Join us each day as we count down towards the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The countdown runs from 50 to zero and the number of days remaining will inspire the post for that day. Think of this as your NFL draft paper chain that loses one link each day!
With 45 days remaining until the NFL draft kicks off (pun intended) I have been pondering the situation of the man that wears number 45 for the Detroit Lions: Jerome Felton.
The Lions have indicated their desire to retain his services by tendering him a contract. Felton is expected to be a restricted free agent once the labor situation reaches some sort of calm and the contract tender entitles the Lions to compensation if Felton left for another team.
It will be interesting to see how the situation plays out since Felton was vocal about his desire for an increased ball carrying role in the Lions offense. The numbers suggest the carries he has received haven’t warranted an increased workload but Felton sees himself as a power running back rather than a prototypical fullback.
While the Lions want Felton back, it has to be on their terms, not his. If they feel he is committed to himself above the team then he likely won’t be retained. The Lions coaching staff rightfully acknowledges players that are particularly important for the team’s success but they are able to balance that by demanding that everyone does what is in the best interest of the team (or in the words of new Michigan football coach Brady Hoke, “the team, the team, the team”).
Martin Mayhew and Jim Schwartz have laid down a definitive plan to fill the roster with quality character on and off the field. That is bad news for those that rock the boat or decide to be discontent. One of the benefits of the Lions beginning to load their roster with more talent is that it makes subtracting the bad pieces less painful. Past Lions regimes may have been more willing to hang on to a bad apple to avoid creating another gaping hole when the team already had so many from a general talent deficiency. The Lions should really take off once the talent gap with the rest of the league is fully closed. Will Jerome Felton be part of that? Time will tell.
We will also see the Lions new philosophy play out in this year’s draft. On one level, Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith seems like a natural fit for the Lions. He possesses loads of talent at a definite position of need, however character concerns could drop him off the Lions’ draft board. The Lions may have a firm philosophy but that doesn’t mean it will eliminate a player like Smith, or Felton if it comes to that, without a thorough vetting of the situation. Martin Mayhew will do his due diligence. As a former teammate of Deion Sanders at Florida State, Mayhew knows there is often more to a man than what is presented publicly.
Felton may stay, Felton may go. Smith may be selected, Smith may be passed over. In both cases the Lions will have stuck to the principles they have set for themselves and the future will be better because of it.