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I’ll Tell You Why the Lions Didn’t Add More Defensive Help in the Draft

Now that the 2011 NFL Draft has concluded, everybody is providing their post draft grades, as ridiculous as that is.  After reading over all the draft grades I’ve found on various websites (it’s the only football related stuff to read other than lockout talk) I felt the need to address a common vibe in all the draft grades.  The Lions didn’t do enough to address their needs on defense.

Despite all the complexities and variables that the NFL Draft and player evaluations offer, the answer is quite simple.  There wasn’t any value at the positions people wanted the Lions to fill.

Here’s an analogy for you.  You’re looking at buying a house, a big decision with financial ramifications and long term impact.  Do you spend $250,000 on a house that’s listed at $200,000 just because it has a few of the qualities you’re looking for?  No, you spend what the house is worth and you only buy it if it’s a perfect fit for you.  Would you buy a house that doesn’t have enough bedrooms for your kids but it has that pool you’ve always wanted?  No, just because the house has a quality you like you don’t ignore all the other deficiencies.

Drafting a player is a big decision with long term strategical and financial ramifications, so you only take players that fit what you are looking for at an appropriate value.  It’s funny how many articles I read that slam the Vikings for reaching for a player at a position of need then turn around and question why the Lions didn’t do the same.

The Lions stuck with their draft board and aggressively  pursued the players that fit their needs and offered the value they were looking for.  How many fans would have cheered if the Lions spent their second round pick on a cornerback with fifth round value?  The experts spent all weekend praising Bill Belichick for the way he works his draft board.  The Lions follow the same principles as Belichick but since they don’t quite have the roster he does yet, they don’t trade down as much.  They rank the players, set their board and they stick with it regardless of what needs are there.  Time will only tell if they have the success that Belichick has had.

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15 Responses to “I’ll Tell You Why the Lions Didn’t Add More Defensive Help in the Draft”

  1. […] No, just because the house has a quality that you, as you don, AOT ignore all other defects. Click here to read the […]

  2. DonC says:

    The difference is that the Pats didn’t draft a franchise QB,then do nothing while he gets pounded behind a weak O-line.
    I didn’t think it made sense to draft Stafford before building a team around him no matter how good he is.What have they got for their millions so far? If his contract was 6yrs,it’s 1/3over and he’s been out for most of it…..and I don’t blame him but Mayhew!
    I like Stafford,just don’t think he’s got a chance in Detroit with their attitude toward the O-line as an afterthought.They wasted that pick,should’ve waited till they at least could pass protect and run block competently.

  3. DonC says:

    …..also going by your house analogy,if my family is living in an unsafe,unstable shack that keeps collapsing and injuring members of my family and the only house available is your $200,000 house selling for $250,000.I’m going to have to do whatever it takes to protect my family!! I don’t keep them in an unsafe home if I have the means to get them a safe home whatever the cost.I’ll bet you’d do the same.

    • The Lions passed the third most times last season and surrendered the sixth fewest sacks. They also only allowed 64 QB hits in 16 games. Add them up and the QBs were sacked or hit 91 times out of 660 pass plays, or 13.79%. That was 4th best in the league last year, well below the league average of 19.12%.

      The Lions’ main failings on offense are not on the line. They have suffered from a lack of talent at the skill positions. Stafford’s best weapon has been double and triple teamed, the running game has been hampered by injuries and the defense was terrible in 2009.

      A better running game slows down a pass rush because they are not as predictable and avoid third and long situations. A better receiving corps gives them more open receivers so Stafford can get the ball out faster. An improved defensive line helps reduce the number of points scored against, so they don’t need to pass so often.

      The Lions struggled to protect the QB in 3rd and long, which every team does. The Lions were at the top of the league in 3rd and long situations. By improving the tools around Stafford, specifically the running game, they avoid as many 3rd and longs.

      A side note, Stafford’s 4 injuries have come on an illegal hit (2009 knee injury), scarmbling around for a hail mary (2009 shoulder), a freak injury on a blown assignment (2010 shoulder) and then coming back too early from his shoulder injury.

      I really did think the Lions would take a tackle of the future, but there wasn’t a guy there they felt comfortable with. Killer Kowalski reported that if Fairley wasn’t there, they were going to trade down. That tells you how much of a reach the remaining lineman felt to them.

      The run blocking was just fine when Best was healthy and when Morris took over, and they struggled when Best was hobbled and when Kevin Smith was running. That tells you more about the running backs than the line.

      I agree the Lions could use upgrades on the line, but it’s not as bad as most fans think.

      • Scott says:

        Illegal hits?? Show me where there was a flag thrown or a fine handed down?

        • Here’s a picture of Stafford being horsecollared down by Ogunleye in 2009. The left hand is on the shoulder bu the right was inside the back of the shoulder pads.

          Stafford aggravated his shoulder injury on this play, then reinjured it later in the game.

          2-8-DET 19 (14:11) 9-M.Stafford sacked ob at DET 17 for -2 yards (58-B.Thomas). PENALTY on NYJ-92-S.Ellis, Personal Foul, 15 yards, enforced at DET 17.

          • Scott says:

            You must have x-ray vision to see Ogunleye’s right hand.

            So one out of four get penalized, but no fined handed down.

        • Scott-

          The smart ass comment is noted, yet not well thought out. I actually WATCHED that game on television and saw the play. Finding a picture of the play is a little more difficult, that was the best I could find.

          Fines mean so much don’t they? Suh was fined for a perfectly legal hit on Cutler, does that mean it was illegal just because he got fined? No. So in the same vein, just because a hit doesn’t get fined doesn’t mean it’s not cheap.

          Peterman was fined twice for cut blocks and video replay showed he didn’t cut on either of them. Same thing. Hines Ward is known as a dirty player, but he almost never gets penalized, please explain that one.

          Plenty of helmet to helmet hits went unfined last year until the week when there were several huge hits and then the league cracked down. So it’s entirely inaccurate to judge whether a hit was clean or not based soley on fines.

          • Scott says:

            hmmm…I wonder if a non-Detroit Lions apologist would agree with that analysis. Looks like you’re seeing what you want to see.

          • Excellent retort, I provide facts and you respond with insults. I don’t get paid to be a fanboy, I’ve written for The Sporting News, USA Today and done some promo work for the National Football Post. I take my work very seriously, so if you want to have a legitmate football conversation I’m game. If you’re just going to make smart ass comments, please go elsewhere.

  4. DonC says:

    On paper the O-line’s stats are good.But the stats don’t figure QB injuries(all 3 Lions QBs),% of failed attempts to convert on 3rd or 4th and short with a running play in the middle,I’m not sure but I don’t think they include false start/holding penalties especially on drive-killing plays.
    I think Hill and especially Stanton did a good job of scrambling after protection broke down and Hill(and the playcalls)did a good job of getting rid of the ball quickly.To me,that helped the O-line stats make them appear much better than they are.
    My whole problem is that they haven’t been able to keep any QB on the field for yrs,they’ve invested a huge chunk of their salary cap in a franchise QB,they can’t keep him or any other QB on the field,yet for the third yr in a row,they don’t view protecting him as a priority?

    • First of all, a hurry id defined as the quarterback feeling pressure that alters his pass drop, so when protection broke down that counts as a hurry and the Lions had very few of those compared to other teams.

      I totally agree with the running game in short yardage being a problem, but the Lions didn’t have a short yardage back either. So hopefully Leshoure fixes that.

      Shaun Hill was injured on a low blow that should have been flagged for an illegal hit under the new Brady rule, then again in the bottom of a pile when a Patriot bent his finger backwards, Stanton got hurt when he scrambled and chose not to slide and Stafford’s re injury came on a scramble.

      The only legitimate injury suffered in the pocket was Stafford’s first injury when Backus blew his assignment. Which by the way is probably a large reason why they didn’t want a rookie playing this year.

      The lockout has already robbed 2 months of offseason film work, OTAs and mandatory minicamps. With the lockout most likely not ending until June, that leaves rookies with a month and a half before training camp.

      With less time to prepare than ever before, a rookie would be far more likely to blow an assignment or not make the right read and jeopardize Stafford’s health even more.

      Here’s the real issue with the Lions’ quarterbacks. They hold the ball too long and that’s partially because of Calvin Johnson. Calvin is the ultimate wide receiver who can’t be covered forever. Most quarterbacks make their reads and get rid of the ball in under 3 seconds. The Lions’ QBs tend to hold it longer because it’s just a matter of time before Calvin can shake free. Watch the video of Stafford’s injury against the Bears, he double pumped the ball and was preparing to unload it downfield when he got hit. When he got hit against the Borwns it was because he scrambled around in the pocket forever.

      The Lions’ QBs either need to pull it down and run or get rid of it faster. They are always looking for big plays and that leads to them taking hits they shouldn’t take.

  5. DonC says:

    You make some very good points Anthony,but I’d say that they passed so much because they can’t run productively.When an opponent doesn’t have to worry about the run,it puts the QB in even more danger.I think the running game would be more productive with a good O-line and an average RB than a weak O-line and a very good RB.It also has the added benefit of upgrading pass protection at the same time.
    I thought that since they picked Stafford,the Pettigrew pick and then the Best pick last yr should’ve been used to upgrade the O-line.You are correct in that rookies make more mistakes but that’s not a valid reason to never draft a top O-lineman.Won’t a 7th rounder make more mistakes?,I guess not cause he’ll never see playing time.
    Not being productive with the run game also gets them in more 3rd@long situations where the D knows they have to throw and the QB knows he’s got to make a play and holds it too long.
    I’m over in the extreme SW corner of Mi.they only televise the Thanksgiving game and when they play the Bears so I watch all the Bears games w/my Bears fan buddies and last yr Cutler got pounded all yr and impressed me with his toughness physically and mentally till he finally got knocked out of their playoff game.The Bears took an O-lineman #1 to protect him.I just don’t see anything being done to prevent the Lions from repeating last yrs QB demolition.

  6. I totally agree that a good running game would have resulted in fewer passing attempts and I strongly believe that’s why the offensive line has come under so much heat. Remember when Martz was OC and they set the NFL record for fewest rushing attempts? They were giving up sacks left and right. Then when Martz was gone and they ran the ball more, the sack numbers went down despite most of the same players being on the o-line.

    The Lions were hampered by injuries to their running backs, Stephen Peterman was injured and there were some fluke plays that resulted in QB injuries. The Colts o line was terrible last year, but because Manning gets rid of the ball so fast it covered up the weaknesses.

    The Lions know they have issues on the offensive line, but they also know the guys they have are good enough for now. There wasn’t good value in this draft at o line so they didn’t want to reach. Next year is expected to be a much better draft class with more pro ready players.

    Tyron Smith would have been the pick had he been available. Costanzo is ready to play now, but has very limited upside, Solder is a year or two away from being ready to play LT every down and Ben Ijalana was a project too. There just wasn’t the right player available at the right time. Combine that with the limited free agency period last year and the expected limited period this year, there just aren’t many options.

    In the past the Lions reached for players and overpaid players that weren’t long term solutions, they don’t want to do that again because you saw what that lead to.

    Don’t forget, Jim Schwartz and Martin Mayhew hold the Titans’ and Packers’ style in high regard. The Titans’ o line is one of the better lines int he league (they had a bad year last year) and they are mostly mid round draft picks that were developed by a great o line coach.

    The Packers did the same thing, lots of middle round picks that developed and filled roles on the line.

    The Lions have drafted an o lineman every year under the new regime, so they are trying to develop young players. Lineman are easier to find in the later rounds because it’s a position that players can grow into in the pros.

    In college, if you are big and strong you can block. So they don’t get a ton of technique work and they don’t have NFL level strength programs. The players that do have that in college get drafted really high, but the other guys slip because they take longer to develop.

    Culbreath has immense physical talent, he just needs to bulk up and develop his technique. Fox was never completely healthy last year, so most of his time was spent rehabbing rather than learning technique and bulking up.

    My main point is the Lions’ line does need work, but it’s not a glaring weakness like it is percieved. Obviously, if they struggle to run and pass protect this year when they are stacked at the skill positions, then the line is out of excuses. It will get upgraded, but not with talent they don’t believe in or players that don’t fit.

  7. adam mcgill says:

    With Suh and Fairley anchoring the middle the rest of the defense will have much more room to move. This will help Levy move more off the ball and perhaps have a bigger impact in the 2011 season (if there ever is one).

    Also this will give K.V.B. and Cliff Avril more one on one matchups. The Lions will now have the strongest line in the NFC North and will finally be able to get to Rodgers this season.

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