out the end. The tackle curls up and takes the flowing outside linebacker that sticks up into the hole. The key is the center and the fullback. The center has to reach back to the strong side and "fill" the gap left by the vacated guard and tackle. The fullback (sometimes they even fake a dive hand-off) also has to fill the gap. I've even seen where the TE will pinch to the center and fill.

Coletto used this play at Purdue.


Anonymous said...

P.S. But then again; it's easier when your back in Mike Alstott and your playing Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota, and Indiana.