Tag Archives: NFL Draft

Detroit Lions – The Next Steps

OK, so the 2018 Lions were a disappointment under new head coach Matt Patrica.  I get it that many people thought it was a mistake to let Jim Caldwell go despite the fact he had gotten the Lions into the playoffs twice in four years.

Caldwell may have had the chops to get the Lions to the playoffs, he never won enough games in the regular season to get at least one game played at home.

The Lions are 1-1 in playoff games at home.  They beat the Cowboys 38-6 in 1991 and lost to the Green Bay Packers 28-24 in 1993.  So seeing how  the Lions are 0-11 on the road in playoff games since 1958, they have a 50% shot to win at home which is better than 0% on the road.

What needs to be done?  Well for one thing, us Lions fans need to stop being satisfied with merely a playoff appearance and start thinking…no, demanding the Lions perform better in the regular season to get home field games and make deeper runs and maybe, just maybe, get to a Super Bowl.

Jim Bob Cooter is gone so first up on the list is deciding on an offensive coordinator:

Pete Carmichael – OC, New Orleans Saints

Carmichael has been interviewed for several head coaching positions including the Packers and Bengals.  I’m not sure the Lions would be able to pry Carmichael from the Saints in a lateral move…and he’s been a huge part of Drew Brees career since his days in San Diego.

Since Carmichael took over as the Saints OC in 2009, the offense has been rated number one 4 times.  If the Lions can pry him away from the Saints and he gets the Lions near the competency of the Saints, it would only benefit him to get a head coaching gig.

His play calling has been both imaginative and creative.  He will exploit a defense’s weakness and go the his offenses strength.  Most importantly, he has the capability to make the necessary adjustments during the game to keep competitive.

Todd Haley – OC, Browns

Haley may not be a popular choice for Lions fans.  He does have experience has an OC (Cardinals, Steelers and Browns) and head coach (Kansas City) so he could be a valuable add for Matt Patrica.

He can be intense but I think that’s just what this offense (particularly Matthew Stafford) needs.  It may backfire on him but if it works, Patrica can worry about the defense and leave the play calling to Haley

Darrell Bevell – OC Seahawks & Vikings

Bevell is responsible for the Seahawks drafting Russell Wilson.  That alone should give him some kudos for discovering talent.  And being a former college QB, he understands the role and would be a good sounding board for Matthew Stafford.

However, there are may Seahawk fans that will never forgive him for “The Call” that cost them a second straight Super Bowl in 2014.  Many football pundits have called it the worst play call in NFL history.

This makes Bevell somewhat of a gamble since he has done very well overall as an offensive coordinator…however, he does seem to err during critical times, something Lions fans have had to endure many times.

I really wish Lions fans would stop calling for Matthew Stafford to be traded.  Yes, I am just as frustrated as any fan with some of his bonehead plays.  But there are several factors that need to be taken into consideration:

Stafford’s Trade Value

Realistically, only one team in the NFL would be worth it for the Lions to make a trade with and that would be the Denver Broncos.  GM John Elway and linebacker Von Miller are at odds and Miller could be an impact player for the Lions on defense much like Khalil Mack did for the Chicago Bears.

The difference in that scenario is that the Bears already has Mitch Trubisky in place when making the trade with the Raiders for the Bears 1st round pick.  Matt Cassell would be next in line as the starting QB and I’m not sure with the Lions at number 8 in the draft would get any better of QB.

Drew Lock out of Missouri is perhaps the most balanced QB of the draft.  He’s 6-4 and 225 lbs, has a big arm and make a lot of throws at awkward angles (sound familiar?).   Impressive when throwing on the run, equally capable standing in the pocket and go through his progressions.  But he tends to lock on to his first-read and his ball placement is spotty.

Problem is that being at number 8 in the draft, I doubt the Lions will get a QB worth a darn.  Cardinals, Raiders, Bucs and Giants are all ahead of the Lions and all need a QB.

The Lions will be better off with Stafford as QB and if they still want a play maker on defense, KJ Wright of the Seattle Seahawks will be hitting the open market as an unrestricted free agent.

Better yet, go after safety extraordinaire, Earl Thomas…having him roam the secondary along with Darius Slay and Glover Quinn would improve the number 12 ranked secondary (by Pro Football Focus) easily into the top 10 or even the top five in the NFL.

Draft/Free Agency

The Lions have needs to improve in 5 areas:  Linebacker, Wide Receiver, Cornerback, Edge Rusher & Tight End.

As of right now, Lions have 8 picks in the 2019 Draft.  Compensatory picks will be figured out in the spring.

With the Lions getting the 8th pick in the  2019 Draft, Nick Bosa is not an option.  He’ll be snapped up with the first pick by the Arizona Cardinals.  He will be a game changer that opposing teams will need to plan for.

As for LSU cornerback Greedy Williams, this will be another pipe dream as San Francisco will draft him with the # 2 pick.  The Rams and the Seahawks are in for a few surprises next year.

1st Round – Byron Murphy, Cornerback – University of Washington

I know there is a huge call out there to get a difference maker on the defensive line.  But drafting Murphy out of UW is the smart move simply because Darius Slay needs help.  It would have been great to nab LSU’s Greedy Williams but the win at Lambeau put the Lions out of the running.

But imagine the Lions having two lock down caliber corners on both sides of the field.  Scouts love Murphy who at 5’11 and 182 lbs, plays much bigger than his size, is a willing tackler and wants to be involved in the run game.  Excellent change of direction and has excellent closing speed.

Free Agent Possibility – Earl Thomas, Free Safety – Seahawks

This is a pipe dream.  But you never know what may happen in the off-season.  Thomas’s days are done with the Seahawks and it isn’t set in stone that the Dallas Cowboys will pick him up.  Thomas should come back just as strong from his broken leg injury.  He played just four games in 2018 but had three interceptions in that span.  In his 8 year career, he has 28 interceptions and 11 forced fumbles.  Lions need his turnover ability to take pressure of Darius Slay and whomever is on the right side of the field.  Just his presence would make the Detroit secondary close to elite.

2nd Round – TJ Edwards, Outside Linebacker, Wisconsin

I know, I know, where is the edge rusher?  But with Edwards, you get a smart linebacker who does all the little things right.  He isn’t the flashiest but he is very comfortable at his position and is willing to take on an offensive lineman to free up a blitzer.  He is a selfless linebacker who has just enough flair to make the big play as well as doing all the other little things to help his team.  Solid pick for the Lions in Round 2.

Free Agent Possibility – KJ Wright, Outside Linebacker, Seattle Seahawks

No, I’m not trying to make the Lions the Seahawks of the NFC North.  It’s just that Seattle has a lot of good defensive players who will be available in the free agent market.

Wright is 29 years old and has played in Seattle for the past eight years, most along side middle linebacker Bobby Wagner.  Much like Edwards, Wright has just enough flair to make the big play as well as doing all the little things right.  He is a very sure tackler, pretty decent in coverage and can occasionally sack the QB when called upon.  Same type of player but with 8 years experience.

Round 3 – Demarcus Christmas – Defensive Tackle, Florida State

The Lions were rated 23rd in the NFL against the run.  And if it weren’t for James “Snacks” Harrison, they most likely would have been rated even lower.

Pairing the 6’4″, 308 lb Christmas with Harrison would indeed be a present for Detroit Lions fans.  Christmas offers outstanding play strength and physicality.  He is very difficult to move out of his gap, is aggressive with his hands to initiate first contact to control linemen.  To be a more complete DT, he’ll need to refine his pass rushing skills but with him and Harrison clogging up the middle, teams will have a hard time running against the Lions.

Free Agent Possibility – DeMarcus Lawrence – Edge Rusher, Dallas

If indeed the Cowboys can’t afford Lawrence, he would be a huge pick-up for the Lions.  He would be a difference maker in the same vein as Von Miller or Khalil Mack.  The Lions have a lot of room in their salary cap and could make a strong push for Lawrence.

Lawrence is only 26 years old and has accumulated 34 sacks in his 5 year career for an average of 6.8 per year.  However, that increases to 12.5 per year over the last two years.  He would be a still if the Lions could get him signed for a three year, $60M contract.

Round 4 – Foster Moreau, TE – LSU

It’s too bad that Luke Willson didn’t pan out as I had hoped.  He had some great years while with the Seahawks but didn’t have much of a chance with the Lions.  Still, they may want to keep Willson but still draft Morreau.

Morreau would most likely become a fan favorite because of his blue collar work ethic.  He plays through the end of the whistle and is rarely caught behind the play.  He makes the extra effort to pick up an extra block and his physical tenacity can make up is technical deficiencies as a blocker.

He’s not going to stretch the field with his speed, would be more of a safety valve or be used in tight end screen plays.  He cradles the ball well in traffic and uses his body well to shield the ball away from defenders.

At 6’6″ and 256 lbs, he’ll provide extra protection in the passing game, can be a factor in the Red Zone for Stafford as he will present his numbers for him to put the ball on.

Free Agent Possibility – Jared Cook, TE – Oakland

If the Lions want to get more offensive production out of the TE spot, perhaps a temporary fix would be Cook.  He’s bounced around the league in his 10 years and in 2018 had his best year catching 68 passes for 896 yards and 6 TD’s.

He’s a capable pass and run blocker at 6’5″ and 254 lbs.  He is most often compared to Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker…if the Lions can get the same kind of production that he’s had in his two years at Oakland, it just might be worth signing Cook to a 1 or 2 year contract around $8 M per year.

Afterthoughts

The rest of the draft is much more of a crap shoot…They could get a decent slot receiver in the 5th round, perhaps Alex Wesley out of Northern Colorado or Kavontae Turpin from TCU.  Lions could bring back Golden Tate as he is a free agent now.  Also on the market is Cole Beasley from Dallas and Rashad Greener from Jacksonville.

I don’t think it would be a good idea to try and get Antonio Brown from the Steelers.  While there is no denying his talent, his latest antics could make him poison in the locker room.  However, a change of scenery just might be the ticket for Brown and he would make the Lions very difficult to defend being paired with Kenny Golladay and TJ Jones.

A lot depends on what type of OC the Lions get…and I would imagine the choice needs to be made prior the draft and any decisions on free agency.

Once again, Lions fans look to 2019 as a hopeful season.  My hope is they get their act together, win 12 games and get home field advantage for 1 or 2 games…because with that occurrence, anything can happen.

Detroit Lions 2017 NFL Draft – Big Running RB and D-Line Help

Here we are at yet another NFL Draft….and here we are at yet another discussion as to what the Lions need.

NFLDRaftScouts.com indicates the top 5 needs for the 2017 draft:

  • Wide Receiver – Marvin Jones and Golden Tate combined for 136 catches last year.  But the rest of the receivers, sans Anquan Boldin, only had a grand total of six.  Boldin may come back next year to give the Lions a reliable 3rd down receiver but at 36 years old, just how much will he have left in the tank?
  • Linebacker – Lions are searching for a replacement since DeAndre Levy went the free agent route.  They have signed Paul Worrilow who is solid but they could be seeking a big playmaker to step in.
  • Defensive End – Once a strength of the Lions defense, the talent has degraded over the last few years.  In 2016, the defense was tied for 30th in the league with just 26 sacks.  Part of that deficiency is related to Ziggy Anshan’s high ankle sprain.  Lions need to find a reliable number 2 pass rusher
  • Cornerback – Lions appear to be in pretty good shape in the secondary with Darius Slay, Nevin Lawson and DJ Hayden all returning.  But things can change drastically over the course of a season.  And like relief pitching in baseball, you just can’t have too deep of a bullpen.
  • Tight End – Eric Ebron has improved over the last 3 years but I get the feeling that Lions offensive coordinator, Jim Bob Cooter, just doesn’t quite trust Ebron in clutch situations.  We’ve all seen Ebron make some fantastic catches but he seems to lose concentration on the routine ones…and his blocking hasn’t really improved all that much.

I still find it fascinating that running back isn’t listed as a need for the Lions.  Yes, yes, I know that we have Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.  But neither of those guys are going to wear down a defense.  Abdullah is 5-9 and 203 lbs. and is great in the open field.  Riddick, also at 5-9 and listed at 201 lbs. is a fantastic receiver coming out of the backfield in critical passing situations.  But I firmly believe the Lions need a big back to pound on the defense, wear em down so that in the 4th quarter, the 3-5 yard gains in the 1st quarter turn into 6-10 yard gains.

Fox Sports has the Lions with big needs at cornerback, linebacker and defensive ends.

Pride of Detroit, one of my favorite Detroit Lions sites, state that Lions needs on offense are minimal and really only need to target a 3rd wide receiver.  And also indicates that a short-yardage running back would be nice.  Most urgent needs would be on defense with just about anywhere needs help.

I agree the defense is in need of some re-tooling.  But having that big running back that can grind out yardage and take time off the clock will make the defense better.  Too many games over the last few years, I’ve seen the Lions defense at the end of the game with their hands on their knees, gasping for breath.  A rested defense is an effective defense.  These guys are the thoroughbreds of the NFL, trying to get through 300 lbs. to 330 lbs. offensive linemen to get to shifty quarterback and elusive running backs.  That takes a ton of energy so keeping your defense off the field as much as possible is a key ingredient for success.

With that in mind, I offer, to the 15 fans of Beer Thinker Sports, my 2017 Detroit Lions mock draft:

The Lions have eight draft picks this year, getting an additional 6th round pick from the New England Patriots in the Kyle Van Noy trade.

First Round, Pick 21:  D’Onta Foreman, RB, Texas.  6-0, 233 lbs.

Great athleticism for a running back this size.  Smooth lateral movement and has the ability to go from one gap to the next without gearing down.  Great conversion rate on short down situations and is rarely tackled for a loss in attempts to bounce outside.  Foreman was a very productive runner for Texas in 2016 where he averaged 6.3 yards per carry for 2,028 yards with 15 touchdowns.  Not much of a receiver but is the load runner the Lions lack who can run over the opposition.

Second Round, Pick 53:  Zach Cunningham, ILB, Vanderbilt.  6-3, 234 lbs.

Is a play-making machine.  Always plays downhill and is looking for blood.  He is fast to breakdown plays and respond to them.  Creates tackles for losses by shooting gaps at appropriate angles.  Football magnet with outstanding tackle production to go along with his ability to create and force turnovers.  He does well in pass coverage and has the talent to be a three-down starter in the NFL.

Third Round, Pick 85:  Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, Colorado.  6-3, 198 lbs.

I like big cornerbacks especially ones with speed.  With a 4.45 40 time, Witherspoon fits the bill.  He has an exceptional combination of size and speed, has fluid hips and fast feet.  Gets to top speed quickly with long, easy strides to chase down receivers.  Has plus athleticism for quick recovery when beaten off early release.  Witherspoon had a staggering 22 passes broken up in 2016.  There is some concern about his coach-ability and football character but teams like him off the field as well as his intelligence.

Fourth Round, Pick 128:  Gabe Marks, WR, Washington State.    5-11, 189 lbs.

Want a near -perfect 3rd wide receiver?  Gabe Marks will fill the bill in that regard.  Has the ability to create movement in defenders with his routes to leverage himself into open throwing windows.  Stafford will have no issues finding him in 3-receiver sets.  Shows good body-control when ball in in the air and works aggressively back to the throw and scrambles with his quarterback to open up.   He will have to prove that his success in college wasn’t because of WSU’s pass-happy offense and that he does have the skills to compete in the NFL.

Fifth Round, Pick 165:  Carl Lawson, DE, Auburn.  6-2, 261 lbs.

Yeah, I know.  A lot of draftnicks are going to say this is way to low to take a defensive end.  However, as I stated previously, if a big, grind it out running back is taken, then chances are, the Lions can find that diamond in the rough for a second pass rusher.  And while Lawson has had some injuries that have dropped him in many mock drafts, I think the Lions could take the chance with him in the 5th round.  He is well-built with good muscular definition with a strong upper-body.  Able to strike and release to shed tight ends quickly and fights through blocks to string outside runs to the sideline.  If Lawson can prove he can get and stay healthy, Lions would steal a good to great pass rusher taking him here.

Sixth Round, Pick 205:  Michael Roberts, TE, Toledo.  6-4, 270 lbs.

Eric Ebron isn’t going anywhere soon and the Lions need a good blocking TE.  Roberts will fill the bill in that regard.  However, a lot of teams will also need to pay attention to his receiving skills.  When he catches the ball, it matters.  Over 80% of his career catches went for first downs.  In 2016, over 35% of his catches were for touchdowns.  He is a huge target with gigantic hands and is quick to get open and find the ball on stop routes.  Very capable run-blocker as he sinks his hips to neutralize defensive ends.  Has experience block from in-line and wing spot.  Could be a great option in the red-zone where the Lions have had issues over the past few years.

Sixth Round, Pick 215 (From New England):  Josh Augusta, DT, Missouri.  6-4, 330 lbs.

A stretch pick for sure as there are some issues to his weight.  Walter Football has him listed at 360 lbs. and NFL.com lists him at 300 lbs.  I just averaged it out to 330 lbs. for the sake of argument.  He is an mountain of a man and is extra-wide to cause problems on single blocks.  He has a tendency to lock up on the player in front of him rather than search for the ball.  Good at clogging up the middle but has limited pass-rush skills.

Seventh Round, Pick 250 (From New England):  Brad Seaton, OT, Villanova.  6-8″ 325 lbs.

If Seaton is available here, the Lions should grab him.  He has big-time size and could be a sleeper prospect that could end up being a steal.  He has surprising lateral quickness and agility for such a tall player.  He is patient on the move and takes good angles on defenders on play-side zones.  Displays decent anchor on bull-rush passers.

While these are just my opinions, I just want to let Lions GM Bob Quinn know that I am available next weekend if he wants a consultant.  And I’d come cheap too….just a luxury box at Ford Field for the next 3 years.

Go Lions!

 

Detroit Lions – Need Defensive Playmakers and Big Running Back

Lions have been fairly active in the free-agent market.  They have especially beefed up the right side of the offensive line signing right tackle Rick Wagner from the Baltimore Ravens and stole T.J. Lang, a Detroit homeboy, from the Green Bay Packers.  Wagner and Lang more than make up for the loss of Riley Reif (Vikings) and Larry Warford (Saints.)

The Lions offensive line should be more productive with a starting O-line of Decker at left tackle, Tomlinson at left guard, Swanson at center, Lang at RG and Wagner at right tackle along with free agent TE Darren Fells who is a good blocking TE.  It’s a solid offensive line that will protect QB Matthew Stafford better and open up decent running lanes.

There is a point of contention that the Lions need to have defensive playmakers.  I couldn’t agree more but I don’t think they need to use their first round pick, not when the lack of a running game is so apparent.  I had written an article, back on February 18, that in the draft, the Lions should get a running back with their first pick.  With the recent free agent signings of Lang and Wagner, I believe it’s the correct move even more.

Now I know there are big supporters of Ameer Abdullah and I don’t deny that he can be a dynamic playmaker if he can stay healthy.  Granted he is coming into his third year and he will be playing with a chip on his shoulder since he will feel that he’s got something to prove.  Abdullah believes that he can be an every down back that the Lions have been so desperately seeking.  But the NFC North is one of the most physical divisions in the NFL.  And at 5-9 and 209 lbs., I’m not convinced that he will be able to take the wear and tear of playing in such a tough division.

So to those fans who feel the need to go with a defensive playmaker in the first round, hear me out.  If the Lions cannot find better balance on the offensive side of the ball, no matter how good of a defensive player, the Lions will struggle to get above .500 in 2017.

The best defense the Lions can play is a well-rested one.  That means the Lions will need to control the clock and that means having an effective ground attack.  I would love to see the Lions with an average time of possession to be anywhere from 31 to 33 minutes a game, which would be a one to three minute improvement.  Keeping the ball and extra one to three minutes a game means more scoring opportunities for the Lions and less for opponents.  I’d much rather see opposing defenses gasping for breath as the Lions churn out first down after first down and getting more into the end zone instead of field goals.

In my expert opinion (OK, I admit, I am a legend in my own mind), I would trade Abdullah for draft picks…perhaps picking up a 3rd round pick in 2017 and maybe another 3rd round pick in 2018.

Then I would target D’Onta Foreman, the 6’1″, 250 lbs. beast out of Texas.  He was one of the most productive runners in the 2016 collegiate season, averaging 6.3 yards per carry, gaining over 2,000 yards and running for 15 touchdowns.  And once he gets past the line, he will look for contact and run over defenders.

By drafting Foreman, you make Jim Bob Cooter’s offense just that much more dangerous.  Matt Stafford will become even more efficient as a passer since the defense will have to creep up to protect against the run.  That frees up Golden Tate and Marvin Jones for some 1-1 opportunities and give TE Eric Ebron receiving opportunities underneath for six to ten yard gains.

Let’s not forget that the Lions have one of the best 3rd down backs in the league in Theo Riddick as well as a change of pace runner in Zack Zenner to spell Foreman.

Control time of possession just allows so many scoring chances and keeps opposing quarterbacks on the bench which where they are the least effective.  I am so tired of Aaron Rodgers pretty much having his way with the Lions either at Ford Field or at Lambeau.  Keep him on the bench and he can’t hurt you.

So take Foreman with the first pick and then address the rest of the needs in later rounds.

Lions need to get a middle linebacker.  Tahir Whitehead gave up too many passes over the middle.  Good player against the run and on occasion can get after the quarterback, but Lions need a linebacker that can stay with opposing tight ends.  The middle is probably the weakest area on the field for the Lions in regard to pass defense.

Round 2 pick:  Jarrad Davis, Florida  6-1, 238 lbs., Linebacker

In his senior year, Davis recorded 60 tackles, two sacks and broke up four passes.  He has above grade instincts and is a play-maker on the field to go along with his leadership skills.  He does need to improve getting off blocks but he has skills and is a dangerous blitzer.  He is very physical when hitting backs, quarterbacks, receivers and offensive linemen.  Will bring a certain amount of nastiness to the defense.

Round 3 pick:  Jordan Willis, Kansas State  6-3, 255 lbs., Defensive End

Jordan Willis has good speed for his size with a 4.53 40 time.  At the combine, he looked smooth and athletic in the field drills.  As for his season, he caused a lot of disruption and negative plays.  With 16.5 sacks, 52 tackles (17.5 of them for loss) and three forced fumbles, he would be a great bookend for Ziggy Ansah.

Round 4 pick:  Davon Godchauex, LSU  6-3, 310 lbs.  Defensive Tackle

Godchauex has a good first step off the ball with speed to shoot the gap.  He has the ability to fire up the field and get to the quarterback as well as being effective in stunts to loop around and causing disruption.  He is at his best charging up field and dropping running backs for loss and sacking the QB.  He needs to work on holding his own against downhill runners but his upside is to good to pass up.

There are a few more areas the Lions need help…and despite signing  free agent TE Darren Fells, he isn’t the pass catching TE the Lions could use.  I would love to see the Lions nab Seattle Seahawk TE Luke Willson who is on the cusp of breaking out.  He could very well challenge Ebron for playing time.  He’s a smart receiver with good route instincts and not a bad blocker to boot.

Ah heck, if I was a good GM, some team would hire me, right?

Go Lions!

 

 

Detroit Lions – Draft A Running Back!

There…that picture right there is what I want other teams to see when they think about the Detroit Lions running game.

Most NFL draft experts are seeing the Lions leaning toward focusing on defense for the 2017 draft.  I seriously think that would be a mistake.  The Lions need to cultivate a highly-effective running game and soon.

Yes, yes, I know that mantra “Defense wins championships.”  So I did a bit of research.  Granted, my research isn’t on the level of some (ok, most) sites but I think it tells a story.

Over the past 10 years, winning Super Bowl teams have ranked, on average, about 15th in the league in rushing the ball with a 114.8 yards per game.  Losing teams were ranked 14th at 120.8 yards per game.  Over that same 10 year span, the Lions average rank was 27th with a 90.8 yards per game average.

As for defense, I used total yards allowed for ranking.  On winning Super Bowl teams, they ranked on average 11th in the league, giving up 317.8 yards a game, while the losing side ranked 12th while giving up 323 yards per game.  The Lions?  A dismal rank of 21 with a 356.7 yards per game average.  However, over the last five years, they rank right with Super Bowl teams at 13 while giving up 338.6 yards per game.

Not so with the running game over the past five years.  The Lions ranked at an average of 26 with a 93.4 yards per game.

While I agree that there are some defensive needs, I think getting a 3-down back to go with a healthy Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah  and Zack Zenner would do a couple of things.

First, it would allow the Lions to improve on time of possession.  Keeping opposing QB’s on the bench is a huge deal, especially when it comes to Aaron Rodgers.

Second, it would allow the Lions defense to stay fresh.  They could pin their ears back and get after opposing QB’s for the entire game instead of being out on the field all the time gasping for breath.

Third, it would make Matthew Stafford a much more effective quarterback.  Since the Lions running doesn’t scare opposing teams all that much, play fakes aren’t near as effective.  Imagine the Lions are in a tight game late in the third quarter with a 7 point lead.  But instead of a rushing total of less than 40 yards by that time, they have a back that’s at 75 yards or more.  Stafford can either give the ball in a draw situation which freezes D-lineman and allows the offensive line to block effectively and the play gains 7-10 yards, moves the chains and the clock keeps moving.

Or, Stafford pulls the ball back, the runner dives into the line which forces the secondary to come up…Stafford drops two more steps, turns and throws a 30-yard strike down the sideline to Golden Tate who takes it in for a score.

A big running back with speed and good hands can do all that for a team.  Just ask the Dallas Cowboys how they feel about Ezekiel Elliott these days.

I know Darius Slay needs help in the secondary but I also believe that can be had in the later rounds.  I love Sidney Jones’s potential but to be honest, it’s not the most critical need.

Lions need to get a running back and I think they should do that in the first round.   Then they can focus on other needs with the other 6 picks.  Keep in mind that selecting any of these could mean using Abdullah or Riddick as trade material for future picks.

Options at 21:

  • Alvin Kamara – Tennessee.  5-10, 215 lbs.  4.55 40 time.
  • Christian McCaffery – Stanford.  6-1, 200 lbs.  4.49 40 time
  • Dalvin Cook – Florida State.  6-0, 203 lbs.  4.52 40 time
  • D’Onta Foreman – Texas.  6-1, 249 lbs.  4.55 40 time.

Kamara is a Jamal Charles style runner.  He is a fast-slasher type of runner with some power.  He has great hands and can be used as a slot receiver.  If the Lions are confident with Kamara, they can trade Theo Riddick for multiple draft picks to use later to shore up the defense.  I love Riddick but I think Kamara can be an every down back and be just as effective on third down as Riddick.

McCaffery has acceleration and explosiveness that separates him from other runners.  Think Reggie Bush with some power.  He may not run over tacklers but he does make yardage after contact.  He is a home run threat on every down, has a great first step and doesn’t need much of a hole to get into the second level of defense.  A patient runner, he can wait for the hole to develop as well and he is a capable receiver.  He is the fastest of the four backs I have targeted.  McCaffery could make Abdullah expendable while keeping Riddick as the 3rd down back and Zenner as a capable back-up.

Cook is reminiscent of Marshawn Lynch.  Good speed, athleticism and versatility.  He is put together well with a thick lower body that allows him to keep his balance and pick up additional yards after contact.  He is fast to the hole and has serious acceleration when he gets into the secondary.  There is some off-field issues that the Lions may want to be cautious about.  Last thing we need is another Titus Young issue.  But Cook has some serious upside to him with speed to run away from most defensive backs and is a threat to score from anywhere on the field.

Foreman, the biggest back isn’t much of a receiver but is a load who can and will run over the opposition.  With an average of 6.3 yards a carry and rushing for 2,028 yards, he was one of the most productive runners in the nation.  Might also resolve some of the red zone issues the Lions have.  With 15 touchdowns last season, Foreman knows how to get into the end zone.

My gut tells me they should draft Foreman.  Lions have their slash and speed runners in both Riddick and Abdullah.  Foreman would be the grinder the Lions need to have time of possession stat improve.

The other back I would love to see in Honolulu blue would be McCaffery.  He just looks like he would leave it all out on the field and would take so much pressure of Stafford.

Then the Lions would have six other picks to concentrate on defense.  There would be some great options for the Lions with their second pick for cornerback.

  • Tre’Davious White – LSU.  5-11, 191 lbs.  4.53 40 Time
  • Jalen Tabor – Florida.  6-0, 191 lbs.  4.49 40 Time
  • Gareon Conley – Ohio State.  6-0, 195 lbs.  4.45 40 Time
  • Cordrea Tankersley – Clemson.  6-1, 195 lbs.  4.43 40 Time

White played well in 2016.  He made 35 tackles and broke up 14 passes to go along with two interceptions.  He’s a good corner to run with receivers and prevent separation.  He does have issues with big receivers.  He can return punts so he can pack a lot of bang for the buck.

Tabor has good ball skills and has the instincts to make big plays.  He also gambles and can struggle with receivers that have deep speed.    However, he is very good at running the receiver’s route and prevent separation in the short to intermediate part of the field, an area where the Lions have struggled.  He uses his quickness and athleticism to stay with wideouts in and out of their break which puts him in good position to drive on the ball and he breaks on the ball hard.  Tabor has good hands and times his contact with receivers to lead to incompletions rather than penalties.

Conley recorded 26 tackles, broke up 8 passes and intercepted opposing quarterbacks 4 times in 2016.  He is a solid defender who could go in the first round but if he is available with the Lions at 56, they might be wise to take him while they can.  He has a good skill set and pairing him with Darius Slay would improve the Lions secondary nicely.

Tankersley was part of a tough cornerback duo for Clemson in 2015 when he was paired with Mackenzie Alexander.  He showed impressive skills with five interceptions and nine broken passes.  He was thrown at more than Alexander but he was up to the task.  He followed up with four interceptions and broke up 10 passes in 2016.  He has the size and skill to be a starter in the NFL and could be a steal if he is still available when the Lions pick in the 2nd round.

Lions need to improve the running game to make Stafford a much more effective and a deep passing threat.  They also need to improve in the run game to not be one-dimensional.  Once the Lions got pinned and had to pass, with no threat in the run game, opposing defenses went after Stafford hard.  A good to great running game protects the Lions biggest asset and allows him to perform to a much higher level.

So Detroit Lions, DRAFT A DAMN RUNNING BACK!

Detroit Lions – Look Forward to 2017 and Beyond

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Well damn.

The Detroit Lions came to Seattle to play in the NFC Wild Card game with some lofty expectations…only to discover that the Seattle Seahawks were indeed a very large obstacle they could not get around.

Some of it was of their own doing. The four dropped passes (three of which would have led to first downs). Four very stupid 15-yard penalty calls (two by 13 year veteran Anquan Bouldin and one by Haloti Ngata, an 11-year vet. Those two players should know better.) And of course, the most evident, they were made one-dimensional when the Seahawk defense took away the Lions anemic running and forced Matthew Stafford to put the game on his shoulders.

Not that Matthew Stafford didn’t relish the challenge. I mean, after all, he did lead the Lions this year to an NFL record of 8 fourth quarter comebacks in 2016. And don’t give me that tripe that they accomplished that feat against mediocre teams. Ticks me off to no end when Peyton Manning, Eli Manning or Tom Brady accomplish something similar to this and they are hailed the greatest. But when Matthew Stafford does it, it’s for some other reason.

I’m not going to re-hash the season nor am I going to re-hash the wild card game. You all saw it. Suffice to say, I was rather uncomfortable when I showed up to a friend’s house to watch the game in my Golden Tate III jersey…and even more so after the game had ended. Thankfully I have fantastic friends so the needling wasn’t too awful.

I will say this: I am going to give the Lions organization a pass for 2016. Not that it is of any great importance that I do so since I really, really doubt that what I write here for Beer Thinker Sports is read by anyone in the Detroit Lions organization. None the less, I’ll give them the pass.

My reasons are that since this is the first full season for GM Bob Quinn. And while some of the moves and acquisitions he made prior to the start of the season got the Lions a chance to be in the playoffs, there is more work to be done. And I’m sure Mr. Quinn will be the first to admit it.

What I am going to offer is just my opinion on what’s needed for the future of the Detroit Lions.

  1. The road to the NFC North Division runs through Green Bay. Not a big surprise. Since 2011, the Green Bay Packers have won the NFC North title five out of the last six years. Not sure how they can accomplish that other than to say it rests all on how well Aaron Rodgers plays. And for the last three years, when it looked as though each time the Pack had no chance of even getting to the playoffs, they find a way to dig deep and pull yet another miracle season. So the first step for the Lions to be successful is to build a team that can stop Aaron Rodgers. Best way to beat him is to keep him off the field. That means the Lions need to get themselves a running game that can tire out an opportunistic Green Bay defense and keep their best player on the bench. That means improving the Lions offensive line and getting a dominating running back to take pressure off Mathew Stafford. It also means the Lions need an upgrade to the defense, particularly in the secondary as well as the defensive line. Darius Slay is a good cornerback but Rodgers pin point accuracy can defeat just about any one on one coverage. In order to force Rodgers into mistakes, pressure has to be put on him, force him into making mistakes. Unfortunately, it’s a Catch-22 as Rodgers has an insane ability to escape and keep plays alive until someone gets open. But if the Lions can get another speed rusher to complement Ziggy Ansah and replace an aging Haloti Ngata, they just might be able to at least stay with the Packers.
  2. The Lions need to get a big running back to help Matthew Stafford. No surprise here. For the last 10 years, the Lions have averaged an anemic 92.8 yards a game and only once did a player top 1,000 yards for the season, Reggie Bush in 2013 for 1,006 yards. I don’t know about you but I am pretty fed-up hearing the words the Lions need an “effective running game.” It’s a bunch of bull. The Lions need a rusher that will carry the ball 25-30 yards per game and get you 110 to 125 yards per game. That leads to better time management and keeps the opposing offense off the field. It may be boring but it does lead to wins despite the fact the NFL has become a pass-happy league. And that requires a big running back, one that can make up for any deficiencies in the offense line yet capitalize when blocking is done correctly. Not a big play back, Lions have that in Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick. But a big back that will wear down a defense and allow Abdullah and Riddick to hit big gains when they do come in for a change of pace. And since a big back will force the linebackers to come up, that opens up the passing game and all of a sudden, the Lions dominate on time of possession.  It will also give the Lions a bigger threat in the red zone. Don’t know about you…I like Matt Prater and all but I’d like to see games where he just kicks extra points instead of field goals.

There are 4 running backs in the 2017 draft that I think would be a great fit in the Lions running game. In most cases, any one of these running backs will make Ameer Abdullah expendable.

  • Leonard Fournette, LSU. At 6-1 and 230 lbs. and a 40 time of 4.5, Fournette might not be available to the Lions as he is projected as a top-10 pick. But I list him in case GM Quinn can do some magic to move up in the draft to get him. He has been compared to Adrian Peterson. In his 2016 season, he gained 1,953 yards with an average of 6.5 yards per carry. He is a powerful downhill runner that can run through tackles and can break off big gainers.
  • D’Onta Foreman, Texas. 6-1, 249 lbs. Ran for 2,028 yards for an average of 6.3 yards per carry for Texas in 2016. He isn’t much of a receiver but that’s not what the Lions need since Theo Riddick fills that spot nicely. Foreman is a load who can run over the opposition and bring a bit of attitude and toughness the Lions so desperately need.
  • Samaje Perine, Oklahoma. 5-11, 237 lbs. Perine reminds me a lot of Marshawn Lynch in that he will just not be tackled. Again, toughness and attitude the Lions need and Perine would definitely get Green Bay’s attention. His position in the draft has dropped due to being banged up this season but Perine rushed for 735 yards with an average of 5.2 yards per carry in limited action. He is a decent receiver as well with 10 receptions for 106 yards. Love to see this guy in screen pass situations on first or second downs.
  • James Conner, Pittsburgh. 6-2, 250 lbs. Is listed as a possible 4-6 round pick due to a serious knee injury in 2015 and then being diagnosed with cancer. He was proclaimed cancer free in 2016 as well as coming back from a torn ACL. He responded with 1,092 yards with a 5.1 yard per carry and scored 16 TD’s. He also caught well out of the backfield with 21 passes for 302 yards and four scores. He is worth taking a chance on since he has the potential to become a 3 down back and be a major threat in the red zone with his running and receiving abilities.

3.  Lions need to upgrade the secondary. Granted, NFL rules will favor the receiver in most cases. However, there are 2 places that teams really can’t shortchange themselves: The offensive line and the secondary. Both are exposed if the talent isn’t there. I feel the Lions offensive line is good enough going into 2017 but the secondary has been exposed. The Lions need another good cover corner to compliment Slay and a safety in the league of an Earl Thomas to help cover the middle.

  • Jalen Ramsey, Florida State. 6-1, 209 lbs. I doubt the Lions will have a shot at this guy but I felt the need to list him just in case GM Quinn can maneuver to get him. He is projected as a top-5 pick so it is a longshot. Ramsey is comparable to Richard Sherman. However, it is felt that he would do better at safety than corner. Teams have high regard for Ramsey and they love him off the field which pretty much means you aren’t going to see his name for any off the field antics. With his great character and impressive skill set, a lot of teams want him on their roster.
  • Eli Apple, Ohio State. 6-0, 199 lbs. He has Number 1 corner potential in the NFL with his size, agility and speed. He does need coaching to stop grabbing receivers but that’s just a matter of technique. Possible he’ll be available late first round or early second.
  • Su’a Cravens USC. 6-1, 226 lbs. Cravens was moved to linebacker in 2016 but most experts feel that Cravens potential in the NFL reside in playing safety. I’d like to see him gain at least 10-15 lbs. to play in the NFL. He is physical, strong and quick and has shown to be a capable tackler. A good defensive coordinator would be wise to use him in a variety of ways. Could be that game changer on defense.

4.  Protect the den. It is one of the most important aspects of the game. Great teams know how to win at home. Winning 6-8 games at home and go .500 on the road gives you 10-6 to a 12-4 season and pretty much gives the Lions a playoff slot. Lion’s fans are more than willing to do their part and if the Lions get that big running back and beef up the secondary, Lions will be able to challenge the Green Bay Packers better for the division title.

There are other aspects that I’m sure need to be addressed. I, for one, am not sure that current head coach Jim Caldwell is the one to lead the team to the Super Bowl. But he is close with owner Martha Firestone Ford who really likes him. Caldwell has Jim Bob Cooter as his offensive coordinator and is a good one. He and Matthew Stafford are on the same page and in his first full season, got as much as he could out of Stafford. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is a good one as well. But he has been mentioned for several head coaching jobs and with 6 openings this year, he may be gone. Whoever comes up next needs to improve the coverage and mitigate the big plays the Lions seem to give up.

Seattle Seahawks – Offensive Line Has To Play Better

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There is a saying about the three most important things when you want to open a business:  Location, location, location.

Pretty much the same thing can be said if an NFL football team needs to be successful:  O-Line, O-Line, O-Line.

I watched the Seattle Seahawk-Arizona Cardinal game Saturday and I was amazed at just how the Cardinal defense dominated the Hawks offensive line in the first half:  QB Russell Wilson sacked 5 times and under constant pressure.  34 plays run by the Seahawks in the first half and of those, 19 of them resulted in no gain, yards lost or a turnover.  One yard of offense in the first quarter and a total of just 94 yards for the first half.  A total of seven plays run inside Arizona’s 10-yard line and failed to punch it in and having to settle for a field goal.

While everything appeared to improve in the second half, I still am having a hard time as to why the O-Line has been so inconsistent.  How can they look so pitiful as they did in the first half and then seem to become above average as they did in the second half?

The play of the Seahawks offensive line is what will determine how well they will do in the playoffs.  And since we don’t know which O-Line will show up, us Seahawk fans are going to be sitting on pins and needles when the playoffs start.

It was evident what the Cardinals wanted to do with Russell Wilson.  Keep him in the pocket and do not allow him to extend plays.  You could see the Cardinal defense swing out wide when rushing the QB, daring him to run up the middle.  On most of Wilson’s sacks, at least two of the offensive linemen had blown their assignments.

I understand that Seattle GM John Schneider had to make a decision when building this team that somewhere on this team, money just could not be spent.  As of right now, the Seahawks have the lowest salary cap for the offensive line at $6, 259,177.  That’s nearly $7 million dollars less than the next lowest team, the New York Giants.

Tom Cable may be just about the best offensive line coach in the NFL.  But as with any profession, you are only as good as the ingredients you are given.

Let’s start with left tackle George Fant.  Amazing potential and has indeed come a long way this year.  But understand you are protecting your most valuable asset with a guy that didn’t start in a football game since his 8th grade elementary season.  He focused on basketball in his high-school days and had a decent collegiate season for Western Kentucky.  He was finally convinced to try football as he had a wife and child to consider.  He was either going to play basketball in Poland or hopefully play in the NFL.  He had no tape, barley any game footage but during a workout with the Seahawks, Cable saw him as a “long-armed athlete” and was convinced he would be a great prospect.

I am amazed at Fant’s production and improvement and I think he will be an excellent left-tackle.  What I fear is that with all that Cable is teaching him, when it comes time for a new contract, he’ll be gone since the Hawks won’t want to spend the money.

Center Justin Britt seems to have found a place that he can succeed at.  He was drafted by the Hawks in the 6th round of the 2014 draft.  He was a starter the last two years at Missouri playing  both left and right tackle.  Seahawks love versatility and saw Britt as a possible right tackle and was the starter there for the Hawks in 2014.  Despite being ranked as one of the worst rookie pass blocking tackles, Britt started all 16 games at right tackle and the divisional playoff game against the Carolina Panthers before suffering an injury.

After a poor showing in the 2015 season at right tackle, Hawks moved him to left guard.  Britt improved a bit, starting all 16 games at left guard but still was ranked as one of the least effective pass blockers in the NFL.  In 2016, Britt was moved to center and his game improved dramatically…so much that he was elected as a Pro-Bowl alternate for 2016.  Pete Carroll stated that center is what they had in mind for Britt when they drafted him 2 years prior.  My question is why the heck did they want so damn long?  Max Unger was at center in 2014, Britt’s first year.  Why didn’t they have him back up Unger the first year, get him to learn all the tricks of the trade from him and then have him start at center in 2015 and just leave him there?

The Seahawk offensive line is young with an average age of 24.2 years old.  I don’t have issues with the age factor but I do have an issue with the talent level.  Seahawks have been known to find some gold at other positions.  Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin, Richard Sherman and Tyler Lockett are proof of that.

They need to find the same gold for the offensive line coming up in next years draft.  I’m willing to keep Fant as left tackle as I believe he will become one of the best in the game.  I also will concede the center spot to Britt.  Anyone who can improve to Pro-Bowl caliber is just fine in my book.  But that leaves the 2 guard spots and the right tackle.  Starter left guard Mark Glowinski, starter right guard German Ifedie with back up at both spots of Rees Odhiambo don’t give me a feeling of security, especially when playing against huge defensive lines such as the Cardinals.  Right tackle starter Bradley Sowell and back-up Garry Gilliam are at best a couple of back-ups on other teams.

Release or trade guards Glowinski and Ifedie as well as right tackle Sowell and keep Odhiambo and Gilliam for back-up spots on the line.

Then I would go after these players in the draft:

For right tackle:  Julie’n Davenport, Bucknell.  Another player with a background in basketball, Davenport is 6-7 and 315 lbs.  He has the tools to be a solid left tackle and would be able to develop his skills on the right side.  Good versatility as both he and Fant could play either tackle spot.

Left guard:  Kareem Are, Florida State.  This is a big man.  Listed at 6-6 and 334 pounds, Are would be just the road grader needed to jump start the Hawks running game.  He is an excellent power blocker at the point of attack and with Cable coaching, he will only improve on his pass blocking.

Right guard:  Taylor Moton, Central Michigan.  Another big presence inside.  Coming in at 6-5 and 326 pounds, he would help solidify the inside running game the Hawks so desperately need.  He is versatile enough to be able to play right tackle as well.

Remember the three things needed to be a successful NFL team:  O-Line, O-Line, O-Line!

Beer Thinker’s Mock Draft For Seattle Seahawks

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Since I did a draft analysis on the Detroit Lions, I figure it’s only fair that I do one for the Seattle Seahawks.

They have had some great drafts over the past few years, picking up some quality players and some great production from late round draft picks.  Did anyone figure in 2012 that he would become a Super Bowl champion in 2013?  Especially after signing Matt Flynn to a $20.5 million dollar contract who everyone thought he was going to be the starter.  But once Wilson won the job outright, Seahawks traded Flynn to the Oakland Raiders for a 2014 5th round pick and a conditional 2015 pick.

Once of many moves in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era that paid off handsomely.  Can they do it again this year?  I sure hope so.  A lot of the moves that have been made were at the cost of the offensive line.  True, they came together last year in the second half of the season but I’m pretty sure that during that first half, when they allowed 37 sacks in the first half, no one could envision Russell Wilson finishing the season let alone get into the playoffs.

Seahawks need, outside of an offensive line, is cornerback & defensive line.  I’m offering three options in each round but knowing the Seahawks, I’ll probably be off by quite a lot.

Round 1, Pick 26

  1. Eli Apple – CB, Ohio State: 6-0, 199lbs.
  2. William Jackson – CB, Houston: 6-0, 189lbs.
  3. Jack Conklin – OT, Michigan State: 6-5, 308lbs.

Seahawks have capable starter opposite Richard Sherman in DeShawn Shead and Jeremy Lane.  But injuries have plagued the right corner slot and FA Brandon Browner, while he knows the system, isn’t the answer.  Apple or Jackson can push Shead and Lane for the starting spot.  But, with the need to upgrade the offensive line, if Jack Conklin is there, Hawks should take him and forget about the LT spot for the next 10 years.  Alvin Bailey is capable at LT but isn’t the long term solution.

Round 2, Pick 56

  1. Jason Spriggs – OT, Indiana: 6-5, 301lbs
  2. Kenny Clark – DT, UCLA: 6-2, 314lbs
  3. Austin Johnson – DT, Penn State: 6-4, 314lbs

If the Hawks are lucky enough to get Conklin in the first round and Spriggs with their second pick, I would say they solved their O-Line issues.  Spriggs would be a great addition to the line and can push current starter Garry Gilliam for the RT spot.  Clark and Johnson are two good run-stoppers and can push the pile back.  Either one would give the Hawks the depth they like on the D-Line.

Round 3, Pick 90

  1. Yannick Ngakoue – OLB/DE, Maryland:  6-2, 252lbs
  2. Joshua Garnett – Guard, Stanford: 6-5, 325lbs
  3. Jacoby Brissett – QB, NC State: 6-3, 231lbs

Ngakoue could be the Bruce Irvin answer for the Hawks.  He is a hybrid football player who is fast with a 4.75 40 time and is slippery with an ability to get involved with plays even while being blocked.  Garnett is a big bodied guard and with Sweezy one in free agency, could be the answer at RG and open holes for Thomas Rawls.  Tavaris Jackson, while a great presence in the locker room, is getting on in years.  Brissett could be another 3rd round find for Schneider.

Round 4, Pick 124

  1. Vadal Alexander – G/OT, LSU: 6-5, 326lbs
  2. KJ Dillion – S, West Virginia: 6-0, 210lbs
  3. Bronson Kaufusi – DE, BYU: 6-6, 285lbs

This is where Hawks start to look for depth.  However, while Alexander needs some work on pass protection, he is already a pretty good run blocker.  Imagine him as LG next to Conklin at LT.  A lot a beef on the left side to protect Wilson’s blind side.  Kam Chancellor is starting to break down and why wouldn’t he with the way he plays?  Need to have a player in his style so we don’t lose a step and Dillion could be that guy.  Kaufusi would give a lot of QB’s some sight problems with his wingspan and again, would add a lot of depth to the defensive line.

Round 5, Pick 171

  1. Jake McGee – TE, Florida: 6-5, 252lbs
  2. Geronimo Allison – WR, Illinois: 6-3, 196lbs
  3. Rees Odiambo – Guard, Boise State: 6-3, 314lbs

As of right now, Luke Willson is your starting TE with Cooper Helfet and Chase Coffman as back-ups.  It is unknown if Jimmy Graham can come back from his horrific knee injury.  Pete Carroll stated that Graham’s surgery went well but if he does come back, can we expect the same player that he was.  I doubt it because when knees start to go, it naturally limits movement.  Jake McGee is no Jimmy Graham but he would probably be the best blocking TE the Hawks have had in a while.  Allison is a big target but a little light at 196lbs and being 6-3.  Like to see him add at least 25 lbs. since he will need guile and finesse since speed is an issue.  He gets up for passes and blocks well on the edge.  Odiambo would add some much needed depth on the O-Line.

Round 6, Pick 215

  1. Jack Allen – Center, Michigan State: 6-1, 294lbs
  2. Brandon Allen – QB, Arkansas: 6-1, 214lbs
  3. Tyler Johnstone – OT, Oregon: 6-5, 301lbs

Patrick Lewis stabilized the O-line when he took over the starting center spot in the 2nd half of the season.  Back-up Jeanpierre is better suited as a guard so bringing in Allen to back-up Lewis would give the Hawks some flexibility and still have good depth at center with Jeanpierre as the 3rd option.  Allen would give the Hawks a younger back-up than Jackson and plays similar to starter Russell Wilson.  He comfortable under center and does well on bootlegs and rollouts.  But he tends to take hard hits on runs and doesn’t do well on long passing down situations.  Johnstone showed some good athleticism before a knee injury and scouts hope he gets that back.  Plays hard to the whistle and can finish blocks.  Could be a sleeper pick in the draft.

Round 7, Pick 225

  1. Joe Haeg – G/OT, North Dakota State: 6-6, 304lbs
  2. Jarred Norris – ILB, Utah: 6-2, 240lbs
  3. Jason Fanika – DE, Utah: 6-1, 276lbs

When drafting 7th rounders, it would be a surprise to find starters.  So if these players make the team, it’s most likely for depth or special teams.  Haeg is an interesting player as he is graded on NFL.com at 5.29, not bad for a projected 7th round pick.  He played both tackle spots and has good lateral quickness.  What gets him is getting caught on the balls of his feet in pass protection.  Would be a project for Tom Cable.  Norris is a team leader which would be great on special teams.  He has good reactive instincts and has a good feel for what running lanes opposing running backs will take.  Needs to work on staying low and not exposing his chest when taking on second-level blockers  Fanika would be a good situational player as he is able to get low and work under opponents pads to gain leverage at point of attack.  But with average speed, he tends to lunge to make tackles in open space.

Round 7, Pick 247

  1. Isaac Seumalo – Center, Oregon State: 6-5, 297lbs
  2. DeWayne Washington – RB Washington, 6-2, 226lbs
  3. Ted Karras – Guard, Illinois: 6-4, 307lbs

Seumalo would bring some good versatility along with adding depth to the O-line.  He has played center, right tackle, left tackle and right guard.  He has quick feet and above average lateral movement.  Good understanding of footwork and angles to secure running lanes and is a patient blocker.  Needs to add some mass to play in the NFL.  Washington has that rate combination of size and speed…kicks it into another gear when he hits the second level.  Former wide receiver can overmatch most linebackers in coverage.  Has a long stride which makes him struggle making quick cuts.  Will run up blockers backs rather than go between the tackles.  Also needs to work on ball security.  Karras has some football lineage including being the great nephew of Pro Bowler Alex Karras.  Four year started at Illinois at right guard, he uses brute upper body strength to get defenders turned.  Gritty demeanor on the field and is very intense on game day but stays within himself being penalized only twice over the past two seasons.

As I look back over this, I wonder:  What are the Seahawks going to do?

Guess we’ll find out draft weekend!

Go Hawks!

Beer Thinker’s Mock Draft for Detroit Lions

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I know there are at least four people that are highly anticipating my thoughts on the Detroit Lions and who they should take in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft.

In the past, most Lions fans would be looking at the draft as their version of the Super Bowl.  And while I choose not to dwell on past drafts, we all know the Detroit Lions have mostly been in the dark since 1980.

Yes, we have had some bright moments:  Billy Sims, Lomas Brown, Bennie Blades, Barry Sanders, Herman Moore, Robert Porcher, Johnnie Morton, Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford & Ndamukong Suh to name a few.

And while these players have been successful and productive for the Lions, the flameouts they have are just downright spectacular:  Chuck Long, Andre Ware, Joey Harrington, Charles Rogers, Mike Williams & Ernie Sims.

Now we have a new regime in place, the first one since William Clay Ford passed away.  I’ve had my criticism of Mr. Ford in the past but he was Detroit loyalty and he did more for the city than people can imagine.

Martha Ford, William’s widow, has taken over and pretty much with her will has moved the Detroit Lions organization in a different and hopefully, a better direction.  She and her daughters have been less loyal to the Lions management team than Mr. Ford has, holding them accountable for the team’s results and by them failing, removing them from their positions.

The ownership team knew they didn’t have a lot of insider knowledge of how to build a successful football team.  The enlisted the expertise of Ernie Accorsi, a successful NFL GM with the Baltimore Colts, Cleveland Browns and the New York Giants, to conduct a national search to hire a GM for the Detroit Lions.  The results was Bob Quinn, director of player personnel for  New England Patriots.

Se here we stand, with new ownership and new management.  Will they begin with a smart draft or will they hope to make a big splash to appease fans?  My guess is the Lions renaissance begins this year and by 2018, we’re looking at a Super Bowl bound team.

For the upcoming draft, here is my mock draft.  I’ve done all 10 picks with three options at each.  I tend to look at what is needed rather than best available.

First Round, Pick 16:

  1. Taylor Decker, OT, 6’7″ 315 lbs. – Ohio State
  2. Jack Conklin, OT, 6’5″ 308 lbs.. – Michigan State
  3. A’Shawn Robinson, DT, 6’3″ 307 lbs. – Alabama

Lions need to beef up that offensive line, particularly at left tackle.  They missed out on getting free agents Russell Okung and Ryan Harris.  While I like Reilly Reif a lot, I think he is overmatched at left tackle and would do better at his natural spot over at right tackle.  Decker and Conklin are 1 & 1A here and if the Lions take either one, I’m satisfied.  Help is also needed on the D-line and Robinson would take a lot pressure off Ziggy Ansah to get to the quarterback.

Second Round, Pick 46: 

  1. Adolphus Washington, DE/DT, 6’4″, 290 lbs. – Ohio State
  2. Derrick Henry, RB, 6’2″, 247 lbs. – Alabama
  3. William Jackson, CB, 6’0″, 189 lbs. – Houston

Big pick here and any one of these three players could have an immediate impact.  Washington is a versatile player and is a good run stopper as well as getting to the QB.  Henry would be a grinder at running back and a surprise catching passes.  Would be a great fit with Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick.  Secondary can always use help and Jackson would push others in the secondary to up their game.

Third Round, Pick 95

  1. Anthony Zettle, DE/DT, 6’4″, 258 lbs. – Penn State
  2. Jeremy Cash, S, 6’0″, 212 lbs. – Duke
  3. Conner Cook, QB, 6’4″ 218 lbs. – Michigan State

Zettle would need to beef up a bit to go to the interior.  If the Lions take him, perhaps they have him as a defensive end…or when the ball is snapped, have him snake behind DT pushing the line forward.  Cash could bring a Kam Chancellor attitude to the Lions secondary which could use a player of that caliber.  As for Cook, if he’s there, Lions might be smart to grab him.  Stafford is only 28 years old but Orlovsky isn’t a capable back-up if Stafford goes down for an extended period of time.  Bring Cook in, let him watch and learn how to play to give him some time to develop to the NFL game.  He might even push Stafford for the starting job in a couple of years.

Fourth Round, Pick 111

  1. Jack Allen, C, 6’2″, 296 lbs. – Michigan State
  2. Denver Kirkland, G, 6’4″, 335 lbs. – Arkansas
  3. Graham Glasgow, C, 6’6″, 306 lbs. – Michigan

Totally an offensive line pick here.  And I believe that going for a center is tantamount.  Travis Swanson is good but his talent lies more toward being a guard.  Jack Allen has that quickness and smarts to be a starting center in the NFL.  If Swanson stays, he’ll need some help…and what would be more comforting than a 335 lb. guard to the left of you to help open holes and give your left tackle some breathing room?  Kirkland could be the pick here.  Glasgow was the best O-Line player on an under-achieving Michigan team.

Fifth Round, Pick 151 (first of two picks in the fifth)

  1. Taveze Calhoun, DB, 6’1″, 181 lbs. – Mississippi State
  2. Laquan McGown, OL/TE, 6’7″, 410 lbs. – Baylor
  3. Luther Maddy, DT, 6’0″ 287 lbs. – Virginia Tech

Calhoun might play in the nickel package but I see him more of special teams player.  He’s fast so good on punt returns but also would be good as a gunner, getting good hits on opposing team’s returner and causing turnovers.  McGown is an interesting pick because I think you go could do some interesting things with him.  Imagine a short-yardage situation and him being part of the “Jumbo Package” with him shedding a block and then going out in the flat.  Or switch him to the defensive line and have teams try to run up the middle on him.  Maddy would give you some much needed depth which seems to be a requirement on NFL teams these days.

Fifth Round, Pick 169

  1. Kenny Lawler, WR, 6’3″, 185 lbs. – California
  2. Hassan Ridgeway, DT, 6’3″, 303 lbs. – Texas
  3. Victor Ochi, DE, 6’2″, 245 lbs. Stony Brook

Lawler isn’t fast but he has a knack for getting open and makes the clutch catches.  Giving Stafford another safety valve other than Theo Riddick makes the team that more dangerous.  Ridgeway and Ochi are sleepers in this draft and will surprise teams.

Sixth Round, Pick 191 (first of three picks in the sixth)

  1.  Dominque Alexander, LB, 6’2″, 232 lbs. – Bowling Green
  2. Glenn Gronkowski, FB/TE, 6″2″, 238 lbs. – Kansas State
  3. Cassanova McKinzy, ILB, 6’1″, 248 lbs. – Auburn

Alexander is big and fast enough to cover opposing tight ends in the flat and running backs coming out on screen passes.  Needs work on tackling correctly.  If Rob Gronkowski’s little brother has half the talent his big brother does, this could be a steal.  If he does play TE, will need to beef up a bit.  McKinzy could transition to middle linebacker but would need some time to develop.

Sixth Round, Pick 202

  1. Matt Johnson, QB, 6’0″, 219 lbs. – Bowling Green
  2. Joe Schubert, OLB, 6’1″, 247 lbs. – Wisconsin
  3. D.J. Reader, NT, 6’3″, 340 lbs. – Clemson

Johnson would need to work on a better delivery when passing.  Surprised that at 6’0″ he would opt for a side-arm motion which just makes him smaller.  Good instincts and resilient, correct that delivery and you might have something.  Schubert has a motor that doesn’t quit and is a sure tackler.  Needs better technique on pass coverage.  Reader would be a great addition to the D-Line as a tackle to close off the middle for the ground game and get a push on the QB in the passing game.  I imagine he would knock down a few passes.

Sixth Round, Pick 210

  1. Nelson Spruce, WR, 6’1″, 206 lbs. – Colorado
  2. Drew Kaser, P, 6’2″, 212 lbs. – Texas A&M
  3. Jeff Driskel, QB, 6’3″ 230 lbs. – Louisiana Tech

Some interesting options here.  Spruce will be the same guy, every game, every snap.  Fearless as a punt returner, willing to go over the middle and fight for the ball.  Lacks speed but is sure handed and will strike with purpose while blocking for the run game.  I generally don’t like to draft punters or kickers but this time I make an exception with Kaser.  Has a big leg and good directional kicking that can change field position from just about anywhere on the grid iron.  Could change momentum of games with one kick.  Driskel is a Drew Stanton type QB but with better set-up in the pocket.  Gets the ball out quick but has issues in throwing receivers open.  Accurate and confident in the short passing game, tends to overthrow on long passes and gets happy feet if protection breaks down.

Seventh Round, Pick 236

  1. Devon Johnson, RB/FB, 6’0″, 238 lbs. – Marshall
  2. David Morgan, TE, 6’4″, 262 lbs. – USTA
  3. Ross Martin, K, 5’10” 183 lbs. – Duke

Johnson earned the nickname “Rockhead” and no one wanted to get in his way.  Receiving skills could land him some time as an H-Back.  Will drop his pads and drive through tacklers, would be excellent in short-yardage and goal line situations.  Lions need an answer at TE.  Pettigrew is sporadic and Ebron hasn’t fulfilled expectations.  Morgan has very sure hands and will secure the catch despite hits coming.  Former high school basketball player with leaping ability and good body control.  Needs work on his stride and tends to give his route movement away early.  More upside at this draft spot then down.  Another exception to drafting kickers, Martin is a true technician as a kicker.  Last two years was outstanding with accuracy with 90.5% and 86.7% respectively.  Was 4-4 from 50 plus yards and can also punt if needed.  Doesn’t have the NFL leg for kickoffs but was one of the most consistent kickers over the last two years.

So there you have it Lions fans…is the Beer Thinker nuts or on track?

Go Lions!

Seahawks Season Ends With Loss to Panthers 31-24

We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time….Vince Lombardi.

I use the quote by the great Vince Lombardi because it is the perfect metaphor for the game they played against the Carolina Panthers…they just ran out of time.

This game was an example of how the season went.  Giving up 31 points in the first half seemed like a very deep hole to dig out of but the resiliency of this team showed they just don’t give up.

But there is a reason why the Carolina Panthers are a 15-1 team.  They took care of business early on with Washington native Jonathon Stewart ripping off a 75 yard run on the first play of the game to set up the first Carolina touchdown.

The defense came up big on the very next series when Luke Kuechly picked off an ill-advised Russell Wilson pass and ran it in for a pick six to go up 14-0 barley four minutes played.

And the Panthers continued to pour it on, scoring 17 more points in the second quarter.

But the Seahawks regrouped in the second half.  The defense came up huge by shutting out the Panthers in the second half and allowing the offense to crawl it’s way out of the deep hole they dug for themselves.

Some great individual efforts and the one effort I want to point out is the one by Jermaine Kearse.  His play in the second half was stellar, catching two clutch touchdowns and making great catch after great catch to finish with 11 catches for 110 yards to go along with the 2 scores.

Another is rookie Tyler Lockett.  His TD catch was clutch and his receiving technique on a crucial third down situation was nothing short of amazing.  Seahawks have found a treasure in this kid.  He had only 3 catches for 75 yards but his 50 yard return to open the second half was a spark the Hawks desperately needed.

Marshawn Lynch was a non-factor in this game and I don’t feel he will be back in a Seahawk uniform next season.  I admire his running style and they way he fights for every yard he can get.  But he is at point in his career where he is starting to break down.

About the only way he comes back to the Hawks is a re-structured contract and a reduced role with the offense.  It appears to me that Thomas Rawls has the inside track to be the featured running back.

While I admire Pete Carroll’s mantra to run first, I also have to admire his adaptability to open up the passing game and put the team on the shoulders of Russell Wilson who showed the rest of the NFL that he is capable of carrying the team when needed.

Wilson showed remarkable leadership skills this game as well as the second-half of the season.  His decision making became sublime in his historic second half run.  At one point, over a 5-game stretch, he had 19 touchdowns with zero interceptions, something that no quarterback in the history of the game ever accomplished.  And there have been some great quarterbacks over the past 96 years the NFL has been in existence.

As always at the end of a season, there will be some hard choices to make.  With the Seahawks it will be with the following players:

Marshawn Lynch – No one can dispute when the Seahawks made the trade for the mercurial running back in 2010 that it was going to be Lynch to be the face of the Seahawks.  Lynch came through time after time, putting the Hawks on the playoff map with his seismic Beast Quake run against the New Orleans Saints later that same year.  But next year will be Lynch’s 10th year in the NFL and will be 30 years old.  Just coming off his first ever surgery and is one of the highest paid players in the NFL.  It may come down to a business decision to release Lynch to free up salary cap for younger players.  If Lynch decides to retire, Seattle should throw him the biggest freaking party it can…but it would be a coin toss if he showed up for it.

Russell Okung – Okung is considered one of the top left tackles in the game.  Issue I have with him is that we’ve never gotten a full season from him.  He was the Hawks first pick in the 2010 draft and landed a six year contract worth $48 million dollars with more than $29 million of it guaranteed.  Now that he’s up for free agency, he is going to command an even higher salary.  My opinion, while Okung is a good left tackle and I would hate to disrupt that line, Hawks need to part ways with Okung and find another left tackle in the draft, perhaps Jack Conklin out of Michigan State or Jerald Hawkins of LSU.  Okung is going to be way to expensive for the Hawks to keep.

J.R. Sweezy – This is a guy I think we need to keep.  He brings solidity to the right guard spot and is an good run blocker.  He is at the end of a 4-year, $2.1 million dollar contract.  If the Hawks can keep him with a 3-year at about a $5 million dollar contract, it will be less disruption on the offensive line which took a while to come around in 2015.

Jermaine Kearse – Over the last two years, Kearse has come up with some very clutch catches.  All of us can remember the acrobatic catch he made in the 2014 Super Bowl against the Patriots.  And this game, coming up huge with his performance against the Panthers.  Hawks need to keep him so the receiving corps of Kearse, Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Luke Wilson and yes, Jimmy Graham are kept intact for the 2016 season.

Brandon Mebane – An absolute monster in the middle but may have to be a causality  of the business.  Gotta love the effort he puts out every game and how effective he is bottling up the middle against the run.  As much as I’d love to keep him, it wouldn’t be cost-effective to do so.

So here is to yet another great season the Hawks gave us and here is to hoping they continue to finds ways to keep finding players to maintain the level of excellence all Seahawk fans come to expect.

And while I applaud the Carolina Panthers season and their ability to survive the game against the Hawks, I will be rooting for the Arizona Cardinals next week…and if the Cards can get past them, I will be rooting for them against the AFC team they face in the Super Bowl.  Love to see one of the classiest players in the game, Larry Fitzgerald, get a Super Bowl ring.

GO HAWKS!

Detroit Lions – Green Bay Loss Hurt But Need To Stay Hungry

Stay Hungry

I, like many Lions fans, was sure the game was won Thursday night.  We outplayed them for 60 minutes and we had them.  But a small yellow flag gave the Packers another chance…and they took advantage of it.

I could be stoic and say it’s all part of the game.  But I can’t.  I am pissed that the game was basically decided on a referee’s decision.  Packer fans can say what they want but that was no face mask.

But shame on the Lions as well.  Granted, the Packers got the opportunity but where the hell was our defense?  Did no once consider the Packers would attempt a Hail Mary?  With no time left and only one shot, how the hell can you not expect it?

The Lions are pretty much out of the playoffs for this year.  I don’t know how anyone could have expected a team starting out 1-7 would have qualified but the Lions played well enough over the 3 games prior to this loss to give us a glimmer of hope.

And they played well enough Thursday night to make people think that it just might happen.  The Lions offense clicked well in the first half and the defense was lights out for the whole game.

We all know what happened.  The call the refs blew yet again and yet again it went against the Lions.

Facemask

Look, I am all for player safety.  But I also think that common sense needs to be instituted.   Devin Taylor’s thumb brushed Aaron Rodgers’ facemask…it wasn’t blatant and there was no harm done.

However, because Taylor brought Rodgers down by his shoulder pad, it looked like it was a facemask.  This play should have been reviewable…and if it had been, I am almost sure that New York would have reversed the call since the contact with the face mask was incidental.

All right, I’ve vented my frustrations and have accepted the condolences of my friends, none of whom can understand why I continue to root for this team.  I can only compare it to when people ask me what it’s like to ride a Harley Davidson.  If I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.  About the only thing the Lions can expect is yet another apology for blowing yet another call.

Now is the time to start looking forward.  The Lions, if they get the right GM in, are in a great position to improve themselves in specific areas, which I believe are the offensive and defensive lines…and in that order.

We have the quarterback in Matthew Stafford that I believe is finally showing the type of QB we all have been waiting for.  Of course for years I have been saying the Lions needed to get him an offensive line to give him time to display those talents.  And while the line has been better the last 4 games, depth is needed to make it even more successful.

It is possible the Lions will have as many as 11 picks in the 2016 draft.  Let’s call it a departing gift from Martin Mayhew.  While losing Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairly, Corey Hilliard, Kellen Davis and Jed Collins to free agency without signing any unrestricted free agents, the Lions will be rewarded with at least 3 compensatory picks in addition to the eight draft picks the Lions currently have.

That gives them a ton of options and I think for the Lions to move to the next level, they are going to need depth on the offensive and defensive lines.  And they need to seek players that will compete with the current starters and push them to excellence.

And this next observation is critical:  Those players that cannot accept competing for the jobs each week need to be shown the door.

It started with new leadership at the top when Martha Ford removed Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand.  It continued when Jim Bob Cooter replaced Joe Lombardi as offensive coordinator.

And head coach Jim Caldwell, despite whatever success he may have for the rest of this year, has to know he is on the hot seat.  I’m willing to give him one more year since changes he has made have resulted in some success.  But now, after this loss, he has to prove his coaching chops and continue success by winning as many games as he can the rest of this year.

Draft position isn’t going to matter for 2016.  There are so many players out there that can be had in the later rounds and rookie free agency, the Lions can upgrade in many areas without breaking the bank.

So the mantra for the rest of this year is the Lions need to stay hungry for the rest of this year…and need to stay hungry from this day forward.

Go Lions!