Zac Synder is the editor at TheSideLion Report and he answers a few questions for me about the Lions and the upcoming N.F.L. draft
1). what are the Lions biggest needs?
Outside linebacker and cornerback are the most immediate needs while just about any other position besides quarterback could be considered fair game for adding depth to the roster. The Lions have plugged a lot of the holes that resulted in the league’s first 0-16 season but depth remains an issue. Injuries are a reality in the NFL and the Green Bay Packers showed that they are no excuse for a disappointing season. I expect the Lions to balance need versus value in this draft.
2). How are the last two draft classes coming along?
The 2009 draft got the Lions new regime off to a great start. Two years later they now have legitimate starters in Matthew Stafford, Brandon Pettigrew, Louis Delmas and DeAndre Levy while Sammie Hill is a solid rotational guy that is only held out of a starting role because, as a defensive tackle, he plays at a position of depth. The 2010 draft provided immediate impact in the form of Ndamukong Suh and Jahvid Best. Third round pick Amari Spievey went through last season while transitioning from cornerback to safety while the rest of the draft was filled with developmental prospects. The ability to find starting caliber players in rounds three through five is a particularly encouraging sign that the team is on the right track.
3). How good can Stafford be if he stays healthy?
I believe he can be great and the only hurdle to overcome is his health. Matthew Stafford was drafted number one overall for a reason and we’ve seen it on display when he is on the field. His play was severely limited last season but it should be noted that the Lions won the only game he started and finished and his 6 touchdowns to one interception shows he isn’t as turnover prone as he showed as a rookie. I think fans are disappointed in the injuries because we have seen a glimpse of how good he can be.
4). Sayre, writes that the Lions have the 10th best group of young players, “farm system” in the draft, would you agree with that assessment?
I can’t speak to the ranking specifically without seeing the rest of the list but I do agree that Lions fans should be excited about the amount of young talent on the roster. The list of players that make me excited about the upward path of the organization is filled with young players. Adding Kyle Vanden Bosch was a great pickup last off-season but the Lions can’t rely on veteran free agent acquisitions if they are to become a stable and successful franchise. They may not have a great group of sure Pro Bowl caliber young players besides Suh but they do have a young base of talent to build upon.
5) One pick, I like for the Lions that fans hate is Mark Ingram because I’m a big fan and he’s a B.P.A. player at that point…do you think the Lions will consider him, considering they don’t have a great complement to Best?
I like where you’re going with the best player available from a value standpoint but I don’t think Mark Ingram will be their selection. There appear to be too many other areas that blend value and need more than running back for the Lions to use their 13th pick on Ingram. Anything other than an offensive tackle or defensive end would surprise me (assuming Amukamara is already off the board).
6). How does the Lions front office work on draft days?
A lot of what the Lions do internally is kept very close to the vest. General manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Schwartz don’t like to tip their hand in any way. One thing that is known is that they are a very organized and thorough group that works collaboratively. Matt Millen was notorious for ignoring the input of others and was generally regarded as unprepared on draft day. Millen selected Joey Harrington over Quentin Jammer in 2002 despite a split war room. The increase in due diligence has made for draft day harmony.
7). Is there a player fans really want at 13th overall?
I haven’t gotten a sense that there is simply because of the uncertainty surrounding the pick. This is a new place for Lions fans as we are used to seeing our team pick near the very top of the draft and the potential picks can be counted on one hand. Everything seems to be in play this year so there really hasn’t been sides for fans to take. I would say most fans want to see Prince Amukamara slide for the Lions to take him at 13 but no one really knows if that is a realistic outcome. There is just a lot of wait and see.
8). What’s a player the Lions seem to be focused…also what kind of visits have the Lions had so far?
The Lions have spent a majority of their time with defensive players, as expected. They’ve met with cornerbacks Jimmy Smith and Prince Amukamara as well as defensive ends Cameron Jordan, Greg Romeus and Aldon Smith. Martin Mayhew was at the Missouri pro day so Aldon Smith may be a guy they are particularly interested in. Linebacker Bruce Carter also visited the Lions, probably so the team could get updated medical information to determine whether or not he is worth the risk coming off an ACL injury. On the offensive side of the ball the Lions have met with Mike Pouncey, Torrey Smith, DeMarco Murray and Mikel Leshoure. The Lions secretive nature makes me consider all possibilities when visits are announced, even the possibility that a visit could be nothing more than a smoke screen.
9). Best and worst draft picks over the last 10 years?
SideLion Report staff writer Scott Bischoff tackled this question in an article he wrote on March 7. He went through the last decade of drafts and highlighted the best and worst pick the Lions made in each round. It is definitely worth the read.
10) Tell us about the site and why our readers should come visit?
The Lions have a lot of exciting young players and could start making some noise around the league as soon as next season. Be the guy that is ahead of the curve by becoming a SideLion Report reader so you can be the one to say, “I told you so”. I am always interested to hear the opinions of fans from all over and try to include viewpoints from opponents’ perspectives when it makes sense. SLR may be a Lions blog but I try to give it a broader perspective. I’m taking the time to profile a lot of possible Lions draft picks to inform my readers about as many prospects as possible. There is a lot of familiarity to be gained there for any football fan.
11). Do the Lions still deserve the Thanksgiving game?
Absolutely. The Lions thanksgiving tradition has been around longer than 75% of the league’s teams. The Lions haven’t been very good over the last decade but they are still close to .500 overall in Thanksgiving day games. Why throw out such a rich tradition because of recent memory? The Thanksgiving day game is one of the first things that incoming rookies mention when arriving in Detroit. The players and fans look forward to it every year and it would be a shame to see it taken away.
12). Who are some of your underrated and overrated players in this draft?
Bruce Carter is a player that could be a real steal if his knee checks out. There are always players that fall for reasons that may not affect his long term value to an organization. I’m really not sure about overrated since I’m not enough of a scout to judge things like that. History tells us there will definitely be some busts but we’ll have to wait and see who that will be. 13). Anything else to add…? Thanks for the opportunity to talk about the Lions! We’re a passionate bunch and I think the nation will start taking notice of the forgotten franchise very soon.
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