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The nice thing about having a competent general manager is that the NFL Draft has quickly gone from an event where I expect mistakes and am critical of every move to something where I will enjoy watching just to see how the Lions' plan is going to play out. Actually, this is really only the first year I am going to get to experience that feeling with the Lions. Although many of you were more than ready to put your faith behind Martin Mayhew and company a year ago, I needed to see his genius in action before letting out a sigh of relief and putting my trust in him.
After a wildly successful 2009 draft and many impressive moves since then, I am more than ready to hear the picks and instead of immediately yelling "WTF" at my TV just out of reflex, I will enjoy thinking about how the selections fit into the Lions' plans in the grand scheme of things. Of course, I might revert back to my old ways if Martin Mayhew gets kidnapped and Dez Bryant ends up being the second overall pick or something like that, but then again, he would probably just "Mayhew" the kidnapper and get something extra out of the whole ordeal.
Anyways, looking back to last year and learning from what I used to do, here are some things that I personally am going to keep in mind to have a more enjoyable three days of drafting, and they are things all of you should keep in mind as well.
1. Just because you haven't heard of the player doesn't mean he is an awful pick.
This isn't really for the late-round picks since most people haven't heard of the majority of players that will be selected. Rather, this is for picks in the first few rounds where somebody unexpected is taken and the first reaction is to go "WHO?!" and point to high-profile players that were still on the board.
Perhaps we should call this the Louis Delmas rule. Last year I personally had only heard Delmas' name once or twice before the draft and didn't understand why the Lions picked him with the 33rd overall selection. Looking back it's obvious that they picked him to be a starting safety and one of the best players on the defense, and that is exactly what he was during his rookie season. Sure, most hadn't heard the name Louis Delmas and were surprised he went so early, but that turned out to be a great pick.
2. High-profile names will drop, but that doesn't mean they should be picked.
Let's just go ahead and call this the Rey Maualuga rule. Last year when Delmas was picked, part of the reason we were so surprised is because Maualuga was still there. Many were pissed that the Lions passed on him with the 20th pick, so you can imagine that we were freaking out when Detroit passed on him again with the 33rd pick. Although it was becoming obvious that many teams weren't high on Maualuga, it was tough to understand why Detroit passed on someone who could start at middle linebacker. Well, this all goes back to watching the Lions' plan play out. The Lions drafted a player that could immediately start at safety with Delmas and then signed Larry Foote later in the offseason. Bringing in Foote gave another pick, DeAndre Levy, time to develop into a starting-caliber linebacker, which leads me to my next point.
3. "Expert" rankings don't mean anything.
If a team likes a player enough, they will draft him when they feel that it is the perfect time. So what if a player with a fifth-round grade is taken in the third round. Obviously the team feels that it was the right time to make a move to get that player. Obviously there can be some cases where reaching for a player is unnecessary if it is ridiculously too early or something, but in general it's important to realize that the draft boards teams like the Lions have assembled can be far different than what the likes of Mel Kiper and Todd McShay have put together.
This can be called the DeAndre Levy rule. Last year I personally was not a fan of that pick at all, partly because after reading some of the scouting reports on him I felt like the Lions could have waited to select him until a later round. Well, obviously the Lions liked Levy and wanted to make sure they could get him, and now he is the team's starting middle linebacker and a great pick looking back.
4. Criticism is still okay.
Although I have already said that I am putting my trust behind Mayhew, that doesn't mean that he is safe from criticism. I am going to be much more open to whatever happens during the draft because Mayhew has shown that he seems to know what he is doing and because of the three things I listed above, but if something completely out there happens it is obviously fair game.
I guess my point is that while it's important to not overreact and realize that the Lions have a plan, you shouldn't be afraid to criticize a move. Also, keep in mind that there is a difference between voicing your displeasure with a move and just being a douchebag (i.e. "I think Mayhew made a mistake by not targeting this player." vs. "Is this Mayhew guy serious? What an idiot for passing on this player.").
5. The draft is a crapshoot.
No matter how much preparation goes into the draft each year, the fact of the matter is that some players will turn out to be great, some will just be average, and others will bust out of the league. While teams can do as much research as they want to avoid ending up with one of those busts, sometimes it is someone unexpected that showed no signs of problems before the draft.
My point with this is to remember that perfect drafts aren't common or anything, so looking back there will always be picks you question. The thing now is that hopefully we are only feeling that way about one or two picks at most rather than entire drafts like under Matt Millen. Obviously part of being a good drafter involves developing the players that are picked, which already seems to be much better under Jim Schwartz, but more often than not with the draft it really is just one big crapshoot.
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