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Detroit Lions draft history: What if...

With the news that Larry Csonka finally got fired as Lions' GM, it got me thinking about his awesome track record when it came to the draft.  It's been repeated throughout his 30-year history as Lions' GM that Millen could've gotten lots of good players but he ended up taking players like Kalimba Edwards and David "Circus" Kircus.  So I decided to rewrite a little history and present what the Lions COULD'VE looked like these days if Millen actually had a clue (or had actual NFL-caliber scouts working for his scouting department.) 

Before I present my findings, I'd like to point out that yes, I am aware that it's pretty damn hard to figure out which players from college will actually become good, and which players will turn out like Kalimba Edwards.  And if the Lions started taking better players throughout the years they probably would've been a tad better and wouldn't have had super high draft picks the last five or so years, but I thought this was fascinating anyway. 

First off, let's look at the Lions' draft history (first round only) since Dan Dierdorf took over the team in 2001:

2001:  T Jeff Backus (18th)

2002:  QB John Joseph Harrington III (3rd)

2003:  WR Charles Rogers (2nd)

2004:  WR Roy Williams (7th), RB Kevin Jones (30th)

2005:  WR Mike Williams (10th)

2006:  LB Ernie Sims (9th)

2007:  WR Calvin Johnson (2nd)

2008:  T Gosder Cherilus (17th)

So let's start with Millen's first season in 2001:  First thing he did was fire head coach Gary Moehler and hire Marty Mortingwig.  So let's say that atrocity never happened and he actually gave Moehler a chance to see what he could do over a full season.  After that, it's up to you readers what could've happened...Millen brings in Steve Mariucci anyway or goes with some other random outside hire like Jim Haslett, Jon Gruden, etc.  The only important coaching aspect of this excercise I want to mention is whomever the coach is...that he gets more of an effort from 2001 2nd round pick DT Shaun Rogers than the other guys did.  But if that's too much to ask, then you probably should stop reading now because things are gonna get a lot more far-fetched...

Note:  The picks I ended up taking for these drafts only went 1-10 spots higher in the actual draft that year, unless otherwise noted.

2001:  So the most important single piece of business Millen should've done before the 2001 draft is he should've re-signed Pro-Bowl G Jeff Hartings.  At any price, I don't care.  He ended up signing with Pittsburgh (who went on to win a Super Bowl.)  Then, as far as the 2001 draft goes, I'd leave it the same.  They still take T Jeff Backus in the 1st round, C Dominic Raiola in the 2nd and trade up to take Shaun Rogers.  Having Hartings along with Backus and Raiola would give them a tad more stability on their O-Line.  Even though Backus gets called for holding more than I do, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

2002:  Here's where it gets fun.  Instead of going with Joey Ballgame, I'd keep Charlie Batch at QB.  Batch wasn't awful.  He could've kept the position steady for a few more years...we are rebuilding so the team won't look good for several more years anyway.  So with the 3rd pick, the Lions take...DB Quentin Jammer.  In the 2nd round, instead of DE Kalimba Edwards, the Lions take...RB Clinton Portis (who ended up going 15 spots later, a bit of a stretch but what the hey.)  In the 3rd round, instead of ineffective DB Andre Goodman, the Lions take...LB Will Witherspoon.  In the 5th round, instead of TE John Owens (who?) the Lions take...DE Aaron Kampman (current sack-monster for GB) and in the 6th round, instead of DB Chris Cash, the Lions take...G Justin Hartwig, currently a decent starter for the Steelers.  So far so good.  The team still sucks though, with Batch at QB and Johnny Morton the #1 WR.

2003:  No brainer...instead of WR Charles Rogers, the Lions take...WR Andre Johnson with the 2nd overall pick.  In the 2nd round, instead of often-injured LB Boss Bailey, the Lions take...DB Charles Tillman (forming a pretty cool secondary with Jammer so far).  In the 3rd round, instead of DE Cory Redding the Lions take...TE Jason Witten.  Not taking Redding was risky because he is decent, but with Kampman at DE I figured it wouldn't be much of a loss.  So the team still has Batch at QB, an emerging stud RB, one stud at WR and a good secondary.  The team still sucks.

2004:  So with Andre Johnson, normal logic says the Lions shouldn't take another WR with the #1 pick.  But I stay on the offensive side of the ball and instead of WR Roy Williams, the Lions take...QB Ben Roethlisberger.  In the 2nd round, instead of LB Teddy Lehman, the Lions take...DB Bob Sanders (the secondary is getting scary good now).  In the 5th round, instead of LB Alex Lewis, the Lions take...T Jake Scott, former starter for the Colts and current Tennessee Titan.  In the 6th round, instead of T Kelly Butler, the Lions take...DT Corey Williams, a decent player especially for a 6th round pick.  So we have our QB of the future.  Put him on the bench while Batch has another mediocre year or start him from the beginning, I don't care.  He has Portis and Johnson plus a decent looking O-Line.  The Lions are...not that bad.

2005:  But not good enough so they still have the 10th pick.  So instead of taking WR Mike "Daily Weigh-In" Williams, the Lions take...DE/LB DeMarcus Ware.  In the 2nd round, instead of DT Shaun Cody, the Lions take...LB Lofa Tatupu (Big Abyss's favorite player EVER.)  In the 3rd round, instead of CB Stanley Wilson, the Lions take...DE Justin Tuck.  And in the 6th round, instead of DE Bill Swancutt, the Lions take...G Chris Myers (former Broncos starting guard and current Houston Texan.)  So we've shored up the LB and D-Line a little better.

2006:  We'll keep the Ernie Sims pick here.  Because even if the Lions were better and had a higher pick than #10, Sims probably would've fell a few more spots down anyway.  But we gotta get Andre Johnson some damn help at WR (all he's had up to this point are guys like Az-Hakim and Scotty Anderson.)  So in the 2nd round, instead of DB Daniel Bullocks, the Lions take...WR Greg Jennings.  In the 3rd round, instead of RB Brian Calhoun, the Lions take...G Jason Spitz (a starter with GB)  And in the longest shot of them all, in the 7th round, instead of taking whoever the piece of crap was, the Lions take...WR Marques Colston.  But NO ONE saw Colston becoming a player, except coach Deezy of course.  So we've got some help at WR and added to the O-Line.  Getting better.

2007:  So at this point I don't see the Lions having the 2nd overall pick.  The bad thing is that at this point Clinton Portis has been carrying this team and his legs are damn near close to getting shot.  The good thing is that several picks later RB Adrian Peterson is sitting there.  Portis gets some help and we have the greatest RB tandem EVER.  And instead of trading up and down in the 2nd and taking Drew Stanton, the Lions keep their 2nd round spot and take...G Tony Ugoh, current starter for the Colts.  Everything else can stay the same, I don't care.

2008:  Doesn't matter.  By the time I present what the Lions' lineup looks like the 2008 draft would be meaningless, besides filling in holes on the depth chart.

So this is what the Lions' lineup would look like after all these little draft tweaks:

QB:  Ben Roethlisberger

RB:  Clinton Portis, Adrian Peterson

WR:  Andre Johnson, Greg Jennings, Marques Colston

TE:  Jason Witten

O-LINE:  Jeff Backus, Tony Ugoh, Dominic Raiola, Jake Scott, Justin Hartwig/Jason Spitz  **Jeff Hartings retired following the 2006 season

D-LINE:  Aaron Kampman/Justin Tuck, Shaun Rogers, Corey Williams, DeMarcus Ware

LB:  Will Witherspoon, Lofa Tatupu, Ernie Sims

SECONDARY:  Quinten Jammer, Charles Tillman, Bob Sanders, Gerald Alexander


Wow, huh?  I know you could probably do this with any NFL team and come up with an all-star lineup, but the fact that Millen took the players he did and missed out on these guys (many of whom were 1-10 picks after the morons he took) made me want to do this.  Also, by selecting these players I saved the lions a lot of cash by not needing to sign free agents like Dre Bly, Damian Woody, Jon Kitna, Kenoy Kennedy, or Rick DeMulling.

The scary thing is that even if only half of who I picked ended up being Millen's picks, the Lions would be pretty gosh darn decent.  Ah well, what can you do?    





comments (1) 09-26-2008

The People's Comments:

Great article, coldcat. You always put a lot of thought into your fantasy booking.

...but there's no way that any version of the Lions takes Colston in the 7th round. Just sayin'.

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