"When we talk about best player available, it's really critically, critically important at the top part of the draft because those guys because it's so important that those guys make it that you focus on getting the absolute best player you can get no matter what" -Martin Mayhew
As many, if not all of you readers know, the Lions recently hired Brian Xanders to shore up their scouting department and to assist Mayhew in handling other aspects of the GM's job. Overall, most Lions fans were smitten with Xanders almost immediately, and for good reason. Xanders has very quietly put together many good draft classes in recent years, and routinely makes splashes in FA (Manning, Dawkins, McGahee in Denver to name a few). Before we take a look into how he changed the Detroit Lions' style of drafting, let's see how his past few drafts have held up, shall we?
Over the last 3 years, 2010-2012, Xanders' draft classes have been quite stunning, statistically. Let's take a look:
#1 in playing time percentage. His guys that he drafts usually play. That's nice to hear considering Schwartz doesn't seem to believe in playing his young'ns in year one. We'll see if this number is proven right this year.
#2 in total starts. The guys he drafts go on to start many games, 276 to be exact. This means that these rookies go on to have more than just one good year, and mostly all of them are with their originally drafted team. We'll get into that a bit later.
#2 in total plays. These rookies-3rd year players are more than just a one year wonder. They play many snaps, year in and year out. Here's looking at you, Louis Delmas. (Seriously, Delmas, stay healthy please?)
Maybe these numbers don't mean much to you. I have more.
In his last 3 drafts, Xanders has drafted 9 starters for the Broncos. In comparison, Mayhew has got a whopping total of 4(I'm not counting Willie Young as a starter, nor will I make assumptions on Reiff or Jonte Green yet, and both Tahir Whitehead and Travis Lewis may be given the opportunity to start, but they have not). There's potential for many of these young draftees to eventually become starters in the future. However, it seems that Xanders' picks become entrenched as starters earlier on in their respective career. That could be strictly the HC's call, but it also could be that Xanders' got players that were more NFL ready.
32/35. That's the amount of players drafted that made the Bronco's opening day roster in the past 4 drafts. (This number is per year, total. In other words, each draft pick made the roster in the year they were drafted, then I added up the total.)
Ok, so we all "know" that Mayhew tended to draft the BPA( best player available) regardless of need. At least, that's what it seemed. He drafted Fairley after the Suh pick the year before, traded up to get LeShoure after the Best pick the year before(which yes, happened to become a need afterwards, but not at the time), drafted Broyles after the Titus Young pick (not much to say about him), and drafted 3 CB's in the 2012 draft in almost consecutive rounds. So get to the point, right? How DID Xanders affect this draft? Or did he at all? Well lets take a look at some facts.
The Lions 1st round pick was a DE in Ansah. This, according to most of the Lions fans across the nation was the biggest need in the offseason. Pretty simple. Pick 1; addressing a need>BPA.
The 2nd round pick was CD Darius Slay. This one was a bit puzzling at first. The Lions did just draft 3 corners last year, and looked like they were fine with simply re-signing Houston and letting Bentley, Green, and Greenwood learn and grow with playing time. Well Bentley was a 3rd round pick, and was injured most of last year. We don't know how healthy he is, or if he has made any improvements to his game over the past year to have an impact with this current team. Greenwood was a 5th round pick and was injured as well all of last year. He was raw and athletic coming out of college, and I don't think will be seeing much playing time this upcoming year unless injuries occur. Green was a 6th rounder, and received major playing time after so many injuries to starters. At first, it looked like he might not even make the team but he grew up fast, and should be a major contributor to the defense this upcoming year. So why the Slay pick? It seems like he wasn't a need, right? Well, Mayhew came out and said that they graded Slay as a 1st rounder (BPA) and it never hurts to have multiple above average corners in this pass first NFL. Slay projects to be the #2 corner this year, and that seems to make him a need pick as well, but not as much as him being the tops on the Lions' big board. Pick 2; BPA>addressing a need.
The third round pick was G Larry Warford. Based on the amount of love he's gotten over the past few weeks from Lions fans absolutely loved this pick. It fitted a MAJOR need at RG and I think he steps in right away and solidifies that RG position for years to come similar to what Rob Sims did at LG a few years ago. After the release of Peterman(it was time), the Lions had Rodney Austin, a practice squad RG, as the replacement. Yuck. Pick 3; addressing a need>BPA.
The Lions 4th round pick was DE Devin Taylor. Considering the Lions only had Willie Young and Lewis under contract, this pick was another absolute need. Taylor is a huge athlete, standing at 6'7" 266 lbs. He will likely start as a backup at first, but he should get some playing time considering how little depth the Lions have at that position. Pick 4; addressing a need>BPA
In the bottom rounds of the draft, addressing a need is a likely scenario considering the lack of talent. As Mayhew said, "When we talk about best player available, it's really critically, critically important at the top part of the draft because those guys because it's so important that those guys make it that you focus on getting the absolute best player you can get no matter what. As you get later in the sixth, seventh-round. You start to look at positions that you might want to address." We'll see. I don't trust Mayhew a whole lot on what he says. (Ex: he said Slay would not have to have surgery on his knee, and yesterday Slay just had surgery)
Round 5, the Lions picked P Sam Martin. If you watched any games last year, you know how much of a need this pick was. Period. Word is, when Nick Harris wasn't re-signed, he tried to punt a football out of anger and it only went 30 yards. Pick 5; addressing a need>BPA. Round 6, the Lions picked WR Corey Fuller. Titus Young is going insane, Broyles is ACL unlucky, and Burleson is coming off major leg surgery. Looks like a need to me. Pick 6; addressing a need>BPA. The other 6th rounder, the Lions picked RB/WR/KR Theo Riddick. Again, if you watched the games last year, Logan was an utter disaster. Riddick has previously returned kicks and punts in his career, and has stated that he would like to get another chance to. Also, Riddick fits the role that Logan was supposed to play in the offense, as a slot receiver/end around RB. Pick 7; addressing a need>BPA, although I don't know who else I'd rather have in the 6th round than a guy like this. Round 7, the Lions picked TE Michael Williams. Williams projects to be a red zone blocker/short yardage situation guy. Maybe he catches a few passes in the red zone or used as a decoy. Since Pettidrop isn't the threat that everyone was hoping for...Pick 8; addressing a need>BPA. Brandon Hepburn is mostly likely going to be a ST ace, and we all know that was a big need this past year.
So let's take a look at the numbers: Addressing a need: 8 BPA: 1
To compare Mayhew's drafts to those without Xanders, I'll be quickly taking a look at the BPA/Addressing a need in the past 3 years. These are my opinions, use your own judgement if you want. Also, I'm excluding the 2009 draft. EVERY PICK WAS A NEED. EVERY ONE.
- Suh: BPA>need
- Best: BPA(trade up)
- Spievey: Need-based (don't understand the immediate switch to safety)
- Fox: BPA (injuries forced the draft drop)
- Young: BPA (Avril and KVB no need)
- Toone: No idea
- Fairley: BPA (Corey Williams and Suh)
- Young: Need
- LeShoure: BPA (Best and year before Smith/trade up)
- Hogue: BPA
- Culbreath: BPA
- Reiff: Need
- Broyles: BPA
- Bentley: Need
- Lewis: Need (considering Avril leaving and KVB retiring)
- Whitehead: BPA (trade up)
- Greenwood: Need
- Green: BPA (two CB's before)
- Lewis: BPA
Mayhew and Co: Addressing a need: 5 BPA: 12. Major trades: 3
Mayhew/Xanders and Co: Addressing a need: 8 BPA: 1 Major trades: 0
Judging by my opinions, it looks more like Xanders had quite the impact on this draft class. Mayhew always tended to look at BPA over anything, as evident in his trades up and picks. Xanders seems to like to pick the best guys that fit a need in a certain team, as evidence in this past draft, and his playing time % for rookies in his Denver years. Considering that Denver was perennially better than Detroit in his years (I know Matt M***en was in there for a few years), it looks like Xanders' scouting ways affected the Lions F.O in many ways. Let's hope it translates to the field. Go Lions.
Give me your opinions on this. I know my opinions aren't fact.