In my eyes, this coming season is all about one thing for the Detroit Lions. Getting over the hump.
The real one. The barrier between an 8-10 win Wild Card team and an elite team that is feared by every opponent they face. With the right moves done in the first round, I think we might see the Lions evolve to the next level next season.
A couple weeks ago I wrote about free agents the Lions should avoid. By that same token, there are several players in the upcoming draft that should be avoided.
All of the projected first round picks are in that position for a reason: talent isn’t too difficult to assess. What is a bit more difficult to project is a player’s impact on the team off the field. Their attitudes, priorities, baggage and motivation.
A first round, high-profile rookie generally won’t have a leadership role early on, but they can still be an influence in the locker room. They may be high-maintenance. They may not have figured out how to filter themselves on Twitter and other social media sites. They may, like some of the rookies the Lions are looking at, have character or legal issues from their collegiate days. Maybe they declared the NFL draft before they were eligible and had to sit out a year.
Maybe they’re a wide receiver from USC.
If your line of thought is moving the way I’m trying to lead you, the player you’re thinking of right now is Mike Williams, the first round pick of the Lions back in 2005. In 2004, the Lions went 6-10, steadily improving their overall record from each previous season. Things were really looking up for that squad of Lions, and then it all went downhill. Williams is by no means the only reason for this, but I think a soured draft can really leave holes in a team, and this flop of a pick did just that.
Anyway, the point is that right now the Lions don’t have room to take a shot in the dark in this draft if they hope to improve next season. This is especially true because they don’t have much cap space to work with and bring in a free agent that’ll be a significant upgrade.
CB Janoris Jenkins (North Alabama) and LB Vontaze Burfict (Arizone State) are two guys that the Lions have been seriously looking at early in the draft process. These are two incredibly talented players, but there are red flags everywhere – especially considering Burfict’s terrible showing at the combine.
Jenkins originally was enrolled at the University of Florida before he was dismissed for misconduct. He has multiple arrests and drug possession charges. Burfict on the other hand, has been called for an outrageous number of personal fouls during his three year college career (just what the Lions need, right?). Additionally, during the interview at the combine, Burfict was quick to pass the blame to others for some of his resume blemishes.
I don’t think we were completely certain what we were getting when we selected Williams back in 2005. We saw (another) shiny new wide receiver with freakish athletic abilities, but had been out of the game for a whole year. The Lions believed he could overcome this, but the work ethic wasn’t there. Unfortunately, he didn’t live up to the 10th overall selection and was out of Detroit after two seasons.
I think guys like Jenkins and Burfict fall in the same category of Williams. Will they mature quickly and positively contribute to the teams that select them? In a perfect world, yes. I just don’t think the Lions are in a position to be the ones taking that chance.