Suh was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. His mother is from Jamaica, and his dad was a semi-pro soccer player for Cameroon. In the Ngema language, Ndamukong means "House of Spears."
Suh was brought up to be a soccer player, like his dad, and developed quick feet and explosiveness to go with his huge body. At 6'4" and 307 pounds, he has no choice but to play football, and was an absolute phenom in high school.
After a knee injury delayed Suh's freshmen season, he was redshirted and went on to play four full years of college ball at Nebraska, and became a star in his junior season, when he totaled 76 tackle (19 for loss), 7 sacks, and two interceptions - both returned for touchdowns. He was even more dominant his senior year, with 82 tackles (23 for loss), 12 sacks, 3 blocked kicks, 1 interceptions and 12 passes broken up. He was the MVP of the Big 12 Championship game (a loss) against Texas, with 12 tackles and 4 sacks, and became a national darling in what has been called "the single most dominant defensive performance in college football history."
Suh was a consensus All-American and won every award he could win: best D-lineman in the country, best defensive player in the country, etc. He finished fourth in Heisman voting, and was voted AP Player of the Year - the only defensive player to ever win that award. In short, Suh is considered one of the best prospects at defensive tackle ever.
And he's not just an amazing athlete. He's also a really smart guy. Ndamukong graduated from Nebraska with a degree in Architectural Engineering in 2009; he recently announced that he will be making a $2.6 million dollar donation to the university to create scholarship opportunities and expand the engineering program. It was the largest gift Nebraska has ever received from a former player.
At the NFL Combine, Suh absolutely astounded scouts with his blend of speed, power and explosiveness. He blew away Gerald McCoy in the bench press and the vertical jump, and they ran nearly identical 40 times. Many scouts said that McCoy displayed a "loosey-goosey attitude" at the Combine and didn't take the drills seriously, while Suh used the opportunity to answer any potential doubts about his ability. Suh's work ethic and constant motor are what Lions' scouts rave about more than anything.
According to former NFL defensive tackle and excellent radio host Mike Golic, what seperates Suh from other DT prospects is the way he uses his hands like a pro. According to Golic, Suh can shed blockers faster than most rookie DTs because he doesn't rely solely on his strength, he relies on superior technique and his knowledge of other player's tendencies. Even though he's usually a stronger and faster athlete, Suh still takes the time to study film and master the art of playing defensive tackle. That's what sets him apart and will make him an immediate impact player as a rookie.
The obvious strengths of Suh's game are his speed and his power, but he also possess great instincts to diagnose plays and locate the ball. The word "disruptive" is very commonly used to describe Suh's ability to get into the backfield and record tackles for loss. He also has unusual versatility for a DT, a trait that the Lions hope to use in different packages. He may even drop into short zone coverages from time to time on passing downs.
As far as weaknesses, there really aren't any. My only concern is how his mental state will hold up when the Lions are 3-12 and he's laying flat on his back watching some running back scamper toward the end zone. Will he be thinking "Maybe I'll fake an injury in a minute," or, will he be thinking, "Dammit, I'm gonna stop him on the next play."
We won't know that until the time comes. Time will tell. Let's hope he displays more mental toughness than Calvin Johnson.
On Detroit, Suh will be plugged into a defensive line-up that will look a whole lot different than the miserable 2008 and 2009 clubs. Ernie Sims is gone, Larry Foote is gone, and all the cornerbacks from a year ago are gone. Louis Delmas is the apparent heir to captainship. And former Titan Kyle VandenBosch is the star.
Julian Peterson remains at outside linebacker, and will be joined by either Jordan Dizon or Zach Follett on the other side. DeAndre Levy will take over the MLB spot in place of Larry Foote.
The secondary will have Delmas at safety and new acquisition Chris Houston (from the Falcons) at one cornerback spot. The other two spots are still wide open. Pacman Jones is a possibility. It could be rookie Amari Spievey. It could be any number of the scrubs currently on the Lions roster. I wouldn't count out Ramzee Robinson.
The defensive line has a chance to be a bright spot for the Lions, with 4 brand new starters. Corey Williams (from the Browns) joins Suh on the inside, and VandenBosch will be paired with either Cliff Avril or Jason Hunter on the other end. The D-line has decent depth as well, with Sammie Lee Hill, Andre Fluellen and Jared DeVries.
Adjusting to life without Sims and Foote won't be easy, but I'm pretty comfortable with Levy stepping into the starting line-up. Dizon I'm not too sure about, but a lot of pressure could be taken off the defense as a whole if Suh lives up to his enormous potential.
A defensive core of VandenBosch, Suh and Delmas makes the Lions a threat to actually be competitive on defense, if all 3 stay healthy. The main concern on defense is a lack of cornerbacks who can be left in single coverage (which is why I can't figure out why we haven't signed Pacman yet), but if the Lions can generate a pass rush from just the front 4, the cornerbacks won't be put in such difficult situations. There will be less need for blitzes. And on blitz packages, we might actually be able to reach the quarterback and force quick throws.
Suh should be able to win most one-on-one matchups and control his gaps, which will benefit the run defense as well as the pass defense. I can't wait to see him on the field.
Drafted 30th overall by the Lions, Jahvid Best will hopefully be a major contributor to the Lions offense in 2010 and beyond. He has great speed and vision, but is not a power back or a great blocker. Scouts compare him to Chris Johnson, a one-cut speed back who isn't afraid to go between the tackles. He's obviously not as fast as Johnson, but he is really fast.
Best was born in California, and played college ball for California despite offers from Ohio State, Florida, Texas, Michigan, and just about every school in the country. In 2008 he led the Pac-Ten in rushing as a sophomore and became a college football star. He entered 2009 with Heisman hopes, and three games into the season he had 410 yards and 8 touchdowns. He was the talk of the NCAA and a Heisman favorite. Then in the 8th game of the season Best suffered a scary concussion that sidelined him for the rest of the year, including the bowl game.
He finished his career with a sickening rushing average of 7.3 yards per carry, and 35 career TDs. He declared for the NFL draft and has appeared 100% healthy since the Combine.
He was the fastest running back at the Combine with a 40 time of 4.35 seconds. In high school he was an All-State sprinter and one of the fastest dudes in the nation in both the 100m and the 200m. The Lions are lucky to have a running back with speed, since that's something we haven't had in at least 12 years.
The difficulty for Best will be having a chance to use that speed. His acceleration isn't great, and unless he can break into the open field, I'm not sure his explosiveness will be seen too often. The blocking is a major concern, as the Lions are stuck in some kind of weird flux where they can't decide if they are a zone-blocking team or not. Cherilus is a zone-blocking right tackle, and Kevin Smith is a zone-blocking RB, but Backus and Raiola are too big to move around, and to be successful in zone-blocking you need receivers who can block, and we don't have that. The new two tight-end set that the Lions plan to use (with Tony Scheffler and Pettigrew) will make the running game even more confusing. But hopefully will put more bodies in front of Best (or whoever is running the ball) and at least give ourselves a chance to move the chains and establish a running game that takes pressure off the quarterback.
Because ultimately, the single most important thing about the 2010 Lions season is making sure that Matt Stafford evolves into a competent quarterback. Protecting him with a franchise left tackle seems like it should be a priority for Lions' management, and I'm a little dissappointed that Backus still hasn't been replaced, but I digress. Bringing in Best, along with Scheffler and Burleson, is the Lions attempt at giving Stafford a chance to win. We are surrounding him with weapons and giving him few excuses if he fails.
That said, I don't think Burleson and Scheffler will have the effect we hope they will. Jim Schwartz says that our two tight-end set will "stretch the defense" and free up Calvin for more single coverage. Essentially, we are saying to opposing defenses: "Fear our slow white tight end, and leave our superstar in single coverage." I don't think they'll fall for it. And I still contend that Burleson (and his huge contract) will be on the injury list within two games.
But I'll try not to be a downer, at least until we're a few games into the season. For now, I'll say that I really think Best was a great pick. Kevin Smith will miss all of training camp, and at least the first few games of the season following reconstructive knee surgery. Personally, I won't miss anything about Smith - his complete lack of speed, his complete lack of power, his overused spin move, and the fact that he hasn't broken a tackle once since joining the Lions.
I like Maurice Morris a decent amount and think he'll be the starting RB on opening day, but I'm sure Best will see the field early and often. When Smith does return, it will most likely be as a third down back; his strength is catching passes out of the backfield. He'll be very unhappy with this role, and won't be on the team in 2011. Smith is a huge ego-maniac and considers himself a lot better than he really is. Best seems like a pretty humble guy from the interviews I've seen, and I think he'll be a much better fit for the Lions than Smith was.
But once again, the pick of Jahvid Best was all about Matthew Stafford and his development. If Best struggles, Stafford will struggle, and the reverse is true. Neither guy will dominate without some help, at least not this early in their careers. But if Stafford can learn to make good quick decisions and throw accurately, then Best will be free to break some big plays open. And if Best shows the explosiveness that the Lions hope he will, Stafford will be able to find Calvin in single coverage on a play-action rollout and that means six points more often than not. How Best fares, Stafford will fare. Their fates are linked.
Further Thoughts on the Draft
In the third round, the Lions picked a cornerback named Amari Spievey. (pronounced Spih-Vay.) He went to Iowa, and is considered a highly physical CB with good tackling ability. The scouting report says he has "very long arms" and is great at jamming wide receivers at the line; the report also says that his man-to-man coverage skills are "questionable" and that he struggles against smaller, faster receivers. In a division with Percy Harvin, Devin Hester, and Greg Jennings, I'm pretty sure Spievey will be beat for his share of deep touchdowns this year.
He will have a fairly good chance to start from day 1, opposite Chris Houston. He really doesn't have much competition as of yet. How much the Lions like Spievey will determine whether or not they pursue Pacman.
In the fourth round, Detroit finally got a left tackle - Jason Fox from Miami. He's big (6'7'', 303 lbs.) but considered a little skinny to play in the NFL . He's got to bulk up by about 30 pounds without losing any speed. Of course, Fox has a history of knee problems, but do the Lions ever draft anyone who doesn't have knee problems?
Fox has a slim chance of starting this season, but if he does it would probably be at right guard, our weakest position on the line. They (they being the Lions' management) say he is versatile enough to play guard. I feel like they would say that about anyone. Is he good enough to play guard? Probably not. But he's only going to start ahead of Backus if Backus gets hurt. But if Fox progresses this season and bulks up and learns the NFL game, he just might be our starting LT in a season or two. Seems like a 'project pick' to me.
On a totally unrelated note, I have a random rant about the last name 'Fox.' This is something I've thought about before, and it bothers me. There are 3 very famous actors/actresses with the last name Fox: Megan, Michael J, and Jamie. Doesn't that seem like an inproportionally large amount of 'Foxes' in Hollywood? How many actors named Smith or Johnson are there? None? I'm not suggesting that all 3 of these folks changed their names, but I'm pretty sure at least one or two of them did.
In the seventh round, the Lions had 3 picks. One was traded to the Eagles for a 6th rounder in 2011. The other two were defensive end Willie Young from NC State (small but quick) and wide receiver Tim Toone from Weber State (possible special teams player). I wish they would have gone for an outside linebacker or some depth on the O-line, but 7th round picks don't really matter. Onto the biggest story from the NFL draft ...
Tim Tebow. He should have been maybe a 4th or 5th round pick, and instead the Broncos traded UP (so stupid!) to get him with the 25th overall pick, ahead of Clausen and McCoy. They did this for one reason, and one reason only. Because Josh McDaniels (Denver's coach) is the biggest jackass in the NFL. He is absolutely obsessed with himself, and loves to be in the spotlight. He couldn't share the attention with Jay Cutler, so he traded him. He couldn't handle Brandon Marshall's ego, so he traded him. I know those guys are both a pain in the ass, but part of being a coach is putting your ego aside and dealing with a bunch of overpaid babies as long as they have talent on the field. McDaniels is probably the only coach in the NFL with an ego that overshadows any of his players.
Why did he draft Tim Tebow? Because other than the words "Tim Tebow," you know what were the two most commonly said words on ESPN on Thursday night? "Josh" and "McDaniels." He did it so that people would talk about him. Interview him. Ask him "Why did you do it?" So he could babble about Tebow's character and leadership and brag about how he wanted to take a chance on a proven champion. Blah blah blah, he did it for the attention. It was a a horrid pick! Tebow doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of living up to a first-round quarterback in the NFL.
I don't have anything against Tebow. He's a great guy, and in 3 years when he's out of the NFL, I'm sure he'll take his money and make a real positive difference around the world. He's a great guy, and it's not his fault he was drafted four rounds too early. I blame McDaniels, I hate the way he traded down over and over so people would compare him even more to Bill Belichick than they already do (because they both wear sweatshirts) and then he made the ultimate "Look at me" pick. It pissed me off, because Jacksonville wanted Tebow, and they were going to take him in the second round (still too early) because their fans needed something to get excited about and what better than the home-town kid. It would have been a great story in Jacksonville; in Denver, it's just a media circus for the sake of McDaniels' fame. He's got no chance of being a good NFL quarterback. No chance.
If all you want is a nice guy in the lockerroom, why not spend your first overall pick on David Archuletta or Bob Barker or Jerry Seinfeld. I'm sure they would all be great influences! Or if you just want someone with leadership, I think John McCain was still on the board in the first round. You could have picked the Maverick! It's ridiculous! It's utterly absurd. I can't believe I'm saying this, but McDaniels' pick of Tebow in the first round has made Denver my new least favorite team in the NFL, yes ever more detestable than the Pittsburgh Stellers. I know, I can't believe it either. Fortunately, they don't play each other this year, so I can cheer spitefully against both teams in 32 games.
Other thoughts from the draft ... Jimmy Clausen was passed on by Buffalo TWICE (which shocks me a lot) and finally taken by Carolina, where he'll learn the ropes from ... Matt Moore? If Clausen can get on the field, behind one of the NFL's best offensive lines and with two good running backs, he could make a lot of teams regret passing on him.
Colt McCoy goes to Cleveland, where Mike Holmgren says he "will not play in 2010." Uh, okay, then why did you draft him?
Buffalo landed C.J. Spiller, who has to run behind a hideous offensive line. The hundreds of Bills fans that still exist have already begun a "Which game will Spiller get hurt?" contest. My guess, let's go with week 5.
This year's rookie of the year is going to be Ryan Matthews, who San Diego traded up to 12 and took to replace LT as the luckiest running back in the league. Great QB, great O-line, great receivers, great fullback. He'll get 1200 yards and 9 TDs and win ROY while Sproles still racks up 1000 all-purpose yards and 8 TDs. Oh by the way, San Diego is my early pick to win the Super Bowl. Or maybe lose the Super Bowl to Minnesota.
Sam Bradford went #1 overall to the Rams, you may have heard. Apparently their #2 overall pick from last year, Jason Smith, is a flop who can't block anybody. Crazy Keith tells me he didn't even start last season. So that doesn't bode well for Bradford's chances. Neither does the Rams' awful receving corps, or their awful defenses. BUT, they have two great assets: Steven Jackson, and Steve Spagnuolo, plus they play in the worst division in the NFL, so 5 wins is not going to be out of the question. Bradford will start from week 1.
Seattle is considered to have had the best draft, getting Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in the first round, both immediate impact players. They also got Notre Dames' Golden Tate to help the receiving corps, which now gives them 4 good possession receivers and no good big-play receivers. Oh, and they traded for Fat LenDale White and Leon Washington, so their running game just went from an F to a D. Pete Carroll is getting way too much attention for not yet having done anything, except acquite as many Pac-10 guys as humanly possible. However, Seattle's still got a great chance to win the NFC West, where Matt Hasslebeck is the best quarterback. Yikes.
The biggest story of the draft was probably Jason Campbell being traded to Oakland for basically nothing. So now, if McNabb gets hurt (which he probably will), that means guess who is the Redskins quarterback. Yeah, Rex Grossman.
And in Oakland, Campbell will easily win the starting job and be exactly what he was in Washington - a brutally average quarterback. But in Oakland, that's a huge improvement, and they should be able to win 5 or 6 games without too much self-embarassment.
Some old players who used to be really good have been cut this week and are now free agents, including Alan Faneca (still one of the best guards in the league), Adalius Thomas (meh) and John Henderson (DT from Jacksonville). I hope the Lions at least look at Faneca.
Before I end this extremely long football blog, I'd like to offer my abbreviated thoughts on Rapist Roethlisberger, and how his six game suspension alters the NFL more than people realize. By raping some 20 year old girl in Georgia, Ben basically gave the Baltimore Ravens a free pass to the playoffs.
The Steelers will be 3-3, if their lucky, with Charlie Batch at the helm, and even once Ben comes back they're going to have to work for wins considering they still can't run the ball and they still don't have much of a secondary. If Polamalu is back at 100%, and the defense plays as it should, they'll probably finish around 9-7 when all is said and done. Not bad.
But the Ravens are totally retooled with Anquan Boldin, and if Ray Rice plays at 80% of the level he played at last year, Baltimore is a 12 win team. Boldin is the missing piece. No doubt about it. Flacco will be a changed quarterback now that he has a legitimate weapon to work with. Baltimore will win the AFC North unchallenged (Cincinnati will fall back into 6-7 win territory) and the Steelers will have to fight for a wildcard spot.
In my estimation, the single biggest off-season acquisition was Boldin to Baltimore, and the single biggest story of the off-season - Ben's suspension - benefits no team more than Baltimore (who Pittsburgh plays in week 4).
As far as Roethlisberger's punishment, I think it's fair. Any more than 6 games would have been a little harsh considering he wasn't technically convicted. Although based on the fact that he hasn't publicly expressed any outrage over the allegations, I think it's fairly obvious to say that he is guilty. I mean, if I was accused of rape and I really was innocent, I'd be all over the news telling anyone that would listen that I was innocent. If you remember, that's what Kobe did. Ben, clearly, is guilty, and living proof that if you have enough money you are above the law.
If you thought Tiger Woods' apology was phony and contrived, at least he got up in front of the camera and talked. Sure he read from a cue card and showed no emotion; at least he made a fool of himself in front of millions of people and took the crap he deserved. He owned up to his sins. I respect that.
Ben released his 'apology' through a written statement, which I'm 99% sure he didn't write, and 50% sure he didn't even read. He promised to be a better man and a role model and concluded it with the clincher: 'God bless.' Oh give me a damn break! You rape two girls and now you have the audacity to call yourself a role model? Spare me the religious overtones! Spare me the sudden life-change! That's just pure, disgusting entitlement to think you can get away that easy. At least Tiger stood up and said, "Yes I am scum. Look at me. I am disgusting scum." Ben thinks he's beyond that, he thinks all he has to do is pay someone to write a nice fake apology and he'll be good to go. But whether he admits it or not, the entire country already knows what a douche he is. If you aren't convinced, look at this picture and stand in awe ... at the Lord of the Douche.