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.