Now that Matt Millen is off hunting and running over things with his bulldozers, I have decided to lift my self-imposed ban on posting about the Lions. There are a lot of positive things to talk about—none actually on the field—starting with the Roy Williams-trade. By all accounts, the trade was a heist for the Lions. They will now have eight picks in the 2009 draft. Five will come in the first three rounds. They could do a lot with a second and two third-round picks. Savvy trading could easily net a third first round pick if they were inclined to do so.
The other good news is that the Lions are so bad that it looks like they have all but locked up the first or second overall pick. In fact, a quick gander at the rest of the schedule reveals an excellent chance at becoming the first 0-16 team in NFL history. Detroit’s remaining opponents have a 41-24 record. Thank you, Matt Millen! With a lofty selection in the 2009 draft secured, the Lions can start thinking ahead to draft day. They have no running game and the 2009 draft is top heavy on nasty offensive tackles. Michael Oher (Ole Miss), Andre Smith (Bama), and Eugene Monroe (Virginia) are big-time NFL caliber tackles. The Lions will be able to name their guy at that position. I know the draft is still six months away but there’s a pretty good chance that the Lions will end up with the best player they’ve drafted since 1988. All three of those guys are bad dudes. If Gosder Cherulis turns into a decent lineman, then the Lions could have the makings of a pretty good offensive line.
There’s even more good news if you can believe it. When word came out that the Lions received a first round pick from the Cowboys, most assumed it would be a late-first round pick. Now the Cowboys are 4-3 and have a brutal schedule ahead. They play Tampa Bay (5-2) and the New York Giants (5-1) over the next two weeks without the services of Tony Romo. They also have to play at Washington (5-2), Pittsburgh (5-1), and Philly (3-3). Dallas is going to have a heck of a time making the playoffs. If the Cowboys don’t make the playoffs, then the worst the pick from Dallas could be is 21st. If the Lions want to upgrade their awful linebacking corps, they could be looking at Brian Cushing (USC) or James Laurinaitis (Ohio St.). The Lions would then be on the clock again at pick 33 or 34 with a chance to draft another top-flight player. They could pretty much pick any offensive guard they want. Travis Beckham (TE, Wisconsin) might even be on the board. Defensive end is certainly a position of need but this draft is not heavy on big-time DE’s. Michael Johnson (DE, Ga. Tech) and George Selvie (DE, S. Florida) are elite players but they’ll be gone by the time the Lions get to their second first-round pick.
Here’s the best news yet…If Matt Millen was around, you could pencil in the first three picks as being a WR, a guard that projects as a tackle, and a guy we’ve never heard of. Now that Millen is gone, there is hope that there might actually be someone making draft decisions who knows a thing or two about football. If the guy in charge knows what he’s doing, the Lions have a chance at putting together a special draft. Some of the great teams in NFL history were put together largely due to a strong draft. The ’74 Steelers, ’86 Niners, and ’91 Cowboys might be pushing it a bit but there’s nothing wrong with shooting for something like the ’06 Packers. Seven players from that draft have already played in at least 20 games for the Packers. If the Lions could come anywhere close to that level of efficiency, then we could be looking at something. It’s hard to screw up a draft when you know you have five selections among the first 88 picks. The only guy I know who could do it is gone. Woo hoo!
There are a number of scenarios that the Lions could consider. If they do things right, they could trade out of the #1 or #2 spot and pick up additional draft picks. They could use their second round pick and two thirds to trade up into the first round and net a third first round pick. Making bold draft moves and solid selections is how championship teams are formed. They need to be thinking about these things now instead of worrying about how many points they’re going to lose by this week. All the years of Millen’s futility have lead to a chance at redemption via the draft. Also, please, for the love of Jamie Moyer’s left arm, don’t let Rod Marinelli anywhere near the draft room. This draft can’t be about toughness or grit. It has to be about drafting frickin’ sweet football players.
The last thing the Lions need to be worrying about in April of 2009 is drafting a QB. I’m not sold on Matt Stafford. He may end up being pretty good but he is way too risky for a bad team to take with the first overall pick. Assuming Colt McCoy, Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez, and Tim Tebow stay in school, the 2010 draft will be loaded with QBs. Plus, I think there is a very good short-term solution that the Lions need to seriously consider. I have never been a huge Michael Vick fan. I think it was because he was advertised as the next coming and I always felt that he wasn’t an elite caliber QB. However, there is no question that he is a decent QB. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Vick is better than any Lions QB since I’ve been alive. He’s cheap (nobody is going to throw a huge contract his way coming out of jail). He’s young (he’s 28 but his legs are even younger than that). He’s a master of ball control (the Falcons were annually near the top of the league in time of possession). T.O.P is certainly an overrated statistic but it’s a lifeline for teams with a). terrible defenses and b). no talent. Vick shortens games by controlling the clock. He also keeps his defense rested on the sideline. Lastly, Vick is a scrambler. Lions QBs have been running for their lives since “Thriller” came out. Vick will give them a different option than “instant death” when the pocket inevitably collapses. He would be a low risk, high reward acquisition and he would bring instant viability to the Lions offense in the same way he did to Atlanta. I don’t condone what he did—in fact, it was heinous—but if he’s going to play for an NFL team and he’s not going to continue being an animal abuser, then it might as well be for the Lions. The NFL is a business and signing Vick could be a good business decision for the Lions.
Obviously, this is all firmly entrenched in theory. William Clay Ford must first show that he has the competency to hire a good GM. Until that happens, the 2009 draft is destined to be a disaster like every other Lions draft since they lucked their way into Barry Sanders with the third overall pick in 1989. My hopes are sky-high in the theoretical realm. In reality, I’m waiting to hear…”With the first pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions select Matthew Stafford, QB, University of Georgia.” Something tells me Stafford doesn’t want that to happen, either.