In terms of the draft this year, the looming issue of no Collective Bargaining Agreement impacts the draft more and more each day. We have already looked at the obvious issues. We have already felt the impact of no free agency predraft. Soon we will feel the impact of no free agency post draft. One can only be left to wonder exactly what impact that will have on teem needs versus player value during the draft. One thing is for sure, all it takes is one domino to fall near the top and the effects will be profound and lasting. The chances of that happening are very good.
As the draft approaches we have all be letting the hamster wheels in our heads spin freely at the possibilities of what may or may not come to be. Speculation is always a dangerous limb to go out on, even for those who are considered experts or make a living at it, the very best of us only manage an accuracy rate of 80% or less. Lets be honest here, most of us amateurs are lucky to hit 50% when we try to make draft predictions. With that in mind, this year proves to be a rather wild ride and perhaps the most interesting draft in a decade.
In light of those facts, the impact of the CBA, and the inaccuracy of all the Nostradamus wannabes, I could not help but to think that as usual, the majority of us are being rather short sighted, and some are being too long sighted. You have teams like the Colts contemplating spending a first round pick on a quarterback to groom under Peyton Manning, and you have teams like the Dolphins poised to trade up to pick nine or ten for Ryan Mallett. Both moves are high risk, high reward propositions. This year the stakes are higher.
What seems to be lost on many is the middle ground. After the draft, but before the seasons, and during the season there is something that just might impact this years draft class profoundly. There may not be any organized team activities or training camp. If that comes to pass, it will make it even harder for a rookie to have a standout year this year, to be an impact player, than it already is. Not that it was very easy to begin with, the amount of rookies that play a significant role in year one, compared to the amount of rookies drafted, is rather small.
With that in mind one would be lead to believe that there is a way to take advantage of this situation. To seize this as an opportunity to find a way to get more production than other teams get from their rookies. To make the proverbial lemonade out of lemons. In pursuit of such endeavors I have come to think of three possible strategies for the Lions to use to their advantage.
Strategy One: Take players in positional groups that require less coaching and training to translate from college to the NFL. Believe it or not the Lions actually have two positional needs that fit this criteria. Both the right tackle and running back are positions that you can see immediate returns on with relatively little preseason exposure on. With right tackle the game is simple, can the guy win a one on one battle with a defensive end, can the guy pick up and handle an outside blitz, and can he handle a stunt. Sure there are other things that can complicate it a bit more, such as an overload blitz with a stunt, or a delayed blitz. But for the most part a right tackle can function on very little initial coaching in the NFL. With a running back it is even simpler, all the running back has to worry about is two things. First they just have to know where to run to, which really, if needed, the QB or a veteran lineman can tell them in the huddle on the field if they are not up to speed. Secondly they need to know pass protections, but that is rarely expected of them to understand in their first year anyways, so we are back to it being very simple.
Following this strategy the Lions just might draft a guy like Tyron Smith at 13 and a guy like a Ryan Williams or Mikel Leshoure at 44. Even the Akeem Ayers and Bruce Carter arguments come into play here.
Strategy Two: Take players who have a sound understanding of our schemes and sound fundamentals. By doing this the Lions would take players that may have a lower ceiling in the NFL, but can be plugged in day one and hold their own with relatively little coaching. Even if the schemes don't match up perfectly, if the guys have a good understanding of the game and its concepts they should do much better initially than the guys who will need a lot of work in the classroom or on the field coaching.
Following this strategy the Lions just might opt for guys like Rahim Moore, Curtis Brown, Mason Foster, Martez Wilson, Curtis Marsh, DeMarco Murray, Austin Pettis, James Brewer, or Shane Vereen.
Strategy Three: Especially in the later rounds, five and beyond, take a swing. Yes, that is right, go for the home run, take a big gamble. Who knows we just might hit on one of them and that could be what puts us over the top. But you will see some teams doing this very thing early on in round one even. Guys with an injury history are not likely to gain us much unless we are sure they will be ready to go and at least near their former abilities. Guys with character concerns may work out better, if managed well they can at least get some good performance out of them, and develop their game enough before we let them go as free agents, to increase their chances that another team will pick them up and in the process give us compensatory picks.
Following this strategy the Lions might go for guys like Da'Quan Bowers, Jimmy Smith, Robert Quinn, or Brandon Hogan.
It is not my intent to tell the Lions what to do, or to tell you guys what I think it would be best for them to do. Instead it is my intent to provide a logical understanding predraft of why some very weird things are going to happen this year. Should those things be at picks 13, 44, 75, 107, 154, or 205 at least there will be a precursor here to prevent several three letter acronyms from flying on the live thread, and possibly to also help prevent premature pattern balding within the fan base. It is also here to drive home the point that all rookies, regardless of fundamentals, potential, and projected impact in year one, may just very well be going into this season cold. Therefore expect rookie performance across the board to be down this year if that happens. Maybe I can get us all saying FTW instead of WTF for a change.