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Detroit Lions mailbag: What advantages come from coaching the Senior Bowl?

Dan Campbell and company are likely headed to Mobile, Alabama in late January.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time for another edition of the AskPOD Mailbag, where Jeremy Reisman and Erik Schlitt answer a handful of your questions about the Detroit Lions.

Let’s get started!

What advantages do you see for (coach Dan) Campbell and staff coaching a team in the Senior Bowl? — Jimmy Robinson via Twitter

Erik: There’s actually quite a bit of info that they will have access to that the other NFL teams won’t. The Lions get to request specific players they would like to coach at the Senior Bowl (presumedly players they may be targeting in the upcoming draft). While they don’t get to coach every player they request, there are still get to learn a ton about 60+ players that are likely to be drafted in this cycle, which is invaluable. They also get some crossover with the Jets roster at the end of the week, meaning they get a deeper look at those 60+ players as well.

While coaching, they get to install their scheme, and while they will have to follow some simplified rules specific to this game, they will get a first hand look at how the players pick up the playbook, how they adjust to coaching points, and how they look in specific roles.

They also get a lot of off-field time to learn more about the players as individuals, as well as how diligently their study habits and work ethic are. For a team looking to continue to establish culture and bring in players that fit those concepts, this may be the most important part of the week for the Lions.

Finally, another big advantage that doesn’t get talked about enough is sometimes you learn things about a player that you don’t like and it’s something that may have slipped through the cracks through traditional scouting methods. For example, a player may check a bunch of boxes on his game film, and he may have polished answers in interviews, but when they get a hold of them in Mobile, Alabama, his personality may not be a fit with the Lions culture.

Jeremy: I think with this coaching staff, the most important thing they’ll get from the Senior Bowl is character evaluations. Culture became such an important word in Allen Park this year, and while Brad Holmes is moving into the talent acquisition phase, he specifically said that they will still be looking for “their guys” when it comes to personality.

“Regardless of however much resources that we have, we’re still going to find guys that are aligned, that truly fit what we’re about,” Holmes said last week. “You bring up the guys that had chips on their shoulders and things to prove, well a lot of times experiences shape people often.”

While Holmes was talking about free agency with that quote, you better believe they’ll be looking for similar personalities in the draft, too. And while you may get a taste of that personality via scouts or official visits to draft prospects, there’s nothing as intimate as coaching a player for a full week.

Let’s suppose that Hamilton is as advertised and is a top three safety in the league for years. Let’s also assume we pass on him and draft one of the edge rushers.

How good do they have to end up being to justify passing? Maxx Crosby? Josh Allen? Romeo Okwara? In other words, what’s the minimum level of player comparison where you would still feel good about the pick? — Redux0

Jeremy: I’m going to give an unsatisfactory answer here, but how Kyle Hamilton performs in the NFL will be irrelevant, in my opinion, if the Lions take one of the edge rushers. It’s like this year with Penei Sewell and Micah Parsons. Parsons is going to win Defensive Rookie of the Year and is probably even going to get votes for Defensive Player of the Year. Nothing about that takes away from Sewell’s impressive season.

All the Lions need to be worrying about is getting blue-chip players with these top picks, and they’ll be fine. If they could have gotten a “better” player in retrospect, it may feel like they missed out, but that’s faulty logic, in my opinion. You never know if a player would have experienced the same success in Detroit under a different coaching staff and a different scheme.

So the only thing that needs to happen if the Lions draft an edge rusher at No. 2 is he needs to justify being a blue-chip player. And, yeah, that likely means being a double-digit sacks kind of guy every year.

Erik: Yeah, I’m with ya on trying to rush to compare rookies to players who have been in the league a few years and established themselves. While it would be ideal to see a top-2twopick come in and dominate, as we saw with Sewell—and Amon-Ra St. Brown for that matter—it takes them a minute to get their feet wet and adjust.

My worry with setting expectations too high on a rookie is that people are quick to rush to judgement instead of stepping back and looking at the situation as a whole. Is he reliable? Is he improving? Can you see flashes that highlight his potential? Those are the things I’ll be looking for as benchmarks.

Aren’t we getting like 2-3 compensatory picks this year? Marvin (Jones), (Kenny Golladay), and one other I thought. No ??? — Detsports

Erik: Yes, the Lions are expected to receive three compensatory picks in this upcoming draft. Both and’s Lance Zierlein are projecting the Lions will receive a third-round pick for losing Golladay, a fifth-round pick for losing Jones, and a sixth-round pick for losing Jamal Agnew.

Jeremy: Just a couple of minor things to add here. First, the Golladay pick is projected, currently, to be the highest third-round compensatory pick, so we’re talking Pick 97. Additionally, the Lions would have likely had another sixth or seventh-round pick had they not signed Breshad Perriman, even though he was cut before the regular season.

Outside of who we pick #2 or who our new OC will be, what will be the Lion’s biggest story before the start of next year? — JamesBush313

Jeremy: Well, I don’t really expect them to make any huge free agent splashes, so I think the biggest storyline is going to be how big of a jump the Lions can take in Year 2. With the Bears and Vikings going through huge changes and the future of Aaron Rodgers—plus a ridiculous cap situation—holding a Packers franchise hostage, the Lions are going to be a chic pick to win the NFC North next year. I’m telling you.

Do I think this team is going to be ready to become a true contender in 2022? No, not really. But the NFC North has a very good chance of being completely wide open next year. That’s my nice way of saying it could be really, really bad.

The Lions’ season ended on a positive note, several young players got better as the season went on, and they’ll get a few key players who missed most of the season back (Romeo Okwara, Frank Ragnow, Jeff Okudah). You think the optimism is flowing now? Wait until you see what the division looks like in June.

Erik: This is a quarterback driven league and so I think top storylines will still revolve around what happens at quarterback. Did the Lions draft a quarterback with the Rams’ first round pick to challenge Jared Goff? If not, then why didn’t they? Then once those questions are answered they’ll spill over into more storyline. Are they planning on keeping Goff in 2023? What quarterback will they target in 2023? Will they play themselves out of range to grab a top option? Can Goff pick up where he left off? Can he lead this team? What happens if he finds success, will he stick around? It’s footballs version of the neverending story.

If playoff winner Stafford stayed and Romeo and Decker and Okudah didn't get hurt, could the Lions have made the playoffs? — LKP

Erik: Probably not. That team was more than one or four guys away from winning enough games to get them into a Wild Card, but I do think that if they are able to get those last three healthy, along with another offseason worth of additions, they’ll be a heck of a lot closer. Now, I’m not saying they’re headed to the playoffs in 2022, but I do think this team is further along than I expected them to be at this point, and we really haven’t seen the fruition of the Stafford trade, as those two first-round picks are still on the way to Detroit.

Jeremy: I’m going to say there would’ve been a chance. With the extra playoff spot this year, it only took a 9-8 record to get to the postseason, and I think nine wins would’ve been possible with those players on board. Stafford has had enough experience that I don’t think he would’ve gone through the learning curve that Jared Goff did, even with a new set of receivers. Defensively, Romeo Okwara and Jeff Okudah would’ve helped, but this was still going to be a below-average defense.

So, yeah, I think you can put that all together and formulate a playoff team that probably gets easily bounced in the first round. But that begs the question: would that have been worth it?

Detroit would have significantly less draft capital going forward and they’d still be lacking the blue-chip talent this team desperately needs. They’d still have to make massive overhauls to the defense before it got better, but with fewer resources, it would be tough.

Instead, the Lions got to start from scratch, rebuild the roster completely in their vision, and gain a few draft picks that could be franchise changers.

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