I know a lot of draft talk is getting started, and my urge is also to dive right in. However, I get this feeling the “what will the Rams do at one?” will certainly be raging right up until the point they are hopefully competent enough to get someone signed prior to the draft. It ain’t over ’til its over — and as this article form the Turf-Show-Times shows, there is debate as to which way to go even among Rams fans. Suh is not a slam dunk number one pick…or even number two!
I suggest reading the large number of comments on the last blog entry — they are insightful and very relevant to this ifseason. The biggest factor brought up and to keep in mind is that Martin Mayhew is not Matt Millen. I know, I know, this is quite shocking. It is still too early to judge whether he will end up being “good” or not, but he is certainly different. He said from the time he took over, to the time the draft started, to after it was over: We are taking the “best player available.”
Before we get into tired old jokes like “what if it is a WR” and “how can the team have an identity that way?” lets reminisce on last year’s draft a bit, and some Millen draft situations as well. While most pundits and prognosticators were focusing on “need” — and predicting Millen style reaches for such — he instead went with the BPA. Best Player Available. Take another read onNetRat’s column that outlines this concept in detail, as well as my own 2009 post draft piece from DetFan1979.com. (Yes I know NetRat’s column is posted verbatim there with important points boldedand underlined. I linked both on purpose. The concept isn’t easy to grasp, and even harder to predict.)
Right now 80 – 90% of Lions fans are still talking about “needs”. OG is a need. CB is a need (2 of them). S is a need (1 of them). Dline — particularly DT and 2 DE’s. RB possibly with Kevin Smith’s injury. WR #2 and #3. Blocking TE. Did I mention OG? LB could be. When talking “need” we are talking free agency, in my mind, for the most part. Mayhew’s strategy is to get a body in place to “fill” every need with the best value stop-gap out there. Then, come draft time, he goes BPA-FN (including some trades back), and stocks more and more “talent behind talent” as Jim Schwartz puts it. In 3 or 4 years, you have a team that is talented from starters to special teamers. But it takes time. Especially at the point (as I illustrated a couple of days ago) the Lions were at talent wise.
I’ll say this again with a couple of illustrations that came to light after Millen was no longer with the Lions: Mooch point blank does not want Mike Williams. Lions have Demarcus Ware and Shawne Merriman rated higher by the scouts. Matt Millen takes Williams — over the rankings of his scouts, and the objections of his hand picked coach!
Illustration 2: Millen calls Ray Rice and tells him that he is going to be the Lions’ pick in round 2. They take Jordan Dizon instead because they “needed” a LB, despite a shallow LB class with no other really taken until into the 3rd that year.
So when talking about Martin Mayhew, and the fact that he worked for Millen, keep in mind that Matt Millen picked who Matt Millen wanted and that was that. He also traded up to get those guys — so he would sacrifice two lower round picks for an IAF, as an example. His drafts got high grades because he “filled needs”. Mayhew did not because he filled talent. Take a second and think about that — a draft is considered a “bust” for the Lions and many fans last year because he “didn’t fill needs.” Yet, with the exception of D. Williams (no more WR named Williams, OK? Never seems to work out for the Lions…) he upgraded the talent level of the team right on down to Follett in the 7th.
What I’m getting at is, I look at the ifseason this year in two ways:
- Free Agency is where “need” reigns supreme. They will target free agents who fill needs. Pretty soon, I’ll start profiling some potential free agents I think they may target, or would like to see them target. “Need” will dictate who they talk to, and severity of “need” coupled with available solutions and talent level/age of the individual free agent will determine what Mayhew is willing to shell out. One guy is not going to push the team over the hump in the playoffs. However, a guy who can be more than a simple 1 – 2 year bandaid could get a sweet deal from the Lions if they can land him…
- The Draft is where “talent” reigns supreme. They will pick the best player available that fits any need, or trade back. Mayhew would rather trade back 10 spots for “less than market value” and get a guy where they had him targeted for need/value AND get an additional pick than he would reach for a player. Remember that 10 number — if a player is more than 10 spots out, they WILL NOT reach for them. The closer to 10 spots out they are, the more likely a trade — especially if two guys are rated similar and they are relatively sure one will be there when they pick.
So as debate rages about Suh, Clausen, trade rumors fly, we look at Berry and McCoy — as Free Agency moves toward its frenzied start and we start to evaluate guys like Amano and Kampman — keep these two points in the back of your mind. He will take talent over a “bigger” need in the draft. Mayhew isn’t going to over-pay for aging talent. He will take a young guy with upside over a veteran who is declining right now. They need the youngsters to learn, and to try to find some “upside” guys to build this roster long term, because even with a great draft they are still a year or more away. Pray for Labor peace in 2011 — that is about the time they should be getting really competitive!!