When the NFL Draft got underway on Saturday, the nervousness began for all prospects, teams, and fans. I know I was sitting there wondering what the Lions would do. Though I did have a general idea of what Detroit would do, anything could happen, as we saw with Miami's #9 pick.
#2 - Calvin Johnson (WR, Georgia Tech):
Detroit went on the clock after Oakland selected quarterback JaMarcus Russell. That was what the Lions had hoped for the entire time in regards to looking for a trade. The time ticked by and nothing really came up. Finally, earlier than expected, Detroit's pick was made. It wasn't shocking literally, but it still was hard to believe that the pick was wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Johnson is an absolute stud. Most scouts call him a "once every ten years player," meaning that the combination of such talent and skills is rare.
After Johnson was selected, there still was a small chance he could be traded, but that didn't happen. Millen wasn't about to let the best player in the draft go unless the deal was exactly what he wanted. That is the philosophy that led to no trade occurring. Some can call it stubborn and others will say a trade would've been better to address all of the pressing needs. After thinking about it though, would you really want Matt Millen to have that many more picks with the chance he would just screw them up?
In the end, the reports that the phones were ringing off the hook may not be completely true. While Detroit did entertain discussions from a few teams, I don't think it was nearly as many as most believe. Either way, the only two serious teams to trade with were Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Both had a pair of second round picks that Millen wanted. The problem, Millen wanted even more than that. Some have said that Millen wanted both second-rounders, a player, and maybe even a third-rounder from Tampa Bay. I imagine a deal with Atlanta would be very similar with an even bigger asking price. Neither team stepped up and wanted to part with so much, leading Millen to not accept anything less than the value he placed on C.J.
How do I feel about this pick? Obviously I would've liked to see a trade that would've allowed Detroit to go through and fill every need, but I'm still more than happy with drafting Calvin Johnson. Johnson is the best talent in this draft and will contribute immediately. Mike Martz thinks he's the best receiver ever, which really says a lot. On top of that, C.J. will join an offense that is loaded with talent. Jon Kitna threw for over 4,000 yards last year with Roy Williams and Mike Furrey, imagine what he will do in 2007 with Calvin Johnson added into that mix.
The only problem I could foresee happening is the talent of Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson clashing. Both are the type of WR that is the star in the offense. I would bet that there will be one moment where someone is feeling left out. I don't think it will affect the team too much, but down the road when Roy's contract is ending it'll make it a lot harder to re-sign him. But those problems are, as I said, down the road, so I'm not going to worry about them too much right now.
#43 - Drew Stanton (QB, Michigan State):
In the second round, Detroit had their first trade of the day. The Lions swapped second round picks with the Bills and picked up a third-rounder from Buffalo as well. That was actually a really good move as the third-rounder would later be traded to move back into the second round. Detroit knew the player they wanted would still be there, so why not get something extra on top of the pick?
That pick turned out to be Michigan State quarterback Drew Stanton, who I actually selected in the third round of the SB Nation Mock Draft. I really do have mixed feelings about this pick. One side of me is glad Detroit got a quarterback that could someday be the future starter, especially someone with local ties. The other side of me doesn't like the pick that much. At that point, Detroit had needs at defensive end, middle linebacker, and cornerback, yet went the route of QB instead.
I'm not going to focus on the negative too much. Picking Drew Stanton is interesting because of what will happen down the road. Give him some time under Mike Martz and he could turn out to be a solid NFL quarterback. Stanton didn't have a ton of success in college at MSU, but much of that can be attributed to his coaches and surrounding players. I will say this, I wouldn't be shocked to see Drew Stanton play by the end of this coming season if things get bad enough. I'm talking another result like 2006 where Detroit had only 2 wins going into the last week of the season. I personally wanted to see Josh McCown get some playing time, but that only happened at wide receiver. I would bet that Kitna's leash gets shorter this season. Don't get me wrong, it'll still take a lot for Kitna to ever be benched, but I expect Stanton to at least get a snap or two at some point.
Trade sending McCown & BMW to Oakland:
One thing everyone wondered about was the fate of Josh McCown and Mike Williams. McCown wanted to be traded and Detroit wanted to trade Williams. Both happened in one deal. The Lions sent McCown and Williams to Oakland in exchange for a fourth round selection.
The way this deal came together is an interesting one. Originally it looked like BMW would be traded to Tennessee for what some are speculating to be a seventh round pick. Instead though, Williams was sent to Oakland in a package deal with McCown to up the return value. Detroit got a fourth round pick out of it and the real fun got started. At this point, Detroit had two third-rounders, two fourth-rounders, and four fifth-rounders. You knew there would be more trades to come considering all of that ammo makes it pretty easy to move up more than just once.
#58 - Ikaika Alama-Francis (DE, Hawaii):
The next move Detroit made involved yet another trade. The Lions moved back into the second round after a trade with New Orleans. Detroit received the 58th pick and in return sent the 66th (third round) and 145th (fifth round) picks to the Saints. With the newly-acquired 58th selection, Detroit drafted defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis. Hailing from Hawaii, Alama-Francis is a tough football player with a lot of versatility. He is said to be very good at DE, which fills that need the Lions had. As he says in his own blog, DE isn't the only position we could see Ikaika at.
I actually think Ikaika Alama-Francis will be starting at some point this season. Rod Marinelli compares him to a young Cory Redding, which is a great compliment. Give Marinelli some time to teach Ikaika (he did only start playing football four or so years ago) and I truly believe we'll see him on the starting defensive line someday soon.
#61 - Gerald Alexander (FS, Boise State):
Following one trade to jump back into the second round, Detroit did it again to get in position to select Gerald Alexander with the #61 overall pick. The Lions received pick #61 from Baltimore in exchange for a third and fourth round pick.
I questioned picking Alexander, but Detroit saw a player they wanted to draft and did something about it. Alexander is listed as a safety, but he did play cornerback for a year at Boise State. One plus that Alexander brings is his familiarity of the Cover-2 defense. Boise State played that style quite a bit, which makes Alexander a great fit in Detroit.
Couple his readiness with the fact that he has experience at cornerback and Alexander is a solid player. If it was needed he could be switched to cornerback, but at safety, he will have better coverage skills due to playing CB before.
Day 1 Grade:
After thinking it over for a few days, I'll give Detroit a solid B+ for day 1 of the NFL Draft. Calvin Johnson instantly puts the grade up there due to being such a great talent. I would've given Detroit an A, but I'm still skeptical on the Drew Stanton pick and feel some of the other needs could've been addressed in a better way. I hope Stanton proves me wrong someday, but we'll have to wait and see. Overall, the Lions had a very solid day of picking and definitely made it interesting.