Making the wrong selection on early picks has repercussions for years to come and it is what the Detroit Lions need to avoid in the 2020 NFL Draft.
It might seem obvious that making a bad selection in the NFL draft is detrimental to a football team like the Detroit Lions. But the failure can affect matters for years to come. Allow me to illustrate.
After presenting a mock draft last week and reading some of the comments it started me thinking about the Lions’ past drafts, specifically the early rounds. After some discussions with other fans, there was an example that stood out to me. Perhaps it will to you too.
It starts like this: How are the 2014 draft picks of tight end Eric Ebron and the 2020 signing of linebacker Jamie Collins related? Let me set the board. Here we have the 2014 Lions roster as the season began.
Now instead of the starting tight end being Ebron, let’s presume it was someone else (say a free agent, the name isn’t the point). Say the Lions drafted a defensive tackle named Aaron Donald instead. Most Lions fans have been complaining about that for years. How good does that defensive line look now? Ebron didn’t take them into the postseason, but that D-line might have won a playoff game for them.
Alas, that didn’t happen. The 2015 NFL Draft arrives. In the first round say the Lions don’t draft left tackle Laken Tomlinson but rather draft defensive tackle Malcolm Brown because Ndamukong Suh exits the team in free agency. The Lions now have Brown and Donald at DT for three years (2015-2018) at a minimum.
In the second round, the Lions don’t draft oft-injured running back Ameer Abdullah. Instead Detroit select tight end Maxx Williams who was selected two spots later.
We on to 2017. The Lions draft linebacker T.J. Watt instead of Jarrad Davis in the first round and running back Alvin Kamara in the second round instead of cornerback Teez Tabor.
The Lions now have Aaron Donald, Malcolm Brown, Maxx Williams, T.J. Watt and Alvin Kamara instead of Ebron, Tomlinson, Abdullah, and Davis. The other two years remain the same. The roster was better each of the years from 2014 through 2018 in my opinion.
In 2019, the Lions already have their tight end in Williams. So instead of drafting T.J. Hockenson in the first round they are able to go with defensive tackle Ed Oliver or maybe, even better, linebacker Devin Bush. Then, in the second round, it’s defensive tackle Chase Winovich instead of linebacker Jahlani Tavai which keeps the defensive front seven young and without too many (if any) expensive vets.
Fast forward to 2020, the Patriots don’t release Jamie Collins as they don’t have Winovich. The Lions wouldn’t have paid $10 million per for Collins anyway as they have the other players on the roster I just went through.
So by drafting poorly in one year, say 2014, you can easily affect all the early picks in the next five years where you end up with a losing roster of some good players but not great players. You also end up paying Collins a massive contract and missing out on all that talent up until then.
That’s a lot of dominoes to keep track of. But if you did, you see how the makeup of the roster was affected by moves made that could have turned out so much different.
Is this all hindsight? I don’t think so as most of the picks I suggested as replacements were highly touted in their respective drafts. Conversely, most of the actual selections by the Lions were not.
In the end, this is not the year for the Detroit Lions to start another game of dominoes. This is the year to get it right.