Kyle Van Noy has not lived up to expectations from when he was drafted in 2014. The Detroit Lions traded up to select him in the second round, and the former BYU product was considered almost universally a good pick by pundits across the spectrum. His draft projection was anywhere from late-first to mid-second round. But does he suck? Well, it’s not like there are any examples of a linebacker a team traded up for who has been less productive coming into their third year and then suddenly became successful, right?
That seems like a very specific, possibly leading question, doesn’t it? Well, it is, as there happens to be not only an example of that recently but one that is still on the team. Though he was drafted in the fifth round, not the second, the Detroit Lions traded a fourth and seventh-round pick for the chance to draft Tahir Whitehead in 2012. The trade value was 40.3 for Minnesota to Detroit’s 96.8, or what you’d call a bad trade (a -58.37% value for Detroit). To make matters worse, Whitehead would play exactly zero snaps on defense in 2012 and 2013, notching not a single statistic on defense (obviously) over that span. He did have some production as a special teamer, in fact he was quite good there. His AV (Approximate Value), per Pro-Football-Reference, was 1.0 for each of the 2012 and 2013 seasons due to his special teams contributions.
Van Noy’s trade was a little better in terms of draft value. Detroit gained a fifth-round pick, but gave up one as well as a seventh to trade up in the second round. The total value for Seattle was 533 to Detroit’s 524.7, a +1.58% value for Detroit. The Lions clearly got better value the second time trading up for a linebacker. Or did they? Van Noy would go on to play very little as a rookie due to an injury sustained early on, missing half the season. He would notch only 11 solo tackles and a single sack in his first two seasons as a Lion, playing rotationally behind Josh Bynes for 23 games. His AV from PFR was 1 each for 2014 and 2015, due to his limited play on defense.
The obvious elephant in the room for this conversation is Van Noy’s draft status. As a second-round pick, you would expect him to have a larger impact than you would a fifth-round pick. So the argument over whether Kyle Van Noy sucks is really two separate conversations. Has he sucked so far in his career, either relative to his draft status or otherwise, and does he indeed suck as a player, meaning he has no potential to start or play in any forward projection for the team?
The first of those questions is pretty simple. Has Kyle Van Noy sucked relative to his draft status? Yes. He has. See? That one wasn’t hard.
Has he sucked without regard to draft status? Meh. You could argue yes, since he hasn't done much, but you could also argue, as some have, that he has been alright in the limited amount of playing time he’s had, though there were also some pretty terrible moments there. So maybe not as easy of a yes, but probably a final yes with qualifiers.
Looking forward, though? We saw Whitehead come off back-to-back seasons with literally no playing time, then step into the shoes of Stephen Tulloch when he was injured and star at middle linebacker. Whether he's good, great or terrible, we won't see the same level of production out of Van Noy if he starts at Sam linebacker in 2016 since the role is smaller than Mike. But there isn’t any reason to think that he couldn’t play that position, nor has there been much proof on the field that he would be a liability, at least a significant one.
Reports out of Allen Park are that Van Noy has looked very good coming into his third season. The idea of whether the Lions improved at linebacker contained some healthy dialogue (POD has some awesome readers) about whether Van Noy even belonged in the discussion of good or bad, but others have already given up hope. We at POD aren't alone in thinking KVN could be a breakout player this season, and the question posed in the title of this article is one we will definitely be revisiting. Unfortunately, we had to break this one into two questions. HAS Kyle Van Noy sucked? Yes. DOES he suck? Maybe, too early to tell. So this one ends with a Myth: CONFIRMED, but also a TO BE CONTINUED...