I personally am not a big fan of handing out draft grades simply because it takes time to see how a class will pan out, but I realize that part of the fun of the draft is grading the picks. I feel kind of bad just giving out random letter grades without it being based on a certain criteria, but thankfully Chris Pokorny of Dawgs By Nature (SB Nation's Browns blog) has developed a system to follow for draft grades.
1. Player Potential?
2. Expected to Start This Year?
3. Good Value for the Round Chosen (aka Not a Reach)?
4. Filled a Position of Need?
5. Does the Pick Have Fan Approval?
The way the criteria translate into a specific grade is you run down the list and see how the pick fits each question. If the player has potential, for example, then give him a check mark. If he doesn't, then give him an X instead. When you are all finished, the number of check marks a player has will determine the grade. From there I personally adjusted the grades with a +/- if I felt that was necessary. Obviously this is a very unscientific formula since the criteria are heavily opinion based, but it's better than just pulling out a random letter grade.
So, below is my take on the Lions' draft class and what grades each player should receive (the numbers in the columns correspond to the questions asked in the quote above). Keep in mind that for this post I am only considering the players picked. I already handed out an A to the Lions for their draft class based on how picks were used to acquire likely starters and all that (those players would pretty much have check marks across the board). For this post, however, I'm strictly looking at the Lions' draft picks.
|4||128||Jason Fox||OT||Miami (FL)||✓||✗||✓||✓||✓||B-|
|7||213||Willie Young||DE||N.C. State||✓||✗||✓||✗||✓||C|
|7||255||Tim Toone||WR||Weber State||✓||✗||✓||✗||✓||C|
(Explanation after the jump)
Starting at the top with Ndamukong Suh, there's not a lot to say. He is a great pick in my opinion and I bumped him up to an A+ since he shouldn't be someone who develops into a starter, but rather is a starter from the very beginning. That's where things differ a bit with Jahvid Best, who got an A-. I love the pick and gave him five check marks, but Best is not an every-down type of player. He could easily start if Kevin Smith is still injured, but even if he doesn't start, Best is someone that is going to be on the field in different situations to make plays. Considering that I gave him a check mark for the "Expected to start?" criteria, even though he may not technically be in the starting lineup.
For Amari Spievey, I bumped him up to a B+ because I think he will develop into a starter during the 2010 season much like DeAndre Levy did last year. I don't necessarily expect him to start from the very beginning, though it's possible due to the Lions' lack of depth at the position. I do think he will be a starter eventually, which is why I bumped him up to a B+.
Jason Fox was bumped down to a B- because he is more of a project. The Lions got good value considering some draft sites had him going as high as the second round, but Fox looks like a player that will take a season or two to develop into a potential starter rather than just a backup. Either way, that is a good move when you consider that the Lions weren't exactly looking for a starting-caliber tackle in this year's draft. They feel comfortable with Jeff Backus at left tackle, and although I doubt they have as much faith in Gosder Cherilus at right tackle, the fourth round is not usually where you find offensive lineman who can start in their rookie season.
Seventh-round picks are much tougher to judge, so I gave Willie Young and Tim Toone a pair of C grades. Neither player is expected to start (obviously) and didn't really fill a position of big need, but the seventh round is a lot different than the first four, so it's necessary to take that into account when giving out grades.
Overall, I gave the Lions a B simply for the picks they made. Again, if you take into account all of the picks the Lions used to acquire proven players, the overall grade would easily be bumped up to an A for me. For the picks alone, though, I like that Suh and Best will be able to contribute from day one, that Spievey and Fox have the potential to develop into solid players over time, and that the seventh-round picks weren't completely out there or anything. To me this was a solid draft that added talent to the roster, including at positions of need, which is all you can really ask for as the Lions continue to rebuild their roster.