Sunday, April 8, 2007

Calvin Johnson to Detroit at No. 2 is a No Brainer

The guy can make a one handed catch while wearing orthopedic shoes for cripes sake!

In this year's draft, there are two sure things: 1. The Raiders would have to be on drugs not to take Jamarcus Russell; and 2. Calvin Johnson is perhaps the best wide receiving prospect ever, and IS the best overall player in this draft.

Jamarcus and CJ have a lot in common in terms of showcasing talents that are off the charts (Russell throws 60 yards from his knees and Calvin Johnson hit the 45 inch vertical leap marker with ease and could have gone higher except that the measuring apparatus doesn't go any higher). Any other year these two guys would go top 2 without a second thought, but for a number of reasons, NONE of which have anything to do with objective analysis of positions and the like, the pundits won't even consider the idea that Millen and the Lions will select this year's best player.

The way I see it, the Lions have two choices, trade out of the No. 2 slot and load up on defensive talent or take Calvin Johnson and immediately have the most intimidating wide receiver tandem in the league. For me it is clear that Johnson is the ONLY pick that makes sense at 2.

First, the fact that Millen's previous wide receiver gambles haven't worked out only STRENGTHENS the argument to take Johnson at No. 2. Many pundits have suggested that the Lions cannot possibly consider Calvin Johnson because their turd of a GM's taudy WR drafting history. I contend Millen's history only strengthens the argument to take Cal Johnson. Follow me here: if you have no confidence that Matt Millen can evaluate talent properly because of his past gambles, why would you want him to gamble and not take the best player in the draft? There is no debate that Johnson is the best or second best player in thsi draft. Why would you feel comfortable with Millen taking anyone other than Calvin Johnson? If the Lions bypass the consensus No. 2 pick they are entrusting Matt Millen to evaluate the team's needs and find someone better. Isn't that exactly what you want to avoid? Taking Calvin Johnson takes the decision-making right out of Millen's hands and gives the the best WR in a generation. What is wrong with this?

Second, the Lions are not taking Joe Thomas. Let's get that right out of the way. Last Spring, the Lions put the franchise tag on, and then later signed, their standout left tackle Jeff Backus to a 6 year deal. Backus is a borderline Pro-Bowler and had he not been signed last year, he would have easily been the best offensive lineman available in this year's free agent market. This offseason, as part of the Dre Bly trade, the Lions acquired right tackle George Foster from the Broncos. Foster is 26 years-old, started 45 of 48 games for the Broncos and combined with Backus makes the tackle position the only strength on the entire Lions team. They've also upgraded their interior line depth this offseason but could certainly use more depth through the draft at center and guard. They are not going to draft a tackle at the No. 2 spot so he can battle it out for a spot on opening day with two very good veterans when they have so many other holes at other spots and so much talent available in the draft.

Not to mention that while Joe Thomas may be ranked as the top tackle in the draft, you have to be a little leery of a guy who had ACL surgery 18 months ago and is regarded as being an average run blocker. That doesn't scream No. 2 pick to me.

Third, the Lions are not a pick away from becoming legitimate. They've done some decent things in the offseason with the offensive line help and the RB depth with Bell and Duckett, but they are such a disaster defensively that they are years away from contention. Taking an offensive lineman is something you do to sure up a team you feel is just a player or two away from legitimacy. The Lions are a roster upheaval and three years away, minimum.

Fourth, though they may not be one pick away from playoff contention, the Lions are one pick away from being exciting and relevant. Imagine, if you will, Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson stacked on the left side or split to either side. How do you cover them exactly? Most teams only have one cover corner even remotely capable of covering a receiver like Williams or Johnson and that's only if they know they have help over the top. If they take Johnson, the Lions immediately possess the most athletically gifted receiving duo in the league. Every time they line up on the field together a turtle's head will sneak out of the ass of the opposing defensive coordinator. And with apologies to Mike Furrey, who is a serviceable 3rd receiver in the mold of Chrebet, Stokley or Bobby Engram, the Lions could use some help at the wide receiver position. If Johnson is anywhere near what he's supposed to be, just having him on the same field as Roy Williams is almost worth taking the pick. Plus, regardless of what happens with the rest of the picks or next year's picks, you get to have Calvin Johnson on your team--the best player in the 2007 draft. Lions fans have been waiting for something to cheer about for years. This gives them reason to cheer.

Fifth, who else do you want them to pick? The Lions need defense but the top 5 isn't loaded with an "it" guy and with the No. 2 pick you have to take an "it" guy. Other than Laron Landry (who may be a decent pick for them) and my man-crush Amobi Okoye, there is really no one defensively that makes that much sense for them. They have some need at QB, but unless Russell is there, they don't need to rush that position. Plus, who is available? Brady Quinn? He is perhaps the most overrated prospect in the history of the draft, next to Tony Mandarich. Someone, and I can't remember who, explained Quinn's overratedness this way: Would he receive such universal acclaim if he was Brady Quinn, Senior QB - Oregon? No chance. Whereas even if Jamarcus Russell was coming out of Illinois or some other shitstick big ten program, he'd be the No. 1 pick anyway. Russell's appeal goes way beyond the uniform he wore in college. He has elite skill the likes of which has never been seen before. If you were asked to summarize why Brady Quinn is a top ten QB, what would you say? What big win did he have in college? Is he overly mobile? Is he dead-on accurate? Does he have a big arm? Can he read defenses? Under what objective criteria is Quinn a top ten pick? The answer is there is none other than hype.

Lastly, and maybe most importantly, if Millen picks Calvin Johnson and it does not turn out well, Matt Millen will be fired. He can't afford to make such an unpopular pick and have it not turn out well. With a wide receiver you can tell almost immediately just how solid a pick it was, whereas if he picks Joe Thomas, the pundits will laud him, the Lions will get a B on their draft card and Millen will make comments about building for the future. That's all well and good but what it does is give management an excuse to keep him on another year to see if that improvement actually takes hold. So what you'd get is an unelectrifying No. 2 draft selection, you don't get CJ and you get Matt Millen for a minimum of another two years while this thing plays out. Is that really what you want? It just doesn't make sense.

Now, I'm not necessarily saying that this is what they should do. I think a team like Atlanta would be willing to give up their 1st, a 2nd and a 1st or 2nd next year for the rights to CJ if he's there. That would give Detroit 4 of the first 66 picks and could go a LONG way towards rebuilding that team defensively. But if Detroit is going to stay at No. 2, there is no one else on the board worthy of taking, and it's not even close.

I'm also not suggesting that this is what's going to happen. Millen is an asshole and is apparently bullet proof. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if we heard Goodell stand up and say, "With the second pick, the Detroit Lions select Daniel Sepulveda, Punter - Baylor." If I were Matt Millen, I'd do it just to see how bullet proof I actually was. It'd be like that girl from Heroes sticking her hand in the blender. Why the F not?

(Update: If you saw the Sunday Conversation with Jamarcus Russell, he threw the ball 50 yards from his ass. Chad Pennington can't throw a ball 50 yards on the moon.)


MikeForster said...

My dad ran into Charlie Sanders, and he told him that they were going to take Calvin Johnson if he was on the board...I don't know how much Charlie's in the loop, but he was really sure of himself.

Stan Marcohz said...

Excellence. Calvin Johnson is no doubt the obvious choice. Millen is engulfed with the notion of keeping Lions fans, like myself, on edge with the guessing game.

Brady Quinn is just too obvious...the Piano Man era is still way too fresh in the minds of Lion fans. In Quinn they/we see Joey part Deux.

I say why not take JOhnson?

Brian said...

Johnson! Johnson! Johnson... unless we get offered a king's ransom to trade the pick.

Matthew said...

Good analysis, but you overrate Foster. He's nothing more than a backup.

If he's starting for the Lions then you know their O line is in trouble.

Alan said...

A nice writeup, well done. Though, I agree with Matthew and think you overrate Foster. Also, while Backus is a good LT, he'll never be a great one, but he would make a great RT if someone on the team could step-up and play LT. There is certainly motivation for a Martz offense to consider a potential All-pro LT in the draft.