The functionality of grading the NFL Draft before any of the draftees actually play a down is questionable at best. NFL scouts know a whole lot more about the stengths and weaknesses of the players in the draft than the average fan. It doesn’t make much sense for fans to blast picks based on how good they feel a particular player is when it is based on very limited information. I’m always willing to give the benefit of the doubt when a team makes a reasonable selection. Grading drafts is fun but mostly futile. However, I do think the ability to grade a draft based on how a team managed the draft with regards to trades and perceived value is a legitimate endeavor. For instance, I wouldn’t have knocked the Lions for taking Rashard Mendenhall even though I didn’t want them to. By most accounts, he will be a good NFL running back. The Lions had more pressing needs but Mendenhall was a mid-first round value. While I wouldn’t have agreed with the philosophy behind the pick, I wouldn’t have blasted the Lions for making the pick. Differences in philosophies are fine as long as there is value with the pick. So, I’m going to grade the Lions on how I feel they managed the draft based on what they did and what they could’ve done.
Some analysts have hammered the Lions first and/or second selections but cited the overall quality of the draft as a reason to give a “B” grade. However, the first round pick is, by far, the most important of the picks. The second pick is, by far, the second most important and so on. In fact, NFL GMs use a draft value sheet to gage the value of each pick. I will be using those point values to weigh each selection of Deroit's selections. Simple math will show that it is nearly impossible for the Lions to receive poor marks for the first two picks and still receive a “B” as the overall grade.
1). Round 1, Pick 17
Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College
Pick Point Value=950 points
The Lions made the third worst selection of the first-round in terms of value. By “value”, I mean where that player should have been selected. The Titans shocked the world by taking Chris Johnson with the 24th overall pick. Johnson was, by most accounts, a second-round projection at best. The Texans took Duane Brown from Va. Tech with the 26th pick. I can only guess that the run on offensive tackles just before their selection caused them to panic into taking Brown. Both the Titans and Texans took second-round values in the mid-20s of the first round. The Lions took a late first/early second-round value with the 17th overall pick. I think Cherilus will be a serviceable player. He might even end up being a pretty good player. However, the worst thing you can do in a draft is cash in your draft pick for lesser value. It just doesn’t make sense.
There are people who loved this pick because it wasn’t a wide receiver. There are people who will argue that Cherilus fits into Rod Marinelli’s game-plan. They will also argue that the Lions needed an OT. I agree with all of that. Cherilus is a good fit for the Lions. The Lions very much needed to address their OL deficiencies. That doesn’t make it OK to draft a player 15 picks too early. That’s just insane. Honestly—and this probably sounds overboard but I’m serious here—getting that low of a return on value for the #17 pick should put a GM’s job in danger. It’s silly to draft a player 15 picks too early.
The Lions should have traded out of the #17 pick. Jeff Otah was the next rated Offensive Tackle on virtually all draft boards. The Lions didn’t care for Otah. Instead of capitalizing on that knowledge and making the rest of the league pay, they simply stayed put. The Lions could’ve picked up an extra third-round pick or even a second round pick by trading down to the mid-20s. Millen and Marinelli were hell-bent on taking either Derrick Harvey or Jared May going into the draft. Their plans were ruined by the Patriots. The Pats were the only team in the NFL who would’ve taken Mayo before pick #15 which is where the Lions were initially slotted before trading down to #17. The Lions got screwed. However, they screwed themselves even worse by taking Cherilus. The players they wanted at #17 weren’t there.
A trade was the only correct decision at that point. Heck, there was a pretty damn good chance that Cherilus would’ve been there 10-12 picks later. The Lions could’ve picked up an extra second-rounder and still gotten Cherilus. Even if Cherilus was off the board, the Lions could’ve taken the best player available with the knowledge that they picked up an extra second-rounder. It’s not like they entered the draft wanting Cherilus with the first pick. They were already down to plan “C”. Plus, mid-to-late round offensive tackles are some of the most dicey prospects in the draft. Aaron Gibson (pick #27), Stockar McDougle (pick #20) and Jeff Backus (pick #18) are more than enough proof of that. Again, Cherilus may very well end up being a decent player. I’m not knocking his future. I’m knocking the Lions for turning the #17 pick into a mid-to-late 20s pick.
My grade for this pick isn’t based on how good Gosder Cherilus is or will be. The grade is how the Lions handled the #17 pick. In my opinion, they really couldn’t have handled it worse. If an F is not making a pick like the Vikings in 03, then the Lions deserve a D for their first round pick.
2). Round 2, Pick 45
Jordon Dizon, LB, Colorado
Pick Point Value=450 points
A lot of people—and I guess I can be somewhat included in this group—wanted the Lions to draft Dan Connor in round two. The Lions needed to address the ILB position and Connor was one of the best in the draft. With Jared Mayo off the board, Connor would’ve been an excellent fit. Instead, the Lions took Jordan Dizon from Colorado. I’m not questioning Dizon’s future as a pro. He could end up being decent just like Cherilus. However, the Lions reached by taking Dizon with pick #45. I support Marinelli’s desire to build a tough team. I don’t support doing stupid things like deliberately losing value on picks. It is very likely that the Lions could’ve traded down in round one and round two--picked up an extra second and third round pick--and still drafted Cherilus and Dizon. That is just poor execution, in my opinion.
3). Round 3, Pick 64
Kevin Smith, RB, UCF
Pick Point Value=270 points
I like this pick. I was a bit nervous coming into the draft that the Lions would select Rashard Mendenall in round one. Mendenhall may very well end up being a great back for the Steelers but there were a multitude of reasons the Lions shouldn’t have gone RB in round one. First and foremost, Kevin Jones was a first round running back in almost the exact same mold as Mendenhall. There are as many first round running back-busts as any other position. Second, the Lions needed to address their foundation. Third, the Denver Broncos have proven over and over again that quality backs can be found in round three or later. Smith was worth the risk. His 4.60 40 time is not ideal. In fact, it has got to be a cause for concern.
However, he ripped up I-A football last season. He came fewer than 100 yards shy of breaking Barry Sanders’s all-time single-season rushing record. There is no reason to think that Smith can’t be a productive back in the NFL. With Kevin Jones gone, running back was definitely a need coming into the draft. At the very least, he should buy the Lions some time in their pursuit for a franchise back.
4). Round 3, Pick 87
Andre Fluellen, DT, Florida St.
Pick Point Value=155 points
This was another good value pick. Fluellen is the classic underperforming-but-talented defensive tackle. The Lions picked up Shaun Rogers in much the same way. Fluellen is adamant that he’ll be able to take his game to a new level in the NFL. He wasn’t healthy at Florida St. which surely contributed to the underachievement. He is a bit undersized but that hasn’t stopped Cory Redding from becoming a successful DT. Fluellen was worth a risk this deep into the draft and, with Shaun Rogers’s departure, DT certainly qualifies as a need.
5). Round 3, Pick 92
Cliff Avril, DE/OLB, Purdue
Pick Point Value=132 points
The Lions coveted Florida’s Derrick Harvey in round one. I’m pretty pleased that he went to Jacksonville instead. I don’t think Harvey is a dominant pass-rusher. In fact, there is a pretty good chance that Avril will end up being just as effective as a pro. My only concern is that Avril reminds me a lot of Kalimba Edwards. It’s hard to find top-end defensive ends later in the draft. However, Avril was a late second/early third round projection. The Lions got him near the end of the third-round which makes this another good value pick. Plus, defensive end was a big need coming into the draft.
6). Round 5, Pick 136
Kenneth Moore WR Wake Forest
Pick Point Value=38 points
It’s hard to rip fifth-round picks because there are reasons why these guys haven’t been picked yet. These picks are pretty much made for two reasons: 1). To fill roster spots and 2). To take chances on guys you think have been undervalued. Moore was selected for reason #1. The Lions needed a 4th wide-receiver and a return man. Hopefully he’ll develop into a receiving option but he was drafted on need.
7). Round 5, Pick 146
Jerome Felton, FB, Furman
Pick Point Value=33 points
This pick was based on need as well. Felton was one of the top fullbacks available in the draft. The Lions needed a FB. So, there you have it.
8). Round 7 Pick, 216
Landon Cohen, DT, Ohio
Pick Point Value=5 points
Cohen wasn’t even among the top 30 defensive tackles coming into the draft. There isn’t a whole lot of information about him. I’m not sure there’s much of a ceiling here. He is a candidate to move to end since he is undersized. He started 37 games in college so he has experience.
9). Round 7, Pick 218
Caleb Campbell, S, Army
Pick Point Value=4.2
Chances are that Campbell won’t end up being very good. There is a reason he wasn’t picked until the 7th round. However, I love the pick. The Lions will probably try him at safety to start with. Though, he might be best utilized as a linebacker. I have no idea if he’ll be able to make the transition but he has size, speed and quickness. In my opinion, he was clearly worth the risk. His work ethic and toughness certainly won’t be an issue.
Detroit’s nine draft picks had a total point value of 2037.2 points. The number of points those picks earned according to my grades is 1446.51. That adds ups to a 71% or a C-. The good news is that the respective ceilings of the third round picks could end up making this a decent draft at some point. The C- is for draft management. It was weak.