As you know, the 32 Fanball correspondents did a mock draft about a month ago. At that time, I picked Gerald McCoy after the Will picked Ndamukong Suh on behalf of the Rams. Now that we know a bit more about how free agency shook out and the directions that our respective franchises are leaning, we decided to do another mock draft. Keep checking back to see what selections follow and for full results.
One thing that I still see many draft prognosticators making a mistake on is projecting all the picks in the draft based on need. Remember, for his tenure thus far Martin Mayhew looks to free agency to fill needs, and the draft to acquire talent. The Lions will take the Best Available That Fits Any Need (BATFAN) So don’t look for the biggest need, but any need and the best player available. For example, if Clausen is highest rated on their board, they would go to the next highest rated player as #1 QB is not a need. If the next 5-10 guys are all rated the same, then they will try to trade back to acquire additional pick(s) and still get a player of a quality they would have taken with the higher pick. (An example of this from last year’s draft is trading back in the 3rd round and taking DeAndre Levy about a dozen picks later, while also acquiring the pick used on Sammie Hill. They would have taken Levy or what they consider his equivalent either way, but by trading back acquired an additional player. )
So the real question in a no-trade scenario like this is simplified to: Who is BATFAN??
Just like with the McCoy pick earlier lets look at the competition to Suh:
- Gerald McCoy, DT Oklahoma: This is a tough call. In any other draft, McCoy would have been the top rated DT and defensive player hands down. Make no mistake — I feel like both McCoy and Suh will go on to have excellent pro careers. Choosing one does not mean the other is “no good”, nor do I hold to the theory that one of them is “bound to bust.” That’s like saying I flipped a coin and got heads 5 times in a row, so I’m due for tails. The chances are still 50/50. Honestly, as a fan I would be happy with either McCoy or Suh as I trust the new Lions front office up to this point. However, while McCoy has been excellent Suh has been dominant so I give him the edge. If Washington at 4 wanted to trade up for a QB (which I don’t see happening) I think the Lions would go for it on a reasonable package. This would leave Suh to Tampa Bay, and McCoy to Detroit along with an extra high pick or two. That is a scenario I think Martin Mayhew would go for all day long.
- Russel Okung, OT Oklahoma: He is the best OT in a generally weak class at the position, although according to Martin Mayhew’s recent interview, he has at least two offensive tackles rated about the same. Who this second tackle is, we are left to imagine. However, what it tells me is that Okung is not BATFAN – he’s more part of a trade-back bunching. While some peg OT as a “need”, Backus is playing the best he has in years and LG is more of a priority but none of the OG’s grade out near this high (Iupati grades edge of the top 10 if they dropped that far back, but not #2). The Lions want a backup to Backus to groom (since their project OT,Lydon Murtha was swiped by Miami off the practice squad last season) but will likely find that in later rounds. Okung is good, but not #2 good. Toss in how similarly rated OT’s from last year fared, and it is a fair indication that the Lions will feel they can get a tackle of Okung’s ability in later years lower in the first round. I would hazard a guess they are right.
- Eric Berry, S Tennesse: Berry came the closest of any player to being considered by me over McCoy – but with both Suh and McCoy available he falls to at least 3rd. Berry is superb against the run. Berry can drop into coverage well and is a play-maker in the defensive backfield. The problem is, the Lions have one of those: Louis Delmas. This will drop the overall rating of Berry on the Lions’ BATFAN board (albeit, not by much). From a need standpoint, I could talk about the Lions’ Dline taking precedent over the d-backfield, so on and so forth. But priority of need doesn’t apply here — it is about talent and depth at the position. The Lions can get a solid Safety in Rounds 2 or 3 this year thanks to fantastic depth at both that and other defensive positions. The drop-off to the next rated DT’s is much higher. Berry is a play-maker, no doubt. But his BATFAN rating will be lower due to the numerous other options at that position as I outlined a couple of months ago.
The other players I feel the Lions would consider — 6 or 7 of them total — all fall into a grouping of similar ratings at this point. Essentially I was left with Suh or McCoy and chose to go with the dominant college play-maker Ndamukong Suh. Paired with Williams and Hill in rotation after adding KVB to the Dline and re-signing Hunter to go along with Avril I feel the addition of Suh to the Dline would finally give the Lions some strength and ability to pressure from front four, which will free up the Linebackers and improve the secondary through a trickle down effect on the field.
Honestly, I think that the Rams taking Bradford is truly Martin Mayhew’s dream scenario as it gives them a great chance of doing what many feel is impossible: trading out of the #2 spot, and still getting one of the top “elite” players they are targeting. For instance, if Clausen and Bradford are both taken at 1 and 2, then two of the following players would be available for Detroit at #7 (to go with a 2nd rounder+ most likely):
Ndamukong Suh, Russel Okung, Gerald McCoy, Brandon Graham, Joe Haden, Eric Berry
[EDIT: These are the guys who went 1-7 in the first Fanball mock. As far as players targeted, I think Derrick Morgan would be more likely on this list at #7 overall than Graham for the Lions as Graham seems to be more of a 3-4 rush linebacker than a 4-3 defensive end. Thanks to those who commented and emailed me to point out the omission. By the time you get to 7, honestly you could even add a few other players who grade out close throughout the middle of the round this year, all at positions of need for the Lions.]
I would take my choice of the remaining two players in that group plus an extra early 2nd — wouldn’t you? I think Mayhew would too.
What are your thoughts??