As we get closer to the regular season, you’ll start to see more analysts weigh in on the NFL season and, consequently, the Detroit Lions; some will be more informed than others. I’m typically able to brush off the national takes that are obviously derived from an inefficient amount of research. In order for someone to have a well-informed opinion on all 32 teams in the NFL, it would require a massive amount of research that most analysts don’t have the time — nor the monetary resources — to put in that effort. So if you miss something, or gloss over an important fact, I get it. The breadth of NFL information is nearly infinite.
But the one thing I cannot let slide is when analysts downright get things wrong, as is the case in this horrible piece written by the insufferable “Anonymous Scout.” While anonymous scouts can be useful in offering their opinions on draft picks after a prospect has been claimed by another team, typically these scouts use the platform to spout off nonsense knowing that under the guise of anonymity, they will not have to suffer any sort of consequences for their ignorance.
In the SI piece linked above — and it will not be linked again — the author lists the most underrated and overrated players on each team. For the Lions, they chose Ezekiel Ansah as the most underrated player. That’s fine. For overrated, the scout listed the duo of Golden Tate and Marvin Jones. That, to me, was a strange pick. I don’t see many people clamoring over the two as the best duo in the league, nor are either of them individually thought of as a top 15 receiver in the league. But I was willing to listen to reason. Convince me, anonymous scout:
Both these players are solid No. 2 receivers who have demonstrated to this point that they can play with great players—Jones with A.J. Green in Cincinnati, and then Tate has had his best years as a Lion with the coverage tilted to Calvin Johnson’s side. But they’re not even in the upper echelon of No. 2 receivers. Neither offers that same type of catch consistency or ability to attack the deep area of the field.
The scout’s first point is solid: Neither player has truly proven himself without the presence of a No. 1 receiver. Well, except for 2013, when Golden led the Seahawks with 898 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns, despite the fact that Seattle threw the ball fewer times than every team but one that year... on their way to winning a Super Bowl.
But that’s besides the point. The scout goes on to say that both of these players aren’t even in the upper echelon of No. 2 receivers. This scout may need a reminder that Golden Tate was seventh in receiving yards in 2014, while Marvin Jones was right around the top of the second tier, ranking 32nd among wide receivers in yardage last year. Jones has only seen his production improve annually over his young, four-year career.
So the scout’s argument for those two being overrated is that they aren’t quite as good as most people assume, which is that they’re both above-average No. 2 options. That can’t truly be it, is it?
It is not. Because the author gets at his true reasoning for those picks in the Extra Point section, which is even more ludicrous:
Matthew Stafford's comment that the Lions will be better this season without Calvin Johnson...
Let me cut you off right there, Anon. He never said that. Not even close. What you’re probably referring to is this quote, from a Sirius XM interview, that was described misleadingly by headlines like this or this:
"I think we're going to do it a little bit differently than we have in the past. Obviously we used to feature Calvin and everybody kinda got theirs after that. It's gonna be tougher for defenses, in a certain way, that they don't know who we're going to. There's no guy to key in on. We're probably just going to spread the ball around a bunch, and a bunch of guys will get a ton of catches and we're gonna be alright."
Stafford claims that the offense is going to be different, not better. He goes on to say the offense will be tougher to defend, but only in a “certain way.” He clearly explains how the Lions will spread the ball around more, making his intended target a little more unpredictable for defenses. He’s not saying the Lions will be better. He’s not even saying that defenses will have a tougher time against Detroit without Calvin. He is only saying that when it comes to guessing who is going to get the ball, defenses will have a tougher time without Calvin Johnson on the field. I think everyone can agree that this is true.
But I’m sorry, you were making a point. Continue.
...is a bunch of baloney. When you lose a difference maker like that, it has an impact on how defensive coordinators think when they are game planning on Tuesdays.
Yes, that’s exactly what Stafford is talking about. Defensive coordinators now have to change their game plan from simply stopping Calvin — a tall order — to something much less defined.
Johnson kept many of those guys up trying to figure out how to solve his riddle. Tight end Eric Ebron isn't ready to be that guy yet.
The Lions are certainly not planning for that, but if they were, Ebron probably would have been a better pick for overrated.
Even put all together, these players don’t equal the type of explosive playmaker that Johnson was on his own. I get that Stafford was likely just trying to compliment the teammates he has now, but I almost felt it was disrespectful.
If you think Stafford was disrespectful in this interview — either intentionally or unintentionally — you did not listen to it. You read a headline and loaded up your Hot Take gun. In this 90 second clip of the interview, Stafford fawns over his career with Johnson. “Calvin was a once-in-a-lifetime type of player, a great talent, a great teammate,” Stafford said in literally the first five seconds of that segment.
No one is expecting Golden Tate and Marvin Jones to take over the league by storm, nor do people think Eric Ebron is going to morph in Megatron Jr. However, they certainly deserve more credit than you are giving them, Anon, which, ironically, makes the two underrated.