RB Artose Pinner, TE Michael Gaines, G Corey Hulsey, C Andy McCollum, DT Chartric Darby, OLB Alfred Fincher, OLB Gilbert Gardner, ILB Leon Joe, CB Leigh Bodden, CB Brian Kelly, CB Kiwaukee Thomas, S Dwight Smith, S Kalvin Pearson, S Darnell Bing, K Dave Rayner.
RB Kevin Smith, FB Jerome Felton, WR Kenneth Moore, OT Gosder Cherilus, DE Cliff Avril, DT Andre Fluellen, DT Landon Cohen, ILB Jordan Dizon, S Caleb Campbell.
QB J.T. O'Sullivan, RB Kevin Jones, RB T.J. Duckett, WR Troy Walters, OT Damien Woody, OT Barry Stokes, C Blaine Saipaia, DE Kalimba Edwards, DT Shaun Rogers, OLB Boss Bailey, OLB Alfred Fincher, ILB Teddy Lehman, CB Fernando Bryant, CB Stanley Wilson, CB Patrick Body, S Kennoy Kennedy, S Idrees Bashir.
2008 Detroit Lions Offense:
"The Colts have Peyton [Manning] and the Patriots have Tom [Brady], but we wouldn't trade Jon [Kitna] for anyone else in the world." Third-string quarterback Dan Orlovsky said this during the team's hot start. Ladies and gentlemen, the Detroit Lions.
Look, Kitna is one of my favorite players because he's not afraid to speak his mind to the media. For example, a few years ago, he said, "You know, sometimes it's embarrassing to tell people I'm the starting quarterback of the Cincinnati Bengals." I'm glad to see he won't be sacked 50,000 times this year, now that Mike Martz has gone on to San Francisco to secure another quarterback's organs so he can sell them on the black market. But if Kitna struggles, Rod Marinelli, in an attempt to save his job, will have to make the switch to Drew Stanton, who missed his rookie campaign because of knee surgery. Stanton figures to be a mediocre signal caller in this league, so the swap won't exactly benefit anyone.
New offensive coordinator Jim Colletto has declared Detroit will feature a more balanced attack, which was pretty obvious because Martz loved to send nine receivers downfield, leaving the quarterback and one blocker near the line of scrimmage. Colletto's new offense will be a welcome change, but I'm not sure how effective it will be. Namely, I'm not convinced the Lions will be able to run the ball. Incumbent starter Tatum Bell played in just five contests last season, totaling 182 yards and a touchdown. He was hampered by foot problems all year.
Bell has fumbling problems, which is why Detroit drafted Kevin Smith in the third round. Smith wasn't an elite prospect, but he was a decent selection for when Detroit obtained him. So, what's my reservation here? How about the fact that Smith rushed the ball 450 times in 2007. You read that right - Smith had 450 carries! I warned everyone about picking Larry Johnson in fantasy football last year because Herm Edwards foolishly handed him the ball 416 times. But 450 is just ridiculous. There's no way Smith lasts 10 games.
In Smith's projected limited action, he may have trouble maintaining four yards per rush because of how pedestrian the offensive line is. Jeff Backus and Dominic Raiola are the only proven quantities up front, and Backus isn't even that good as a left tackle. He'd be much better suited inside, so it would be ideal if Jonathan Scott, who played really well at right tackle last year before suffering season-ending injuries, can take over on the blind side.
As for the rest of the line, Edwin Mulitalo is very mediocre, while Stephen Peterman is downright horrible. At right tackle, rookie Gosder Cherilus is penciled in as a starter. It remains to be seen if Cherilus is physically prepared to start in the NFL, but mentally? Cherilus broke someone's neck in a bar fight prior to the draft, yet Matt Millen still spent the No. 17 overall pick on him. Well, at least Cherilus isn't a receiver.
Speaking of receivers, that group is the only potent unit the Lions have on offense, though they were reportedly trying to trade Roy Williams this offseason. Williams is an incredible talent, but he hasn't been able to stay healthy. There's no denying he's a difference-maker though; Detroit was 6-6 with him and just 1-3 without him.
Because Williams missed four contests, Shaun McDonald was able to lead the team in receptions (79), yards (943) and receiving touchdowns (6). However, McDonald is coming off knee surgery and is more of a Martz offensive weapon than anything. He won't come close to matching that production this season. Picking up the slack will have to be Calvin Johnson, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2007 NFL Draft. Johnson had 48 catches, 756 yards and four scores as a rookie, though it's important to note that the bulk of his stats came during the latter stages of the season. Prior to Thanksgiving, Johnson had 24 receptions and 402 yards in 10 games. In his final six appearances, Johnson had 24 catches and 354 yards. Whomever the quarterback is, Williams and Johnson will make him look better than he is.
I like the idea of Detroit's offensive switching to a more balanced attack, but I'm not sure the team has the personnel to succeed with that philosophy. But these are the Lions we're talking about. When's the last time they succeeded doing anything?
2008 Detroit Lions Defense:
Detroit's defense has been the laughing stock of the NFL for years, and quite frankly, I just don't think Matt Millen has done enough to change that. No surprise there.
To summarize: The Lions were dead last in points per game (27.8) and yardage per game (377.6); 31st against the pass; and 23rd versus the run. The magic starts up front, where no one had more than seven sacks. The guy who had the seven sacks, Shaun Rogers, was traded to the Browns for Leigh Bodden. Replacing Rogers will be offseason acquisition Chuck Darby, who will keep the seat warm until Andre Fluellen is ready. Darby is questionable himself; he played just six games with the Seahawks before tearing his patella tendon. At under tackle, Cory Redding was a huge disappointment in 2007; after registering eight sacks the year before and inking a $49 million contract, Redding followed up with a whopping one sack.
There is a serious void of talent at defensive end as well. After signing a 5-year, $29 million deal last spring, Dewayne White disappointed with just six sacks, bouncing between left and right end. White will be on the right side until rookie Cliff Avril is able to take over as a full-time starter. Until then, it'll be up to Jared DeVries and Ikaika Alama-Francis on the left side. DeVries had six sacks in 2007, but that was the first time he ever registered more than three in his entire career. Alama-Francis, only 23, has more upside, though he may not be ready to start in this league.
With less sacks on the horizon for the Lions, their secondary will receive even less support than it did last year. Fortunately, Bodden, the player Millen acquired when he sent Rogers to Cleveland, is a really good corner. In fact, Chad Johnson said Bodden is the best corner he's gone up against the NFL. Millen also added Brian Kelly this offseason. Kelly's a great fit for Rod Marinelli's Tampa-2 defense, but at age 32, his best days are clearly behind him. If the Lions had more talent at this position, Kelly would be an effective nickel. The sub-par Travis Fisher currently has that job.
At safety, Daniel Bullocks had some potential before tearing his ACL prior to last season. Bullocks will be back in the lineup, but we'll have to see how effective he'll be. Starting across from Bullocks will be Dwight Smith, a Minnesota Vikings reject. The funny thing is, the Vikings were dead last against the pass; Detroit was 31st. I doubt Smith can be an upgrade over Kennoy Kennedy, who was really ineffective last year. Gerald Alexander and Kalvin Pearson are solid reserves at the position, but like Smith, neither should be starting.
As questionable as the Gosder Cherilus selection was, I felt as though Millen's worst pick was the second-rounder he utilized on Jordan Dizon. Many, including myself, saw Dizon as a fifth-round prospect, a future bench player and an occasional spot starter - not a starting middle linebacker. Whoops! In addition to being severely undersized for the position (225 pounds), Dizon, like Cherilus, was arrested prior to the draft. Dizon's presence moves the ineffective Paris Lenon to strongside linebacker. The only player of talent in this corps is Ernie Sims, one of the few skilled defenders Detroit has on its roster. Sims has 259 tackles and four forced fumbles in his two NFL seasons.
As I mentioned earlier, Millen barely did anything to improve the NFL's worst defense. It looks like fans will have to suffer until ownership finds a competent general manager. By the way things are going, that could be 30 years from now.
2008 Detroit Lions Schedule and Intangibles:
The Lions have one of the worst home-field advantages in the NFL, owning a horrendous 47-49 record since 1996, though they were 5-3 last season. But if you think that's bad, check out their 20-76 road mark. That's the league's worst visiting record the past 12 years.
Detroit finished the year 1-7 after starting out 6-2. Not good for momentum going into this season. Even worse is the fact that five of those seven defeats were by double digits. Also, of the Lions' seven total wins, only one was against a playoff team (Tampa Bay).
The Lions scored a touchdown on a kick return, though it has to be asterisked because Casey Fitzsimmons took that back on an onside kick. Other than that, Detroit couldn't do anything on special teams; Troy Walters was abysmal at taking back punts. Meanwhile, the Lions surrendered two touchdowns on special teams, which now makes that six allowed returns the past three years. Pathetic.
At least Detroit was fine at kicker and punter; Jason Hanson nailed 29-of-35 attempts, including 11-of-13 from 40-49 and 3-of-4 from 50-plus. Hanson just turned 38, so expect his days of hitting 50-yarders to come to an end within the next two or three years. Nick Harris, meanwhile, maintained a 44.3-yard average and managed to hit 26-of-68 punts inside the opposing 20, which is a very solid ratio.
The Lions built their 6-2 record against easy opponents, and it looks like they could do the same thing this year. In the first 11 weeks, they have the Falcons, 49ers, Bears (twice), Redskins and Panthers. Starting the Sunday before Thanksgiving, however, it gets pretty difficult: Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Minnesota, Indianapolis, New Orleans and Green Bay. Sounds like an 0-6 finish to me.
2008 Detroit Lions Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2008 Detroit Lions Analysis: I mentioned this earlier, but the real reason the Lions started out 6-2 was the barrage of easy opponents they beat up on early in the season. Of those six victories,
five came against the Raiders, Vikings, Broncos and Bears (twice), all of whom failed to reach the playoffs. Meanwhile, in those two losses, Detroit went down to Philadephia and Washington by a combined score of 90-24.
It may look like Detroit once again has an easy schedule early on, but depending on the ineptness of other teams to succeed is risky business, as the NFL's so difficult to predict. For example, no one saw the Browns coming on in 2007. What looks like a promising start could be another long losing streak for one of the worst managed franchises in sports history.
As you can tell by my projected record, that's exactly what I have happening. On the bright side, a three-win campaign could spell the end of the Matt Millen era, which is definitely the best thing for the long haul.
Projection: 3-13 (4th in NFC North)
2008 Fantasy Football Rankings:
Jon Kitna: Major dropoff. Mike Martz is gone, and new offensive coordinator Jim Colletto wants to run a balanced attack. The only way Kitna ever throws for 4,000 yards again is if he signs with the 49ers in the near future. Also keep in mind that if the Lions are out of playoff contention, Rod Marinelli may make the switch to Drew Stanton.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 2,400 passing yards. 11 passing TDs. 40 rushing yards. 0 rushing TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 190.
Kevin Smith: Kevin Smith figures to get the bulk of the carries because he's familiar with Detroit's new zone-blocking run scheme. Smith also doesn't have a major fumbling problem like his counterpart, Tatum Bell. Unfortunately, Smith has a fragile label on him because he rushed the ball 450 times in 14 games last season. I warned everyone about Larry Johnson coming off a 416-carry campaign. Smith's number is ridiculous. No way he stays healthy unless he has bionic body parts.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 700 rushing yards. 150 receiving yards. 5 total TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 115.
Tatum Bell: Tatum Bell will get the bulk of the carries once Kevin Smith gets injured. At least initially. Bell is a talented runner, but he has a major fumbling problem. One too many lost balls, and Bell could be back on the bench.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 550 rushing yards. 125 receiving yards. 4 total TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 91.
Roy Williams: Roy Williams is dominant when healthy. It's the "when healthy" part that should concern you if you draft him. In 12 games, Williams had 64 receptions, 838 yards and five touchdowns in 2007, which was disappointing when compared to his 2006 numbers (82 catches, 1,310 yards, seven touchdowns). I don't expect Williams' production to slip in Jim Colletto's balanced offense; it'll be Shaun McDonald and Mike Furrey whose numbers dwindle.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 1,050 receiving yards. 6 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 141.
Calvin Johnson: Calvin Johnson didn't exactly dominate like many expected the 2007 No. 2 overall pick to do. But Johnson had 48 receptions, 756 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie, with the majority of his production coming in the second half of the season. If you take Johnson before Roy Williams in your fantasy draft, I can't really criticize you.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 1,025 receiving yards. 6 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 138.
Shaun McDonald: Definitely the candidate to take the biggest hit in the wake of Mike Martz's departure. Shaun McDonald led the squad in catches (79), yards (943) and receiving touchdowns (6). No way he comes close to that without Martz. Not only will McDonald be phased out of Detroit's balanced offense, he's coming off knee surgery.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 400 receiving yards. 2 TDs.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 52.
Jason Hanson: He's 38, but Jason Hanson still has a few solid seasons left in the tank. I'm not sure if he can keep hitting three 50-yarders every year, but he's still very accurate, and should be good for about 7-10 40-yard field goals. Hanson was 29-of-35 in 2007, including 11-of-13 from 40-49 and 3-of-4 from 50-plus.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Stats: 25-30 FG (2-4 50+). 30 XP.
Projected 2008 Fantasy Points: 116.
Detroit Defense: Two words if you plan on using Detroit's defense at any point during the 2008 season: fantasy suicide.
Projected Fantasy Ranking: Bottom 3 Defense.
2008 NFL Draft Grade:
I love Cliff Avril at No. 92. He'll help the Lions get to the quarterback, which is something they haven't been able to do since Robert Porcher retired ... Andre Fluellen was a decent pick five selections earlier, though slightly a reach ... Caleb Campbell is more than a PR move; he'll definitely be a factor in Detroit's defense in a year or two ... Kevin Smith was a decent pick atop Round 3, though I probably would have gone with Tashard Choice.
It's tough to predict the draft with idiots like Matt Millen running the show. Gosder Cherilus was a bit of a reach, but it seemed as though everyone reached for linemen. My biggest problem was Jordan Dizon in Round 2. How in the world is Dizon going to play middle linebacker at 225 pounds? And why draft Dizon in the second round when you could have taken him in the fourth? I'd say I was surprised to see Dizon go that early, but this is Millen we're talking about. Maybe Dizon proves me wrong, but the fact will always remain that he was a major reach ... Not a big fan of Kenneth Moore and Jerome Felton in the middle rounds.
Grade give on 4/28/08: C
2008 NFL Draft Picks:
17. Gosder Cherilus, OT, Boston College
When the Lions traded back to 17, I thought they were daring because the Cardinals could have plucked Rashard Mendenhall off the board. Turns out the Lions were just dumb as usual. Hello, Matt Millen! Ever hear of Jeff Otah? He's from Pittsburgh, a city that has a winning football team. This is getting ridiculous. Millen should spend less time blackmailing William Clay Ford and put forth more effort toward the draft and free agency. Look, Gosder Cherilus might be a solid tackle in the NFL, but Detroit reached for him when there were better options on the board. (Pick Grade: D)
45. Jordan Dizon, OLB/ILB, Colorado
Next year, some cunning Lions fan should sneak into Detroit's war room and put laxatives in Matt Millen's coffee. With Millen dropping a deuce on the can, maybe the Lions will actually make a decent pick. Jordan Dizon? He was a fifth-round prospect, at best. What exactly does Millen have on William Clay Ford? I'm very curious. (Pick Grade: F)
64. Kevin Smith, RB, Central Florida
A minor reach, but this is nothing compared to what Matt Millen has done recently. Jamaal Charles and Tashard Choice probably would have been better options. Not bad though; Kevin Smith should be able to displace Tatum Bell. (Pick Grade: B)
87. Andre Fluellen, DT, Florida State
Another reach by Matt Millen... I didn't see that one coming! (Pick Grade: C)
92. Cliff Avril, DE, Purdue
Wow, a great pick by Matt Millen? He must have been in the bathroom; I'm glad to hear some cunning Lions fan took my laxative idea seriously. You have to love edge rushers from Purdue, and defensive end is a major need for Detroit. (Pick Grade: A)
136. Kenneth Moore, WR, Wake Forest
It must have hurt Matt Millen to draft a receiver so late. Kenneth Moore is a bit of a reach in Round 4; there are better options available. I don't think receiver's much of a need either. (Pick Grade: D)
146. Jerome Felton, FB, Furman
Millen, if you're going to take a fullback, take one of the better fullbacks on the board. Just a tip. (Pick Grade: D)
216. Landon Cohen, DT, Ohio
I'm thinking Matt Millen forgot his draft board in his hotel room and just picked a random guy on the ticker. (Pick Grade: C)
218. Caleb Campbell, SS, Army
Great pick. Even if Caleb Campbell doesn't amount to anything - though I think he will - he'll be a fan favorite. (Pick Grade: A)
Everyone laughed at Jon Kitna when he said that he would be shocked if the Lions won less than 10 games in 2007. Everyone felt dumb when the Lions were 6-2. Then, they were 6-3. And when the season came to an end, everyone even felt more stupid for thinking Matt Millen and company turned it around. So basically, Detroit made everyone feel like an idiot for four months. I can only imagine what their fans feel like.
Lions sign CB Kiwaukee Thomas
Lions sign K Dave Rayner
Lions cut CB Stanley Wilson
Lions sign S Darnell Bing
Lions sign C Andy McCollum
Lions cut OLB Alfred Fincher
Lions sign ILB Teddy Lehman
Lions sign ILB Leon Joe
Lions sign RB Artose Pinner
Lions re-sign QB Dan Orlovsky
Lions re-sign DT Langston Moore
Lions re-sign G Stephen Peterman
Lions re-sign CB Stanley Wilson
Lions cut CB Patrick Body
Lions re-sign CB LaMarcus Hicks
Lions re-sign S Greg Blue
Lions sign OLB Alfred Fincher
Lions sign OLB Gilbert Gardner
Lions re-sign DE Corey Smith
Lions cut SS Kenoy Kennedy
Lions cut RB Kevin Jones
Lions cut DE Kalimba Edwards
Lions sign S Kalvin Pearson
Lions cut C Blaine Saipaia
Lions re-sign RB Tatum Bell
Lions re-sign OT George Foster
Lions sign CB Brian Kelly
Lions sign DT Chartric Darby
Lions re-sign CB Travis Fisher
Lions re-sign RB Aveion Cason
Lions sign G Corey Hulsey
Lions sign TE Michael Gaines
Lions re-sign TE John Owens
Lions receive CB Leigh Bodden and a 2008 third-round pick from the Browns for NT Shaun Rogers
Lions re-sign CB Keith Smith
Lions sign FS Dwight Smith
Lions cut CB Fernando Bryant
Cornerback: The Lions have one of the worst secondaries in the league, and are in dire need of an elite No. 1 cornerback. Mike Jenkins at No. 15, anyone? Traded for Leigh Bodden; signed Brian Kelly; re-signed Travis Fisher and Keith Smith
Nose Tackle: Shaun Rogers probably won't be back next year, meaning Detroit will have a 340-pound hole in the middle of its defensive line. Unless the Lions reach for Red Bryant in the middle of the second round, I have no idea where they're going to acquire a valid replacement. Drafted Andre Fluellen; signed Chartric Darby
Middle Linebacker: Paris Lenon sucked at middle linebacker in 2007. With a first name like that, I can't say I'm surprised. If the Lions can't find a solid strongside linebacker, Lenon could move there, prompting Matt Millen to draft someone to man the middle early in the draft. Both Jerod Mayo and Curtis Lofton are options in Round 2. Drafted Jordan Dizon
Strongside Linebacker: Boss Bailey, an unrestricted free agent, is gone in all likelihood. Not that it matters much anyway; Bailey is an underachieving bust. The Lions could be looking linebacker in the first two rounds of April's draft.
Strong Safety: Kenoy Kennedy is yet another liability on Detroit's horrendous defense. Drafted Caleb Campbell
Running Back: With Mike Martz fired, I doubt the Lions are going to throw the ball 80 times for every run. They're going to depend more on a ground-based attack, meaning they'll have to acquire a potent runner. Kevin Jones, while a solid change-of-pace back, shouldn't be a starter. The Lions can get one in the third round (Ray Rice, Tashard Choice) or simply sign a solid guy in free agency. Drafted Kevin Smith; re-signed Tatum Bell and Aveion Cason; signed Artose Pinner
Left Tackle: Jeff Backus should probably be moved inside. If the Lions acquire a premier tackle this offseason, they'll have two really good ones with Jonathan Scott playing on the right side. Another possibility is signing Alan Faneca and keeping Backus protecting the blind side. Drafted Gosder Cherilus
Return Specialist: A few years ago, the Lions had a dynamic return threat in Eddie Drummond. That's not the case anymore. They should focus on acquiring one this offseason.
Tight End: Another result of Martz being let go is that Detroit will have to obtain a legitimate tight end to go over the middle of the field. Jermichael Finley could be around in Round 4. Re-signed John Owens; signed Michael Gaines
Defensive End: No one on the Lions had more than seven sacks in 2007. They could use a premier pass rusher, but given their other needs, this is way down the list because Dewayne White and Jared DeVries aren't terrible. Ikaika Alama-Francis, meanwhile, will be given a chance to compete. Drafted Cliff Avril; re-signed Corey Smith
Detroit Lions Free Agents:
Salary Cap (As of Feb. 15): $23.50 million
Stanley Wilson (RFA), CB. Age: 25. Re-signed with Lions (1 year, $927,000).
Stanley Wilson needs to get out of Detroit's Tampa-2 scheme. He could be pretty good elsewhere.
Fernando Bryant, CB. Age: 31. Signed with Patriots (1 year)
The Fernando Bryant release was a bit of a surprise to me. He turns 31 in March, but he's not that bad.
Stephen Peterman (RFA), G. Age: 26. Re-signed with Lions (1 year)
Stephen Peterman replaced Damien Woody early in the season and did a solid job considering he was subjected to Mike Martz's idiotic blocking schemes.
Travis Fisher, CB. Age: 28. Re-signed with Lions (3 years, $9 million)
Travis Fisher is an OK corner who would make a solid backup on some team. Nothing special.
Kenoy Kennedy. Age: 30.
Like Sammy Knight, Kenoy Kennedy can still be a solid reserve, but should not be in any starting lineup.
Damien Woody, G. Age: 30. Signed with Jets (5 years, $25.5 million)
Damien Woody was benched mid-season, but was forced back into the lineup when Jonathan Scott went down. Woody's a marginal lineman who doesn't deserve the money he's going to be asking for. He is, however, versatile and would make a solid backup.
Keith Smith, CB. Age: 28. Re-signed with Lions (2 years, $5 million)
Kevin Jones, RB. Age: 26. - Signed with Bears (1 year)
T.J. Duckett, RB. Age: 27. - Signed with Seahawks (5 years)
Boss Bailey, OLB. Age: 28. - Signed with Broncos (5 years, $17.5 million)
Langston Moore (RFA), DT. Age: 27. - Re-signed with Lions (1 year)
Kalimba Edwards, DE. Age: 28. - Signed with Raiders (2 years, $5 million)
John Owens, TE. Age: 28. - Re-signed with Lions (1 year)
Corey Smith, DE. Age: 28. - Re-signed with Lions (1 year)
Idrees Bashir, S. Age: 29.
Stanley Wilson, CB. Age: 25.
Aveion Cason, RB. Age: 29.
Blaine Saipaia, C. Age: 30.
J.T. O'Sullivan, QB. Age: 29. - Signed with 49ers (1 year, $645,000)
Alfred Fincher, OLB. Age: 25. - Signed with Redskins
Barry Stokes, OT. Age: 34. - Signed with Patriots
Troy Walters, WR. Age: 31.
Dan Orlovsky (RFA), QB. Age: 25. - Re-signed with Lions (1 year)
Divisional Rival History: Chicago Bears: Prior to this season, the Bears had won four meetings in a row. Well, that's done with. How did the Lions sweep Chicago? Green Bay Packers: The Lions' ineptness has no limit. The Packers have won 13 of the last 15 meetings. Minnesota Vikings: Pure domination. The Vikings have somehow won 16 of the past 18 meetings.