The Lions need to keep mending “best player available” and “filling needs” draft strategy

Dec 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell during the second quarter2 against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 11, 2016; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell during the second quarter2 against the Chicago Bears at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

Every draft season the phrases drafting “the best player available” and “filling a need” are spewed out of analysts mouths and onto computers non-stop. People support both sides, and more importantly, people believe that their way is the way to draft. In recent seasons, the Detroit Lions, while under then GM Martin Mayhew, were in the “best player” camp. And well, we all know how that worked out. Today, GM Bob Quinn is gearing up for his second draft and hopefully, he continues his successful strategy (which included holding a bat) from last season.

During his welcoming press conference, Quinn came out saying he planned to combine these two draft strategies. It’s actually amazing that he has to say that’s his plan because that should be the normal route to take on draft day. But after spending almost a decade with Mayhew and his shenanigans, I love this mentality.

I couldn’t stand watching the clock tick down on Detroit only to hear some obscure player that I swear the team already had a solid player at. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a million linemen that aren’t in Detroit, or even in the league anymore, get drafted by the Lions. Draft time is supposed to be fun and exciting, but instead, I’m stuck looking at Larry Webster who may have played in a game before he was cut but I won’t look it up because he is not worth my research time.

So Quinn’s “master plan” of combining the two is by far the best idea. Usually, teams hit this combo at the very top of the draft, meaning the team was horrid so basically everything is a need. When Matt Stafford and Ndamukong Suh were drafted they both fit right into this mold. That optimization of both sides of the coin is honestly what every team yearns for, season after season.

The best player available scenario did work out a time or two for the Lions, though. One example is a guy I probably don’t have to remind you about, Calvin Johnson. Still, this sure thing of a pick wasn’t such a sure thing to Detroit on draft day. (Please watch to at least to the 2:00 mark.)

DID YOU HEAR MEL KIPER? (If you didn’t take the time to watch he mutters “Why not Brady Quinn here.”) Seriously, every single player, no matter how much of a sure thing, is a risk and somebody will think there’s a better fit elsewhere. Calvin managed to work out very well, but players like Ernie Sims, Nick Fairley and Mike Williams, were not so lucky. And I know that Mayhew didn’t draft all of them, and not every player he drafted was a bust. Still, the risk of consistently taking guys that play the same position as some of your top talents is dangerous.

This strategy doesn’t just hurt those players already starting, it also wrecks depth. This past season, Detroit was left with scraps at linebacker and cornerback after injuries struck. By the end of the year, they hit free agency praying that guys like Asa Jackson would help. And well, we all saw how that turned out.

And maybe the worst thing about over drafting as positions because of “talent” is how it affects other’s potential. Obviously, you hope to see the team get better each year, drafting immediate contributors. But, when that talent is hindering young players Detroit just recently drafted, such as grabbing a top running back and kicking Abdullah to the side or drafting a guy to play behind somebody that’s already a stud, such as Fairly behind Suh, it just isn’t worth it. It would be like Detroit drafting Jabrill Peppers this year. That’s basically saying that Miles Killebrew was a wasted pick. I can’t speak for you, but a fourth-round player that showed obvious improvement over the season being pushed aside would annoy me. It would be putting this team right back in the Mayhew hole and making even bigger holes in this roster.

Every player in this draft has the chance to be a bust. It’s the nature of the game. Somebody drafted after every Lions pick is going to make an impact. This will cause fans to skim past drafts on Wikipedia. (Caution: That is a very, very, dark path to go down and I highly recommend prepping for some heartbreak.) So with that risk, why even risk picking a guy that you don’t need because he’s a “sure thing?”

-Related: Read the SideLion Report Mock Draft 1.0

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