The draft is achingly close now and everyone is talking about prospects and the needs of certain teams in preparation for the big day. These discussions can get quite heated, as some POD members can attest to, but when it comes down to it, none of us can predict, with any accuracy, the outcome and thought process of the Lions, or any other team. Instead, we focus on what's needs we have and what are the most important positions, which got me intrigued. What are the most important positions in the NFL? There are few completely solid answers. But that's what this post is for, to gauge opinion.
Now this is purely my opinion, it is by no means set in stone, nor do I base it of any other people opinions, it's purely what I think after watching, discussing and studying the NFL. Feel free to disagree and make up your own rankings. Also, many of you will already know the importance of most positions but the main purpose is to offer my opinion on why and in what order they are important as well as provide someone new to the NFL an idea of what positions are important and why.
First, I'll start with offence:
This is pretty much a no-brainer. A QB is the brains and heart of your offence. Without one, you'd have lots of trouble living. A good QB controls the speed of your offence, runs plays efficiently and provides the most potent part of the offensive scheme, the passing game. An accurate QB can make average receivers better and can wear out defences by not forcing turnovers and by bringing up first downs, leaving the defence on the field. Some QB's can even provide there own rush making them dangerous weapons in themselves.
A bad QB however brings your offence to a halt. The passing game would obviously come to a stand still but the running game would be affected with defences bringing extra men into the box, since the QB can't spread the coverage. A weak QB will also force turnovers, leading to opposing offences getting more ball, in good field position with tired defence to face. There's a reason why QB's get paid the most money.
Do the Lions have a good QB?- No.
2- Offensive Tackles
Tackles get this honour purely because they are charged with the protection of the most important player on the offence. To contuinue my human anatomy theme, the Offensive line is like the Spine, it holds together the rest of the offence and makes it solid. If a QB has a lot of time to find open receivers, even average QB's can be game winners. Powerful OT's can also help the run game tremendously by providing an edgelane for the RB.
A weak OT can have a major effect on a team. Without time in the pocket, a QB, even a good one, will make mistakes, force turnovers, get sacked and possibly injured. Without protection, a QB is severely hindered. A RB also gets hindered but not nearly as much since a RB can run elsewhere, but it does make the defence able to predict his direction better. Typically, a LT is the higher value of the two but a RT can be just as effective.
Do the Lions have good OT's?- Not really. Cherilus might have potential but Backus is average at best.
3- Running Back
This was a tougher decision. I think a RB is the 3rd most important offensive player because he virtually handles one side of the offence himself, the rushing attack. RB's are like the legs, they provide the momentum and keep the offence moving. A RB is the only part of the offence that doesn't need a QB to be successful. A good RB 'moves the chains' so to speak. They provide field position and are a safe form of moving up the field as interceptions are not a risk. A RB is also a dominent member of the red zone offence and much of their scoring comes from that area. A good RB can also open up the pass as Safeties might have to play closer to the line to help stopping them. Lastly, a RB can also be an option in the passing game, providing a safety valve for the QB and being the major option for the Screen pass.
A weak running back has the similar effect that a weak QB has, it stalls one half of your offence. Without a good RB, the passing game receives more pressure as blitz's can happen more often and more defensive backs can come onto the field to cover receivers. An ineffective RB also takes plays a way from the offence as offences tend to go backwards with a problem rushing attack, leaving one or 2 plays to gain long yardage with the pass. A team can be successful without a good RB, but a good QB and good receivers must be there to compensate.
Do the Lions have a good RB?- Potentially, Kevin Smith showed some nice promise last year but will he be considered in the Top 10 backs in the next few years?, probably not.
4. Wide Receivers
The other skill position was a close call with RB for 3rd place. A Wide Receiver provides much of the same positives as a RB but relies on a QB to be successful. WR's are like arms, they provide the punch. A good WR, or a good set of WR's will provide most of the scoring for a offence. They make average QB's jobs easier and can make good QB's great. Good WR's also provide big plays and are some of the most exciting men on the field. They can also draw double coverage, allowing for other player's to have single coverage or no coverage at all.
A weak WR however can prove to be a problem. Without one you have no playmaker. A QB will not thow to a guy who cannot get open which means that the QB's options become limited, hindering the offence. Poor WR's also run ineffective routes which can lead to interceptions. Can a team be successful without good WR's? Yes, but like everything else, you need a RB, TE or a fantastic QB to overcome the shortcomings.
Do the Lions have good WR's?- One, yes. Two, not quite yet.
5. Tight End
I've run out of body parts to compare positions to, sorry. The TE is an important position for two main reasons: they can provide a valuable extra blocker on run plays & can provide an extra receiver on pass plays. TE has changed as a position over the years. Many TE's now are bigger WR's. Few are pure blockers. But a good blocking TE can really help the running game. With the change though, more and more TE's are pure receivers, and they provide a valuable resource for a QB. Good TE's can be important options on first down and in the red zone. In small areas, the TE's size and physicality can be hard to cover with safeties being overpowered and LB's being outpaced. Also, because of that hard to cover attribute, TE's can be safe options for lesser QB's.
The downside however is a weak TE doesn't necessarily affect a team. QB's have WR's to throw to and RB's have Offensive Lineman to run behind. TE's are just extra options that bring help to needs but never really fill them.
Do the Lions have a good TE?- As a extra receiver, no. As an extra blocker, sort of.
6. Offensive Guards
Offensive Guards are the big guys of the offence. They provide the most push on run plays and protect the inside from DT's. The reason they are not as valued as OT's is because they are not charged with protecting the QB from the most dangerous position on defence, the DE. Another problem is that good young guards can often make the switch to OT, meaning that guards aren't always brilliant.
Weak Guards do have a negative affect though. Without them, the rushing attack has to rely on the edge instead of the middle where the most bodies are. It can also lead to pressure collapsing the pocket forcing the QB to scramble away from pressure and throw on the move. On the whole though, a team can get by with adequate guards.
Do the Lions have good OG's?- No, many of them would not start on other teams.
7. Centre (or Center for you Americans)
The Centre's main role is to snap the ball to the QB, an important job no doubt, but it's something any college Centre should be able to do without flaw. So, after that job, they're main role is to help guards block the big DT's or to handle blitzing LB's. Not crucial jobs really. However, a good Centre can also be the leader for the O-Line and help keep it stable and strengthen it. Unfortunately, they are not crucial to the Line's stability.
Do the Lions have a good C?- Raiola is decent.
The most forgotten position in the NFL. Few people think of the fullback in discussions and most never get drafted above the 5th round. A good FB provides a lead for the RB and can open holes for the runner. They can also be dangerous players in short yardage and goaline situations. Some FB's can also provide a extra receiver out of the backfield. But, few add much to a team. You either have to be an exceedingly powerful blocker who's a bit small or a someone who's athletic but too big to be a RB. A weak FB has little effect on a team because the FB has no vital job. The OL provides much of the blocking and a big RB can be the goaline rusher.
Do the Lions have a good FB?- Felton has some potential, but is more of a big back than a traditional blocker.
Defensive rankings in next post.