2009 NFL Draft E-mails – Detroit Lions: No Quarterback!
It is truly interesting to see over and over again how the Lions should be drafting a QB #1 overall this year from all sorts of mock drafts. I could not disagree with this concept more. There are just so many reasons not to draft a QB 1st overall for the Lions, especially this year. Let me count the ways:
First off, you need to be able to run the ball in today’s NFL. The Lions can barely do that. Their offensive line is horrible, and aside from RT Gosder Cherilus in 2007, the Lions have not drafted a OL guy on the first day since Jeff Backus LT and Dominic Raiola C in 2001. All of us Lion fans know their quality. With no young players even remotely being brought up within the system, it would make almost no sense to even consider drafting a QB that couldn’t even protect him. Not only do the Lions need to draft a LT, they need to draft an offensive line and create depth in doing so.
Second, the Lions are worse than an expansion team. Sound judgement in building a winning football team focuses on building the team through the trenches. As aforementioned, the Lions have no depth on the OLine. One can make a case for them building defense first, but with the recent draft of high priced Calvin Johnson, Gosder Cherilus and rookie running back Kevin Smith, it makes more sense to start on offense than defense. Fix one, then focus on the other.
Thirdly, no position is more valuable to a team than its left tackle. And that includes having a franchise QB. A franchise QB will get pummeled behind a terrible offensive line and never have a chance to blossom. Just ask David Carr, Alex Smith or Joey Harrington to name a few.
Fourthly, last years #1 QB was Matt Ryan (3rd Overall) who commanded $77M before even stepping onto a NFL field. The #1 pick Jake Long conversely was awarded a $55M contract. Teams simply cannot afford to draft a player, pay him such an enormous contract, then throw him at the wolves behind an offensive line that can’t pass block. We’ve seen what has happened to Jon Kitna the past three years. It is illogical to submit a rookie QB to such punishment when they’ll undoubtedly command more than a $80M contract.
Fifthly, the NFL collective bargaining agreement ends after before the 2010 draft. There is absolutely no reason to offer such big money to a rookie QB when a team can simply wait a year to draft one when there is a consensus that some sort of rookie cap will be established. Or draft one in a later round in what will be a deep QB class as additional QBs enter the draft in hopes of cashing in this year rather than waiting it out for next year.
Sixthly, the Lions are in a perfect position to actually fix the greatest deficiency on their team. Namely, the offensive line. They have the 1st pick over all, along with Dallas’ first pick and the first pick of the second round. A sensible GM would note this and focus on the trenches early on. Going even further, the Lions are particularly poised to fix their offensive line in a single draft. At 1a) they take LT Andre Smith/Michael Oher, 1b) OG Duke Robinson or C Alex Mack, at pick 2) they take Alex Mack or OG Big Herm Johnson. Their picks are perfectly positioned to not only get the Top 1-2 players at each offensive position, but they are also positioned in the draft to actually make those picks value picks based on historical accounts of where those positions are actually drafted. Mack would be a stretch at 1b, but doubtfully be there at 2. I’d rather have the Lions stretch and nab him than trade up and lose a pick to get him. I’d even be ecstatic with LT, OG, OG.
Okay, I know you’ve heard just about every one of these reasons why the Lions won’t pick a QB. But the only thing you really have to know is that it will come down to money. Succinct, and to the point.
Ah…Alright, alright…I’ll elaborate … just for you.
The Lions need fans to sit in the seats. Cha-ching. They have been blacked out for 5 of their last 6 home games. Revenue stinks when you can’t sell concessions. Can’t get parking revenue. Nobody is buying those snazzy blue jerseys. They split the season ticket packages last year to make it more appealing to buy…because they knew it was going to be a hard sell to sell the full season packages last year. And they still came up short. This coming year looks even worse.
Sure, a new GM, coach, QB combo might give the Lions some sex appeal. But not to Detroit fans. We’re a tough sell right now. We’ve been to Bobby Ross, to Mornhenwig, to Mariucci, to Marinelli (with a little Martz on the side). We’ve seen sexy, and frankly it isn’t enough to tell me you love me and give me a come hither look. Uh, uh. Prove it.
Yeah, yeah, I read your Matt Ryan reference. You’re on a slippery slope here with your logic. Do you truly believe that Matt Stafford is really as NFL ready as was Ryan? I don’t hate the kid, but he isn’t ready to start coming out the shute. And no rookie QB is really ready to deal with the Lion scene. They’ve broken better QBs than Stafford or Bradford, or whomever is declared the next QB god of the universe. Anyway, I don’t see either one as a top 5 draft pick compared to the other players available. Therefore, it would be a reach to pick either Stafford or Bradford, as well as a gamble financially. And please don’t give me the old hackneyed, “if you don’t have a franchise QB, you draft one”. That was also Matt Millen’s line, by the way. They are finally getting Charles Roger’s financial commitment off the books. Joey Harrington’s was off last year’s books. Mike Williams’s salary cap hit may be off now. If they don’t make another huge mistake with a locked-in-huge money deal for an unproven player, they might actually be able to pay some good free agents in 2010…maybe even 2009. I think Stafford and Bradford are good QBs, just not great. I think they are both slightly better than Brady Quinn, who you may remember dropped a bit farther than a lot of draftniks had him going. I’m not saying, I’m just saying.
A rookie QB to me; and apparently to a number of other Lion fans, since you are getting a large number of negative responses to your pick; doesn’t mean excitement. It doesn’t mean they love me. It means another hopeless re-building (i.e. losing) year. Haven’t the last 10 years been enough? On top of that, do you know what the situation is for a rookie QB in Detroit? A #1 overall pick will have to be a savior for the franchise, and for a QB that pressure intensifies 10-fold. Transitioning to the speed of the NFL is hard enough. Learning a new playbook is hard enough. Getting beat up by DEs pouring through a shoddy o-line is hard enough. But it’s nothing compared to dealing with the Detroit media. Without a franchise LT, and with shaky interior linemen, a young QB is going to get his head handed to him twice every Sunday. Once by the opposing players, and once by the media. And then all week long he will encounter the strangely fatalistic fans who know that he will never succeed as long as he is in Detroit…and he will come to believe it too. But, of course, the multiple concussions may have something to do with that by then. Three years. That’s the life expectancy of a rookie QB in Detroit.
The Lions do not have a situation where they can afford to let the #1 overall pick of the 2009 draft sit on the bench collecting a big paycheck. And without a decent o-line in front of him, any of the QBs coming out of this draft are going to struggle. Waiting for Jason Smith, hoping he’s good enough to be your LT, hoping there won’t be a run (as happened last year, by the by) on OTs is a huge gamble. On the other hand, if you have the chance at a sure-fire 10-year starter (Andre Smith), who has produced consistently in a challenging conference, it makes far more sense to grab the sure thing rather than gambling huge money on two players. Now, if Millen were in the war room, I could imagine him yelling “Roll the dice, roll the dice” but thank the good Lord above, he’s in Pennsylvania playing with his piggy bank.
Additionally, counter to your Matt Ryan thesis, there were actually two teams that improved greatly from 2008, who also picked in the top five last year, not just the one. You’ve sited Atlanta’s turnaround (which may have something to do with their o-line giving decent protection and a RB who makes MLBs look silly). Miami also has had a great turn-around after picking LT Jake Long #1 overall, over… Matt Ryan. And if you want to go back one more year, Oakland has fallen pretty flat with their #1 overall reach QB JaMarcus Russell. Cleveland…despite this past year’s struggles…was much improved last year after taking Joe Thomas with the #3.
I believe that if you create a great o-line you can make a good QB look great. If you have a crappy o-line, your QB is going to look like crap. By the way, MLB has a similar situation on the other side of the ball. Not that Paris Lenon should be a starting MLB, but he’d make a decent SLB in a system that doesn’t rely on speedy guys. Nevertheless, the d-line hasn’t helped him much. DT and LT are need picks for Detroit.
Anyway, in summary. Money is going to be a huge factor in who gets picked #1, both for marketing (creating hope) and for using their salary cap efficaciously. Rookie QBs are a crap shoot, and Detroit doesn’t have the money to gamble. Reaching at one position, leads to reaching at another down the line. There are several models of how to build a franchise, and the Atlanta model isn’t the only one.
I think we’re basically in agreement that the Lions need offensive and defensive line help most of all. With the ability to stuff the run and pressure the quarterback even those Lion DBs might look a little better. The only place we disagree, I suppose, is on drafting a QB first overall.
Given the 51 sacks surrendered so far this year — second most in the league — I think Orlovsky has done a surprisingly decent job (though I agree Culpepper was never a good fit). And, of those 51 sacks, only 13 of them have been on Orlovsky. So although the line sucks, it seems as if Dan isn’t too awful. He’s not Matt Ryan but, with a run game and better pass blocking, and another year of experience, he can probably be Kyle Orton or Jason Campbell. And, with all the holes the Lions have to fill, that might be enough for 2009.
So I suggest the Lions draft OT Andre Smith 1st overall. The only way they can go wrong is in term of fan disaproval, for not drafting a “skill player.” Big deal. They’ll save millions, that they could use for practical free-agent signings, and get a great player at perhaps their most pressing position of need.
And as for their second pick in the first round, I think they should consider swapping firsts and giving up one of their 3rds to move up a few slots and go after DT Terrence Cody. That would fill perhaps their second most pressing position of need. Just think, the highest rated OT and the highest rated DT in the draft! That’s the way you begin to rebuild. Then take a run-stopping middle linebacker in the second round (move Paris Lenon outside and put Alex Lewis back on the bench where he belongs). And maybe, as you’ve suggested, draft the best available corner in the third.
That’s what I think they should do, and with Millen gone perhaps they will, but it is the Lions…
My Response (to all):
First off, I’d like to say that all three of these e-mailers make great points, and I agree with their basic premise. The Lions desperately need help at the left tackle position before anything else. It’s their greatest weakness, and all three e-mailers are right – if you don’t have at least a solid left tackle, your offense is going to suck.
But here’s the thing. The Lions have two first-round picks, so they can grab someone like Jason Smith, Eben Britton or Ciron Black with Dallas’ selection. That’s exactly what the Falcons did in April. They chose Matt Ryan No. 3 overall, and they snagged Sam Baker off the board in the middle of the first round. I think that strategy has worked out pretty well for them.
Currently, I have Matt Stafford as the only underclassman quarterback declaring. My predicted strategy for the Lions could change should more signal callers come out early.
Think about it this way. If Detroit goes with Andre Smith with the initial choice in the first round, the next quarterback it could go with, assuming the team doesn’t address the need in free agency, is Graham Harrell, Rhett Bomar, Nathan Brown, John Parker Wilson or Hunter Cantwell. I don’t know about you, but Stafford sounds pretty good right now.
To Stimpy and Lisa, who mentioned the monetary ramifications, I’ll argue that owner William Darth Clay Sidious Ford cares about one thing – money. Not success. Not the fans. He just wants cash in his pocket. He’s proven that time and again over the years.
What generates more revenue than a new, hot quarterback? Some fans may be discouraged by the Stafford selection on Draft Day, but by August, those same fans will be lining up to buy a new Stafford jersey. If the Lions don’t draft a quarterback, no one is going to go to any games to see a 5-11 squad led by Dan Orlovsky, Daunte Culpepper or Drew Stanton. Not in today’s economy. Going with a quarterback No. 1 overall just makes too much sense from a business perspective.
Also to Lisa, about Stafford and Bradford not being “great,” there’s no way of knowing that. Matt Ryan wasn’t known as the next “great” quarterback coming out of school. In fact, almost every Boston College alumnus/fan I talked to didn’t like Ryan’s pro prospects. There’s no way of knowing if a quarterback is going to be “great” at the next level. Also, taking an offensive tackle high is no lock either; just ask the Bills (Mike Williams) and Raiders (Robert Gallery). Even Joe Thomas regressed this year. Every position in the draft is a crap-shoot.
To Fred, trading up for Terrence Cody sounds lucrative, but I think you would agree that the Lions have way too many needs to be giving up draft picks. If anything, they should try and trade down to fill more of the holes on their roster.
Sound off on your opinion on why the Lions should/shouldn’t draft Matt Stafford No. 1 in the 2009 NFL Draft. If you try registering and you don’t receive a confirmation e-mail, send me an e-mail and I’ll manually register you.
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