The Philosophy of the Draft (and our place in it)

POST WRITTEN WARNING: This is really long. Read at your own risk!

Being a philosophy major at one point, I often find myself not asking 'what' and 'who' but 'why' and 'how'. We obviously see so many mock drafts, reasonings for certain picks based off of player history, performance and character/injury issues among other things, but often I see something not accounted for. Aside from the PLAYER you choose, the team situation is rarely taken into consideration.

The Case of Suh v. Berry

I think this is the pre-eminent draft question. Aside from my ponderings on whether or not Eric Berry is even a consideration for the Lions (as I believe we, myself included, have hyped him up considerably), we at POD have made countless posts about who would be the better pick. I am making the assumption that Suh is not picked first for the sake of discussion.

Ndamukong Suh is as mountain of a man, and thus far (aside from injuries in the past) the draft's consensus top talent. With someone like this, it's hard to miss on that pick. Seems like a no brainer, right? He's a huge need on the defensive line, a great talent, and would really provide a morale boost in our weakest area.

Eric Berry, the safety from Tennessee, has been compared to the likes of Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. He is certainly a top-10 pick, and has a litany of tape to show off. Mel Kiper had him ranked #2 overall directly behind Suh on his big board, and Berry was definitely the top defensive back in college football the last year or two. Once again, massive need at defensive back, even with Delmas last year, and huge talent to step in and start immediately.


The Early Rounds: Strength in Numbers, or Divide and Conquer?

Assuming we have a shot at either, my viewpoint moves beyond who is the more dominant talent, and into the realm of team cohesion. My question is this: are we better off taking a player and placing him in the middle of an unproductive unit in order to balance it out, or should we focus on one area in order to dominate that phase of the game, thereby leaving another group lacking?

You could easily say that both the secondary and defensive line are just about equally lacking in playmakers (Delmas shifting the favor to the secondary SLIGHTLY), so it could very well be a wash. But with top picks in the first and second round, I think it's extremely important to look at strategy in order to effectively utilize your position. Consider this - at picks #2 and #34, without any trades or anything going down, we could potentially round out either the defensive line or secondary with picks of N. Suh (#2) and B. Graham (#34) or E. Berry (#2) and K. Wilson (#34), respectively. Granted this is made under the assumption that all the players are there at our picks, but I am simply trying to illustrate the question.

Personally I believe that it would be extremely prudent, especially in an extremely defensive talent-heavy draft, that we pool our resources, and make whatever moves are necessary to consolidate our picks. Let's get an infusion of youth and talent in one area, and move to the next. It does us far less good (in my opinion) to spread our picks out and be OK in most phases of the game, than it does to focus our picks on solid playmakers and force them to beat our weaker phase. The first three rounds of the draft (and the players chosen) are the proverbial silver bullets your franchise needs to move forward the following year, and I believe it to be a waste to spread them out and make them less effective.

The third round, then, would be best served to fill a need in the unit you neglected in the first round. In draft case #1 (Suh and Graham) I would advocate a pick like Jerome Murphy (CB, USF) or Reshad Jones (S, Georgia). Both were bright spots on not so great defenses, and would work hard to establish a similar role in a similar circumstance. If draft case #2 (Berry and Wilson) occurred, I would be more pleased to see a pick like Greg Hardy (DE, Ole Miss) or even take a flier on someone like Carlos Dunlap (DE, Florida) if he is still available. I understand the reservations regarding his work ethic, however his talent with a 3rd round pick could be a steal. He certainly couldn't let us down more at #66 than Kalimba Edwards did as a 2nd rounder.


The Latter Rounds: Build the Foundation

With next year's rookie playmakers chosen and the road laid out for the (previously) 'first day picks'. The focus shifts to a completely different mindset. Since most of the dominant NCAA talent has been reaped, the latter 4 rounds are where you create a foundation, and consequently are able to get more creative. The Lions' less pressing needs are on offense, with Kevin Smith nursing a serious injury, and the offensive line being one of the most consistant sources of woe for current and past Detroit quarterbacks.

By prioritizing, you come to the conclusion that with 5 picks remaining in your draft and the first three spent on defense, it's time to find the hidden talents on offense. This is where you can find young men who's work ethic and character, not necessarily their production in the NCAA has built who they are. These are your guys who you feel, if you have a solid coaching staff, can be coached into players that are capable of playing beyond their means. This process takes time, so it is important to make sure that you aren't simply going 'BPA' with these picks. Just because a player did not have statistical value in games does not necessarily mean their ceiling isn't higher. Especially in rounds 4 and 5, the players that are typically chosen here have hit their ceilings, and are chosen mid-round due to the fact they played their best ball and were not capable of reaching the highest echelon.

In rounds 4 and 5, we have three picks, and I would prioritize offensive line picks with the 4th and second 5th rounders. Names that come to mind for me are Bruce Campbell (T, Maryland) and Matt Tennant (C, BC) with pick #4, and guys like Sergio Render (G, VT) and Mitch Petrus (G, Arkansas) with the second 5th. As for our first 5th rounder, I would go with a running back or an especially enticing linebacker or defensive lineman. Being more than midway through the draft, I like prospects such as LeGarrette Blount (RB, Oregon) and hometown favorite Joique Bell (RB, Wayne State) on offense, and defensive players like Linval Joseph (DT, East Carolina) and Phillip Dillard (OLB, Nebraska).

Finally, the final picks in the draft should be depth picks. Most players here are never going to make a real impact, so I think that choosing guys with prototypical physical characteristics in depth-deprived areas is the most prudent course of action, in hopes that they can be groomed into role players down the road. I don't know college football enough to suggest picks this deep in the draft, but I think position wise, we would be best served by drafting another defensive lineman in the 6th followed by an offensive lineman or kicker last.


The Final Summation

If you honestly read through all of this, I commend and thank you. Ultimately, this started to me as an analysis of the draft in general, but I really find that the approach is as important as the execution. The more time you spend determining a method, the less time you have to spend on making a solid decision. According to what I've laid forward, there are basically two drafts I've advocated with slight changes therein. I also realize that my knowledge of NCAA football is lacking to an extent, and that I may have valued certain players too high or too low. Please take this with a grain of salt, as the positions and types of players drafted are more so the focus than the specific player drafted. With that, my really only mock drafts for the Detroit Lions for the 2010 season, with draft "A" being my personal preferred:


Draft A

Draft B

Round One

Eric Berry, S, Tennessee

Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska

Round Two

Kyle Wilson, CB, Boise State

Brandon Graham, DE, Michigan

Round Three

Greg Hardy, DE, Ole Miss

Reshad Jones, S, Georgia

Round Four

Matt Tennant, C, BC

Bruce Campbell, T, Maryland

Round Five

a) LeGarrette Blount, RB, Oregon

b) Sergio Render, G, VT

a) Joique Bell, RB, Wayne State

b) Mitch Petrus, G, Arkansas

Round Six

Linval Joseph, DT, Eastern Carolina

Phillip Dillard, OLB, Nebraska

Round Seven

Leigh Tiffin, K, Alabama

Leigh Tiffin, K, Alabama


So what do you think?

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Pride Of Detroit or its writers.

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