Detroit Lions draft review, day one: Needs were filled, but where they filled with the right players?


On day one of the 2008 NFL draft, the Lions filled needs. Glaring needs. Huge needs. Needs that could no longer be ignored. But they players they selected, Gosder Cherilus and Jordon Dizon, were both thought to be reaches by NFL draftniks.

The Lions believe they ended up with a pair of players who will be number one on the depth chart at their respective positions when the ’08 season starts. I’m just not sure if it means the players the Lions drafted are that good, or the Lions are that bad.

1st round (17th overall) Boston College OT Gosder Cherilus:

Cherilus fills a huge need, as right tackle was nothing but a revolving door in 2007. A revolving door that couldn’t pass block, run block, or remember the snap count. Obviously, Churilus was the fall back plan with Derrick Harvey and Jerod Mayo went off the board early in the 1st round. With the defensive help they desired no longer available, the Lions traded back 2 spots in the 1st round, determining Cherilus was the better fit than the higher rated tackle going into the draft, Jeff Otah. From most accounts, Cherilus was considered a low 1st to early 2nd round talent, so he was a bit of reach by Millen and Marinelli.

Cherilus is a solid player, and should start immediately as a rookie at right tackle. So did left tackle Jeff Backus, who has been a solid pro, entrenching himself as the starter since his 1st NFL game. But he’s not a Pro bowl talent, yet the Lions are paying him like one. With Cherilus getting 1st round money, it gives the Lions bookend tackles who are decent, but not elite, yet are being paid as such.

As long as Cherilus remembers the snap count (George Foster, anyone?) and doesn’t eat his way out of game shape after getting a big money contract (Damien Woody, FTW!), the right side of the Lions offensive line will be in better shape in 2008 than in 2007. How much better is yet to be determined…

2nd round (45th overall) Colorado LB Jordon Dizon:

You cannot deny Dizon was a great college player, a Big 12 tackling machine. The question is, will his effectiveness carry over into the NFL? As he’ll be the Lions starting middle linebacker sometime before the end of the ’08 season, let’s hope so. At 6′-0″, 229 lbs, many NFL running backs and wide receivers are bigger and faster than the undersized Dizon. (For example, Lions 3rd round pick, RB Kevin Smith, is 6′-1″ 217 lbs) You also have to wonder if he can fend off offensive linemen who are 100-125 lbs heavier.

Dizon was another reach for the M & M boys, as he was believed to be a 3rd round talent. But his “football intangibles,” the sort of thing Marinelli laps up like a cat does milk, are off the charts. Dizon is the anti-Boss Bailey, who was a great athlete, with size and speed to burn, but a lousy linebacker who couldn’t tackle. Dizon may not have near the same measurables, but his play on the field speaks volumes.

Still, he can’t help but be an upgrade over incumbent MLB Paris Lenon, who should not be starting in the NFL. In describing Dizon, I’ve heard comparisons to former Lions mainstay Chris Speilman, another over achieving linebacker. We can only hope Dizon, and his “intangibles,” allow him to have a Spielman-like career. Intangibles or not, you can’t teach size. And size is something Dizon lacks, and will have to overcome.

Overall grade: B-

It’s a big leap forward for the Lions, hoping to get more substance than sizzle in the draft.Thanks to the 1st two rounds alone, the Lions are better team today than they were last Friday. How much better depends on Rod Marinelli, as this draft has his fingerprints all over it.

The fact they drafted to fill obvious needs, needs continually patched or outright ignored during the Millen era, bumps their grade up a tad. It was refreshing to see after years of drafting skill player after skill player. But the fact both Churilus and Dizon could be considered marginal reaches at best, and huge mistakes in personnel judgment at worse, keeps me from getting too excited over the 1st two picks.

Next: The 3rd round picks