From my biased perspective, this is the least interesting NFL Draft in years. Partly because the top 4 picks are pretty much locked in, but mostly because the Lions made the playoffs last year for the first time since 1999 and aren’t drafting until pick #23. So while I’m not super interested, I’m definitely not complaining.
In the past decade, the Lions have earned ten consecutive picks in the first half of the 1st round: 13th, 2nd, 1st, 15th, 2nd, 9th, 10th, 6th, 2nd, and 3rd. That’s an average pick of 6.3 in a ten-year span.
This year, drafting 23rd, the Lions will be in the second-half of the 1st round for the first time since 2000, when we drafted …. 18th overall … drumroll please … Jeff Backus, from the
Sidenote: Backus has played in every Lions game since, and has officially made more money than any offensive lineman who never made a Pro Bowl. Drafted immediately after Backus were a couple of studs, Casey Hampton and Nate Clemens, but whatever.
As long as we’re on this sidenote, it’s fascinating to look back at the past ten drafts and see how glaringly apparent it is that Matt Millen had no ability whatsoever to recognize talent. None.
First, take a look at the early round picks in the post-Millen era:
Side-sidenote: it’s scary how good the Steelers draft. Polamalu, Roethlisberger, Holmes, Timmons, Woodley, Mendenhall and Pouncey were early picks, and every single one of them is a stud. But more impressively, they somehow found William Gay, Jonathan Dwyer and Antonio Brown all in the 6th round!? And starting tackle Willie Colon in the 4th? Superstar Mike Wallace in the 3rd? Willie Parker, John Kuhn and Isaac Redman undrafted? What the heck …
Maybe the Steelers are on to something. Draft your LBs early, your receivers in the middle rounds, and find your running backs after the 7th round is over. Seems like a repeatable blueprint, no?
Anyway, back to the dark days of Millen. With picks in the top 40, Millen willfully choose the following players:
now 3rd string behind Tim Tebow* EDIT* – now Andrew Luck’s backup).
Now, I can understand how they missed Woodley. After all, he was so hard to notice as a first-team All American at the
Oh speaking of
But as for the rest of these terrible top 40 picks, I have no explanation. I know you can’t get them all right, but how do you epically fail on 14 out of 15 picks? The only pick Matt Millen made that didn’t suck was Calvin Johnson, and my son would have been smart enough to make that pick three years before he was conceived.
Imagine, for a moment, that
(Well, no, that team would get screwed trying to pay all those guys … but still…)
All this to say … drafting matters. And even though
And this isn’t a new phenomenon. It’s extremely historic.
1989 - Andre Rison (pick #22) made 5 Pro Bowls, Tony Mandarich (pick #2) made none.
1995 – Ty Law (pick #23) made 5 Pro Bowls, Ki-Jina Carter (pick #1) made none.
1998 – a couple of Hall of Famers went in the 20s – Randy Moss (#21) and Alan Faneca (#26), while Andre Wadsworth was taken 3rd.
Heck, Dan Marino went 27th overall, after quarterbacks named Blackledge and O’Brien.
Historic data shows us that scouts don’t have a clue what they’re doing. Not even Mel Kiper really knows. Back in 2007, Kiper compared JaMarcus Russell to John Elway and said it was smart to pick him instead of Calvin Johnson. How does this stuff happen?
Yet somehow, there are teams that never miss a pick (
Conversely, teams picking in the top 5 better make sure they do their research and don’t end up with the next Charles Rogers. But chances are, somebody will.
Teams are learning though. Franchises are probably doubling and tripling their budgets when it comes to scouting. Back in 2002, 8 of the top 10 picks ended up being nobody. Last year, all the teams in the top 5 nailed their picks. 4 of the top 5 made the Pro Bowl as rookies, and Von Miller is already one of the best players in the league at his position. A year ago today, Miller was considered a prospect to be drafted in the 20-25 range, but somehow all the scouts figured things out before the draft and he went #2. Ten years ago, he probably would have slipped under the radar, been passed on by stupid teams like
(Sidenote again – not to congratulate myself, but three months before the 2011 draft I was rooting for the Lions to take Von Miller, before he skyrocketed up draft boards from 25 to 2. I somehow knew more than the scouts, because as I’ve said all along, the only thing you need to evaluate talent is Youtube.)
So all that to say, here is my comprehensive report of the top prospects in the 2012 Draft, my thoughts on who the Lions should pick, who they will pick, and everything else.
First, let’s quickly run through the top 4 picks.
Indy will take Luck. No-brainer, and 99% bust-proof.
Tannehill is 40% bust, 40% adequate backup, and 10% adequate starter. He only has a 10% chance of being a franchise quarterback, and that’s being generous.
Texas A&M was one of the most pass-heavy offenses last year, and as a result Tannehill attempted the 6th most passes in the NCAA. (Way more than Luck, Barkley, or
His strengths are, well, the same as every QB who is stupidly picked in the first round: he’s tall, has a strong arm, and can throw for lots of yards in garbage time (think John Navarre). A&M was 7-6 last year against a mediocre schedule, and went 1-5 against teams that finished in the top 25. His best games were played against
So you may be thinking, how the heck is this guy considered the #4 pick overall??? Well, I’m not really sure either. The only guess I have is that scouts are putting a lot of faith in Tannehill’s performance against Baylor, when he outdueled
So that’s your top 4. Two studs, and two iffy quarterbacks. Sounds about right.
The intrigue heats up at pick 5, where
According to bucsnation.com, most of the fans want Claiborne. They are pretty happy with LeGarrette Blount and not astute enough to realize how good
The sixth pick belongs to
I don’t have a prediction for this pick other than that it will surprise me. Let’s go out on a limb and say DT Dontari Poe from
In the past few years, Jags’ GM Gene Smith has gone for the shock-and-awe approach, taking 3rd round prospects like Tyson Alualu with top 10 picks. That hasn’t worked out too well, believe it or not. Maurice Jones-Drew is the only good player on
Blackmon makes sense for
They also need to protect Gabbert, but just spent a #8 pick on a left tackle in 2009 and won’t give up on Eugene Monroe yet. If it has taken the Lions 11 years to give up on Backus, it should take
They could address the secondary, especially if Claiborne falls to them. But this pick probably has to be on offense, simply to give Gabbert a chance. And because of the new owner and the desire to make a splashy, unpredictable move, I think
So, to recap my mock of the first 7 picks,
- Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford - Colts
- Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor – Redskins
- Matt Kalil, LT, USC – Vikings
- Ryan Tannehill, QB,
A&M – Browns Texas
- Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU – Bucs
- Dontari Poe, DT,
– Rams Memphis
- David DeCastro, OG, Stanford – Jaguars
If you’ve looked at many mock drafts, you’ve probably seen Poe and DeCastro going in the 10-20 range, so you might think I’m nuts. But in recent NFL Draft history, nothing goes as expected. Last year, we thought we had an easy top 10, but Prince Amukamara fell to the 19th pick, Fairley fell to 14, and Jake Locker jumped from the 30s to 8. Everyone thought Ryan Kerrigan would go five picks before J.J. Watt, but the opposite happened.
The reason is, NFL teams keep their draft boards totally secret, with the only exception being
Last year, all Jim Schwartz did was talk about Amukamara and all the great left tackles. He waxed and waned about Carimi and Castonzo and Solder. But when all those players were available, he took a stinkin DT. Maybe not a smart move in hindsight, but a calculated move he knew he wanted to take. Every coach does that, except the really stupid ones. Hopefully, those guys have somebody in the organization who is willing to speak up and say “No, that guy’s a bum.” But perennially terrible teams do not have such a person, and that’s why the Charlotte Bobcats always suck; everyone is afraid to second-guess Michael Jordan so they let him make amazing decisions like drafting Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison. I digress.
Usually, the secretiveness and trickery is because of 2nd and 3rd round prospects. If Detroit really likes a CB who they think they can get in the 3rd round (like Spievey in 2010), they will go on and on and on publicly about CBs Devin McCourty and Kyle Wilson, but then take Jahvid instead, while waiting for Spievey to fall into their laps later. Again, that move hasn’t panned out quite yet, but it was at least calculated.
That’s why the teams that draft well in the 2nd-4th rounds are always the best; they know who they want, they don’t make rash decisions, they stick to their plan and, if they’ve done their research well, it works.
The contrary strategy is called Millenism. That’s where you take a tall receiver with off-field problems in the top 10, then after that you just pick random defensive guys with cool names. For example,
“His name is Boss? How can he not be awesome?”
“I had a Teddy bear once. Let’s take Lehman!”
So… back to the board. At #8 is
So what does
It’s a shame, because
So the question is, does
Even though he doesn’t fill the biggest need, I think
Speaking of Kuechly, he’s kind of the chic prospect this year. A white dude who looks kind of like Rudy. He’s a chase-and-tackle middle linebacker who relies on technique more than speed. He had an amazing Combine and appeared intelligent with his interviews and Wonderlic. But I’m not sold on him at all. I just watched a 4 minute highlight video where all he did was drag runners out of bounds. It takes him longer to complete a tackle than anybody I’ve ever seen. We’ll see if my 4-minute scouting report ends up being accurate at the NFL level, but it almost always does. Bad pick
*Speaking of prospects who don’t impress me on Youtube, my new nickname for RG3 is Robert ‘The Bubble Screen’
The next team up at pick #10 is
If you thought having two Steve Smiths and two Roy Williamses was confusing, we’re about to see a new and improved Williams Wall.
With Nick Barnett at MLB, studs Jarius Byrd and Terrence McGee in the secondary, and an elite defensive line, there’s no reason to think
As I mentioned earlier,
At picks #11, #12 and #13 are three wretched teams with dismal quarterback situations: the Chiefs, Seahawks and Cardinals.
KC went into 2011 with high hopes and lost
Speaking of the Cards, they somehow went 8-8 despite a 1-6 start and 8 games started by
As for the draft picks, I’d say Chiefs take Ingram to pair him with Tamba Hali and attempt to establish a dominant pass rush, the Seahawks take Kirkpatrick and try to salvage an maladroit secondary, and Cardinals decide between Martin and Reiff, both of whom are falling down the Big Board after unimpressive showings at the Combine / Pro Days. We might even see the next OT (Mike Adams from
Which brings us to the always-intriguing Cowboys, who have finally shored up the edges of the offensive line and definitely don’t need to add any more skill position players. I LOVE DeMarco Murray - the Breakout Player of 2012 - and think he’ll open up the game tremendously for Romo,
But the defense needs plenty of help, especially in the secondary. Last year,
Remember last offseason, when Philly brought in Asomugha & the All Stars, which prompted Dallas’s D-coordinator to talk about “kicking their asses,” which led to Rex Grossman guaranteeing that the Redskins would actually be the ones to win the division, which led to the only NFC East team that didn’t talk trash in August winning the Super Bowl? Funny how that happens.
Philly’s pick has to be somebody who can play defense in the middle of the field. A DT, a linebacker, a safety. Their defensive struggles in the ‘wide nine’ were well documented. If Kuechly or Barron or Poe is available, they’ll all be good options.
*Quick word on Mark Barron – I absolutely love this guy. Hard-hitting, super instinctive, can actually defend the pass. Basically a bigger, smarter, stronger, faster version of Louis Delmas, only with much better coverage skills.
The Crimson Tide defense could see as many as five players drafted in the first round, and while Upshaw and Kirkpatrick get most of the attention, Barron might end up being the best pro. If he falls to 23, I would love to see Detroit employ their BPA strategy and take him; I’m sure plenty of fans would groan at the uselessness of another safety, but it would allow Delmas to play weakside safety and it would allow Spievey to move back to corner, plus it would be like adding another excellent linebacker on running plays. Barron is going to be a stud. Mark my words: Eric Berry and Mark Barron will be the Reed and Polamalu of the next generation.
Next is the Jets, who just infuriate me. It’s fine if you want to trade for Tebow, but don’t insult my intelligence by saying “it was a football move.” Clearly, it was a media move. It was a Rex Ryan Ego move. It was a teenage girl saying to her friends “Does this shirt look cute on me?” Come on.
Speaking of insults to my intelligence, how about the Grand Rapids Press putting up billboards for their website, saying “The Press isn’t going anywhere. It’s going everywhere.” Yeah, kind of like the phonograph and the horsedrawn carriage. Seriously, if it hadn’t taken them a decade to figure out that newspapers are obsolete, they might have a chance. In a related story, Kodak is bankrupt because it took them too long to adjust to the digital camera. True story.
Anyway, rest of the NFL draft thoughts later … the latest rumor is that Detroit is interested in Georgia cornerback Brandon Boykin...