The Lions Clearly Value Best Player Available in the Draft. Grabbing Fairley Over Needs At Linebacker, OL, and the secondary (Picture source. sportsillustrated.cnn.com)
1). What are the Lions needs needs after the draft?
The same as they were before the draft: outside linebacker and cornerback. The Lions did not take a cornerback in the draft and while they did take an outside linebacker, Doug Hogue from Syracuse in the fifth round, he is not expected to compete for a starting job next year. The Lions draft for the long term so talking about needs in the draft is about a lot more than the holes the team needs to fill for next season.
2). What it’s like being a Lions fan now that Martin Mayhew is running the ship instead of He Who Shall Not Be Named?
The differences couldn’t be any more clear. Mayhew has gone from “at least he’s not Millen” to getting the benefit of the doubt to earning the trust of the fan base very quickly. Lions fans have heard the story of how unprepared Matt Millen was and Martin Mayhew couldn’t be any more different. Not everyone was in full agreement with the direction the Lions took this draft, but there is enough evidence to suggest that Mayhew and coach Schwartz know what they’re doing. If his biggest bust is the third round selection of Derrick Williams a couple years ago, then he’s doing pretty well.
3). The Nick Fairley pick is getting universal praise, is it a riskier pick than it’s being perceived?
I know there has been some talk about character issues but I really don’t believe the Lions are taking a huge risk with Fairley for a number of reasons. First, Jim Schwartz was Albert Haynesworth’s defensive coordinator while big Albert was doing the work to earn that fat paycheck. While the paycheck may have taken some of his motivation, I don’t believe it suddenly turned him into the diva we know today. The other reason I don’t see this being a risky move is that the Lions already had one of the best defensive lines in the NFL so there will be no pressure to put Fairley on the field just because he was their first round draft choice. He will have to earn playing time and the time he will get will be as part of a rotation. There won’t be any reason to take plays off when playing a reduced number of play compared to what he was doing at Auburn last year.
4). Better Feeling after the draft in 2009, 2010, or this year?
I would say this year, although that is more because of the position the team is in overall than just a comparison of the draft classes. Not everyone agreed with the picks the Lions made this year but we have developed trust in Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz. The end of the 2010 season gave us a glimpse that the Lions could be on the verge of finding success and fans are champing at the bit to see the Lions on the field again because so many of us feel that they are close to breaking through.
5). Based on the roster right now what’s a ball park for number of wins for the Lions this year?
We have to start with the expectation that they will improve on their six wins from last year since they played almost the entire schedule with second and third-string quarterbacks. However, the team still has a few holes to plug before we can talk about double-digit win totals, even with a healthy Matthew Stafford. I’ll say the ballpark is in the 7-9 win range.
6). What was the Lions best pick (leaving the first round out of it)?
Mikel Leshoure. He is a guy I did some reading on ahead of the draft and there were a lot of experts that believed the gap between Mark Ingram and Leshoure was not as big as their draft placement suggests. The Lions obviously agree since they made a move back into the second round to get him. The Lions are very happy with Jahvid Best but adding Leshoure brings something the team has been lacking
7). What was the Lions most questionable pick?
I’ll say Titus Young just because he was the most questioned pick among the fan base. Many fans wanted to see a cornerback or linebacker in the second round and selecting a wide receiver raised some eyebrows, especially considering this organization’s history selecting players at that position (albeit under a previous regime). That being said, this pick is really growing on me personally because the Lions need a speedy vertical threat to compliment the pieces they already have in the passing game. Doug Hogue could be a questionable pick but it is hard to argue against a developmental player at a position of need with a pick as late as the fifth round. Some thought Hogue was a bit of a reach but the staff obviously likes his potential.
8). The Lions are one of the few teams who seem willing to be aggressive and trade up in the draft (Reportedly had an offer to move up for Peterson, moved up for Best, moved up for LeShoure), most fans want their teams to trade down how do you feel about the Lions aggressive style?
Too much has probably been made about the reported offer to move up in the first round. I’m not sure that they did anything more than price it out, something most teams do in a lot of situations. The price was obviously going to be steep and the Lions were already thin on picks. I love their aggressive style because the moves they make are to select very specific targets.
9). Rank the drafts from best to worth in the division in your opinion?
Lions, Packers, Bears, Vikings – The Lions got a bit of a gift with Fairley falling into their lap and moving up for Leshoure was a good value move too. The Packers appear to have put together a solid draft class to compliment their strengths and keep them at a championship level. I really like the Bears’ first two picks but I thought they did some reaching after that. I don’t care how much the Vikings say they like Ponder, they made a mistake by letting Fairley slide. They would have done a lot better to make the value pick and then trade up to target a quarterback if they were really concerned about waiting until their second round pick.
10). How do the Fans feel about the draft?
Lions fans seemed to be less into it this year than in the past, probably due in part to the lockout and partly because their pick was such a crapshoot. We’re used to having a short list of names as possible selections so it was really difficult to hone in on who the Lions might take with their first pick. Interest really picked up when the Lions took Fairley because it was so unexpected. Some of the euphoria is wearing off but a lot of fans are getting antsy to see this team on the field. Some fans question some of the picks, but like I said before, Mayhew has started to develop a track record so the dissent is pretty quiet.
11). Anything else you want to add about the Lions and/or their draft?
I get the sense that excitement about the Lions is starting to spread nationally, especially now that the team has been rewarded with their first Monday Night Football game in a decade. I fully expect the Lions will be a fun team to watch, even if they remain on the wrong side of the playoff picture. I encourage non-Lions fans to give the team a look. Of course, the best way to do that is to head over to sidelionreport.com! The blog can also be followed on twitter @SideLionReport or follow me @ZacSnyder.
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