Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Ambassador Bridge Watch: Two Days Until the NFL Draft

You've heard the jokes. You've probably made them several times yourself. NFL Draft Saturday is annually the Detroit Lions' Super Bowl. It's the one day in which hope, rather than disgust, is the prevailing emotion. It's the one time of the year where Lions fans feel like we actually won something. It's also the one day we'll tolerate someone (Mel Kiper) frequently mispronouncing Detroit as "DEE-troit." (Yes, Mason does it at Pistons games, but that's a style choice.)

This year, however, is different. At least it seems that way to me. Yes, as in years past, that sensation in our stomachs is anticipation. But rather than being laced with excitement, that feeling is spiked with dread.

What the hell is Matt Millen going to do with that #2 overall pick?

I attended three of four Michigan baseball games last weekend with Mr. Big Ten Hardball, and the Lions' draft probably took up 75% of our conversation. (Okay, maybe 50%.) A typical exchange went something like this:

Me: Man, the ball is taking some bad hops on the infield, don't you thi--

BTB: The Lions are going to take Gaines Adams with that pick! I know it!

Me: No way. They're not gonna do that, are they? They have to take Calvi--

BTB: They're gonna do it! They have a chance at three superstars, but they're gonna take a role player. It'll be a disaster.

Me: I'll keep my cell phone nearby on Saturday if you need me.

BTB: I might have to call. I don't know what I'm gonna do.

Later, Sam-Sam with the Wonder Cam joined in with the "Just don't pick Brady Quinn" sentiment.

Clearly, I hadn't been paying as much attention to this stuff as I had in past years, because I didn't know that this was the scuttlebutt around the Lions. I knew Millen and Co. were interested in Adams - because Sgt. Marinelli is all about his beloved defensive lineman - but the general consensus seemed to be that he wasn't worthy of the second overall pick. From what I understand, Adams can rush the passer - which the Lions certainly need - but isn't very good against the run. Can you risk such a high draft pick on a guy who has those types of questions surrounding him?

At #2, a defensive end better project as an all-pro/future Hall of Famer like Bruce Smith or Julius Peppers (or even, as the Houston Texans obviously hope, Mario Williams), someone who can either run around an offensive tackle and push him aside. But if Adams is essentially a heavier pass-rushing outside linebacker, well, aren't the Lions already overpaying a guy who was supposed to fill that role? Just look how productive he's been.

Not only that, but if the Lions are planning on drafting a defensive end, then why in the name of Barry Sanders did they designate Cory Redding (oh, he's a defensive tackle - wink, wink) as their franchise player and sign Dewayne White as a free agent? Okay, maybe the Lions didn't realize how good of a prospect Adams would be. But shouldn't they have, before deciding to invest most of their off-season spending money into the defensive line?

The biggest problem for the Lions is that none of the superstar talent in this draft ideally fits one of their glaring needs (although you could very easily argue that Detroit could use either of the projected top players), and since Millen has been utterly inept in building an NFL team up until now, he's left with too far too many holes to plug. He can't build around a prospective talent because he already tried that, and failed miserably. That's why I previously advocated Joe Thomas as the Lions' first-round pick. But in yet another example of Millen's piss-poor management, an offensive tackle likely doesn't make financial sense for the roster as presently constructed.

So if the Lions can't fill a need, they have to go with the best player available. And there's very little argument that Calvin Johnson is that guy. Almost (and when I say "almost," it's like 99%) every so-called expert and observer thinks he's the surest prospect in this draft, the most physically talented athlete with the greatest skills and the fewest questions about his overall game. This pick has to be a sure thing, and an near-unquestionable impact player. One player fulfills both of those criteria, and if he's there, you take him.

Just as many - if not more - people are standing by with their "Ha ha ha! Matt Millen took another wide receiver! What a surprise!" jokes. So there's been some speculation that Millen would pass on Johnson because he's afraid of the crap he'd take. If that's really true, then he should absolutely be fired after the draft. But I'd find that hard to believe. If he was that fearful of public opinion, he'd have resigned by now. Maybe this is kind of a silly position for a sports blogger to take, but who gives a $#!+ what people think? Build a winning team! Fans have their ideas about what the Lions should do, but ultimately that's what they really care about.

Besides, it's not like Detroit doesn't need another wide receiver to line up across from Roy Williams because all the other ones Millen brought in have totally crapped out. Mike Martz tried a new player in that spot almost every week last season. (And don't you dare say to me, "But they already signed Shaun McDonald.")

Having said all that, there's only one other option for the Lions, and it's so obviously the right thing to do that it almost isn't worth mentioning because it's simply understood. What do you do if you don't want to use a high draft pick? Trade it to another team who does. Move on down, pocket some extra picks, and get Adams or Patrick Willis, the two guys they apparently really want. (Or how about a frickin' defensive back? From the football I've watched in my lifetime, it seems to me that you need at least two cornerbacks on the field. Do the Lions even have that right now?)

Even if Millen has such a proposal on the table, we shouldn't be surprised that he hasn't taken it yet. He'd be crazy to. Wait until the last possible minute and see what other options exist, even if Atlanta has already made what's probably the best possible offer. (And sweet sassy molassy, that's a perfect fit.) Find out how bad other teams want to move into that #2 slot.

Of course, the Raiders could absolutely $#@% everything up for the Lions and take Johnson with their #1 overall pick, as Dan Shanoff did in Awful Announcing's Sports Bloggers Mock Draft, leaving Big Al with virtually no other choice than to take JaMarcus Russell. And that's probably what the Lions should do if that's how the real draft shakes out, although some other good QBs (Drew Stanton, John Beck) should be available in later rounds. Taking a quarterback with a top five pick is essentially a crapshoot, but in a couple of years (or sooner), the Lions will have a crying need for one. And you might as well get him now, with Jon Kitna being a proven mentor for quarterbacks.

Man, Detroit would be screwed if the Raiders didn't take Russell. My stomach hurts.

What the hell is Millen going to do with that #2 overall pick? Start staffing regular patrols around the Ambassador Bridge at approximately 12:30 p.m. EST on Saturday.

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  • At April 26, 2007 7:32 PM, Blogger Big Al said…

    The Lions stay at 2, they'll either get a franchise QB or an all-pro wide receiver, if you believe the "Experts." In other words, a playmaker, a difference maker, something the Lions haven't had since Barry Sanders was running wild.

    Thing is, I don't trust Matty to mine gold with those extra picks. His 2nd round picks have not shown much of anything, the speed rushing end you mentioned being the poster boy for Detroit 2nd round failures.

    In a perfect world, if they have to trade down, then do so first with either Cleveland or Tampa, and then again with Atlanta. It's a pipedream, to say the least.

    Just take the sure thing, be it Russell or Johnson. With our luck, Millen will take Brady Quinn. God help him if he does that...

  • At April 26, 2007 8:50 PM, Blogger Brian said…

    Hey, wait a minute. I was misquoted. (Stinking bloggers never get the facts straight.) I never said Adams was a role player. What I did say was that he was the wrong player to select, especially at number two overall.

    I would even go so far as to say he's the wrong player to select if they trade down because, as Ian stated, the Lions have so much money tied up in D-lineman already.

    My fear is that this could be the NFL version of the Darko draft. One where the Lions opt to draft the wrong guy (Adams) #2 overall and sit back and watching three or four potential offensive stars (Johnson, Russell, Peterson) light up the league.

    I'm still hopeful and completely fearful of what the Lions are going to do Saturday.

  • At April 26, 2007 11:00 PM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    Brian was indeed misrepresented in my re-enactment. Sweaty Men Endeavors apologizes for this lapse in judgment and will attempt not to make the same mistake again.

    We now resume our regularly scheduled fretting and agonizing.


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