by Mario Granata
The Lions were a very modest 9-7 last season and due to their record and lack of playoff appearance, they decided to part ways with Jim Caldwell and hire former defensive coordinator Matt Patricia from the Patriots. Patricia will reunite with GM Bob Quinn, who, when Patricia was the DC in New England, was the Director of Pro Scouting. If there are players who know how to 'Do Their Job' Quinn and Patricia will find them.
It seems that the Lions are under the 'if it ain't broke don't fix it approach' when it came to the coaching staff. Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter was retained, more than likely because of his impact on Matt Stafford. Over the past 3 seasons that Cooter has worked with Stafford, Stafford has had his 3 highest completion percentages of his career, while averaging 4,300 yards a season amassing an 85-33 touchdown to interception ratio. Pretty impressive.
The Lions are currently 9.7 million under the cap and are projected to allocate 5.5 of that to their rookies. They have a little room, but I expect that number to drop if the pattern holds for Patriots and draft picks. Most of their cap money was taken when they decided to franchise tag Ezekiel Ansah to the tune of 17.1 million. The Lions are hopeful that they can get him inked to a long-term deal as the quarterbacks in the NFC North are among the best in the NFL, and someone has to put them on their backs.
Along with Ansah, the Lions have added Tight End Levine Toilolo from the Falcons, Luke Wilson and DeShawn Shead from the Seahawks, and LeGarrette Blount from the Eagles. This seems to be on par with the history of Patricia and Quinn. Obviously, they needed a replacement for the departed Eric Ebron, so they decided to get two.
Their familiarity with Blount was probably the driving force there and Shead gives them another player who knows how to play pass defense against the quarterbacks they will have to face in their division.
Along with Ebron, DJ Hayden and Haloti Ngata are now with the Jaguars and Eagles respectively. While Ngata could have been a force in the middle of Patricia's defense, the wear and tear on those tired might have been too much at this point in his career to take a chance on.
If Patricia and Quinn resort to their Patriot roots, they are in prime position (Pick 20) to trade out of that pick and get more bodies in camp that fit their system at a fraction of the cost. As noted in previous articles, most teams only grade about 12-15 players as a first-round talent. Even with the talent that expected to slide down the board due to the rush to get a franchise quarterback, the Lions might not have a player graded as a first-round player by the time that they select at 20. Perfect time to trade back and acquire talent.
The hot names for the Lions if they stay at 20 are DE Marcus Davenport, DT Maurice Hurst, and RB Derrius Guice.
Davenport will be a suitable replacement for the Ngata and will fit the scheme that Patricia will hope to run.
Davenport will serve two purposes if he is successful in his rookie campaign with the Lions if drafted: it will give another edge rusher opposite of Ansah to limit the double teams and also send a message to Ansah that his replacement can be found in the draft if his demands for a new contract are too high. (Google Richard Seymour)
Guice is an interesting pick for the Lions as it appears that running backs aren't a real high priority for teams in the first round due to the success of late-round picks in recent years. Detroit could be giving Ameer Abdullah one more change to stay healthy with the change-of-pace Blount if they decide not to draft Guice, but if they do draft Guice, Abdullah is done in Detroit. Typically defensive minded Head Coaches will stick in their wheelhouse, so expect Patricia to pick on that side of the ball in the 2018 Draft, provided they hang onto that pick.