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 last month, 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 addressed the GM. Part 2 will addressed 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.
Day two, as I have previously mentioned, was set up by the day one trade back that gave the Lions the 3rd pick in the draft (version 2.0). It is my belief that the first round of day 2 is essentially the same for a team as round 1. Each team knows who is available. Each team knows what needs they and other teams have filled through the off season and the first two rounds, and where they are likely headed for the later rounds.
After looking at who was gone, and who was left, I had a great feeling Saturday night that the Lions were really going to shine on day 2. Unfortunately, I was very busy again Sunday, so couldn't sit down to enjoy the draft. I was able to turn it on and see they traded for Kevin Smith right off the bat, and to be totally honest -- they could have totally screwed the rest of the draft, and I would have been ok with it at that point. I've said before, and will say many times, I think that Kevin Smith will be the most productive back taken in this draft.
First off, the significance of day 1 to get into the top of 3 cannot be overlooked. Three of the 4 2nd - 3rd round backs the Lions liked were gone by the end of round 2. (actually, looking back at it, 2 of the 4 were gone before they picked in 2). After Smith, the Lions felt they were into a lower tier of backs -- fortunately, Miami owned pick 1 of round 3, and they had no need at all for a RB. I've read many places that at least 3-4 teams were trying to get the Dolphins' pick to take Smith, and at least as many (or more) were talking with St.Louis. I don't know how much overlap was there. The Lions won because they were definitely taking a back, which Miami did not need. Also at that point, Miami had 2-3 players rated equally that they were looking at taking, and Smith wasn't one of them. So luck also played a big part. Finally, it was not secret the Lions needed a RB and Smith was the best guy left -- anyone who wanted him had to trade ahead of Detroit to get him. Miami, only moving down two spots -- and only having an opportunity for one of the players they liked to be taken, was able to get the player they wanted (Kendall Langford -- their other two options were OT Greco and CB Godfrey -- who literally went off the board Smith-Greco-Langford-Godfrey -- proving Miami was right not to want to trade down more than a couple of spots) while still getting an extra 6th rounder. Miami really needed quantity of draft picks, and that is also an MO of Parcells coached/GM teams as well.
I'll stop here and say that Round 3 of this year's draft, if it garners the 2 starters and rotational DE (possible replacement for White) that I feel it did, will be by far the best round 3 by any team in the last 20 years. 3 in 3 (starters in round)!
I got to see the rest of the day 2 picks as a whole, and thus didn't get to have speculative fun of guessing. One trend to note is that after the Lions took Dizon, and then 2 more LB went off the board in 2, there was a run at LB in 3 with 7 being taken in the round (including one before Connor, who I'm still not sure why he fell as he seems to be a good fit for a 3-4 team.) While I haven't seen teams taking flak like the Lions did for Dizon in 2, all of those LB (other than Connor) were considered double-digit "reaches" for where they were taken. Looking back at the draft, I think the rankings and mocks undervalued two positions this year as far as team need and priority: LB and OT. I also think that they overvalued by far WR (with 0 taken in round one, versus projections of at least 2 or 3) and DE (while a lot were taken, not too many were taken at "reach" spots, in comparison to LB, Oline, and even DT) On the whole though, as usually seems to be the case, the pundits overvalued "skill" players and undervalued the guys in the trenches. Apparently teams are a lot smarter than the media gives them credit for, and really do know what it takes to win games.
Back to the Lions -- I waffled for a while before the draft -- after picking up a bit of info pointing to Marinelli really liking Fluellen, but he was "projected" round 5, so I was putting him round 4 in my head thinking that would be a round early to be sure they got him. So at first, while I liked the pick, I thought they were jumping the gun a bit. However, as I looked over it more, I decided that they really had to take him there if they wanted him.
Reasons? Well, first off they had a choice of Fluellen, Harrison, Bryant, and Moore. Of the three, Fluellen had the most versatility, and he played in the same defense at Florida that the Lions use (in essence) and the coaches there were disciples of Marinelli, so he knew the Fluellen would already be grounded in the basics of the Lions D -- which shortens the learning curve significantly. Finally, of the 4 remaining, 2 were more NT in a 3-4, whereas Fluellen and Harrison were the two more suited to a 4-3. (Harrison went 3 spots later to Chicago as a replacement for Tank Johnson). I saw rumor on a couple of Tampa sites that the Bucs were one of the teams that wanted Fluellen, and were trying to trade with the Pats to snag him off the board if Detroit didn't take him, so they would be ahead of Chicago -- who was also rumored to want him. One story even mentioned one GM calling up Millen to tell him he was a lousy SOB for snagging him out from under them. Ouch! Only time will tell if he was worth it, but I see him at least beating out Cody for the active roster, and earning time in the rotation.
The trade up for Avril didn't surprise me -- I think he slid because teams were unsure where he would fit best -- 4-3 DE or 3-4 WOLB? (pass-rush backer?) I was a little leery of two 4's (especially next year's) but ended up viewing it this way: Moore at the top of 5 is essentially this years 4th rounder and Avril is essentially next year's. (It may or may not make logical sense, but I've never claimed to be perfect.) Considering his up-side, I was fine with a possible rush specialist with essentially next year's 4th. With White and IAF starting as 3-down DE's, and Smith in the mix, I'm thinking if he works out like he seems he'll make the roster and rotate in early in the season as a rush specialist on obvious passing downs.
As for Moore, I can see both sides of the for/against where he was taken. While granted, there were some CB's I would have liked to see them take, I think they are satisfied at this time with Bodden-Fisher-Wilson-Smith-Robinson as the CB's competing for roster spots. I think Smith and Robinson actually have the edge due to special teams play over Wilson, who while I think he does well, may not be best suited for the Deuce (similar to Bryant -- I see durability issues cropping up). We'll have to see.
That being said, Moore is the ultimate in positional flexibility, having participated as a WR, RB, and KOR/PR with equal facility. He won't be #1 at any of those, but he will make a fine 4th or 5th WR, emergency RB/RB receiving out of the backfield on some plays, or running in the slot. If it is a tie between him, Cason, Calhoun, Ellis and Walters as the return specialist, I can see him wining the job because of what else he brings to the table -- it would be like keeping both one of the WR and one of the RB. Best of both worlds, and frees up a possible roster spot for the D (extra S, LB, or D-lineman)
Cohen to me screams "practice squad for a year or two, and hope to break into the roster due to injury or retirement as a rotational guy." Nothing more, nothing less.
Finally, I was very impressed by the pick of Campbell in 7. Just like last year, I think their 7th rounder again has a great shot to make the roster, and push for a back-up spot to Lewis/Lennon on the strong side. He is the LB/S hybrid needed on the Big Nickel packages to stop those routes over the deep middle that killed the Lions last year.
All in all, I think the Lions, for the most part, made good picks for need in day 2 -- enough so that I can see at this point 6 of the 7 players form rounds 3-7 making the final roster. Whether it is due to poor existing talent, players let go, or great drafting -- or a combination of all 3 -- I could care less. It seems at this point the Lions had a stellar 3rd round, and very solid, if unsexy once again, day 2.
Your thoughts? Keep up the great Dialogue!