by Tommy Lawlor – ScoutsNotebook.com
1 – DT Ndamukong Suh – Nebraska
1 – RB Jahvid Best – Cal
3 – CB Amari Spievey – Iowa
4 – OT Jason Fox – Miami
7 – DE Willie Young – NC State
7 – WR Tim Toone – Weber State
With the #2 overall pick in the draft the Lions landed the best overall player, DT Ndamukong Suh from Nebraska. That makes 2 years in a row that I think they’ve made wise moves. If the Lions aren’t careful, they might just get respectable.
Suh was a dominant college player in his final 2 years for the Huskers. Nebraska finished 7th in total defense and first in scoring defense in 2009. Suh ate up blockers in the middle of the line and allowed teammates to attack. When Suh did go upfield he beat up opposing QBs. Colt McCoy had an especially miserable day against NU. In the last 2 seasons Suh had 36.5 TFLs and 19.5 sacks. He also deflected 13 passes, picked off 3 passes, and blocked 5 kicks.
I think Suh will be just the kind of interior presence that the Lions need on defense. He’s 6’4, 305. That isn’t enormous, but he’ll get bigger in the next few years. Suh is very powerful and plays that way. He’s not afraid to do the dirty work on defense. Suh also is athletic enough to make some plays. Suh is a good run defender, but also push the pocket on pass plays. That’s what makes him potentially a special DT. So many DTs are specialized as rushers or cloggers. Suh is the complete package. Just as importantly as all the physical gifts, Suh seems like the right kind of person for the Lions. He isn’t a flashy star. He’s a grinder. He is a high character guy that will work his tail off to be the best player he can and to be a good teammate. I can’t project immediate success for him or the Lions. We see plenty of DTs struggle early on. That’s a position where players have to learn to how to play like a man. Beating the interior blockers of Texas or Colorado or Missouri is one thing. Getting the best of Olin Kreutz or Steve Hutchinson is a whole other challenge. Suh will need to use strength, technique, athleticism, and effort to win those battles. It can take young DTs a year or two to adjust to that.
The Lions wanted to come away with a franchise RB if possible. They traded back into the 1st round so they could take Cal’s Jahvid Best with the 30th overall pick. This move would have never happened if coach Jim Schwartz hadn’t been in Tennessee to witness the impact that RB Chris Johnson had. For years the Titans had an offense that was up and down. They lacked a dynamic presence. Johnson and his electric speed changed that. He wasn’t just a good RB. He was (and is) a weapon.
Detroit hopes that Best can fill a similar role for them. They’re not expecting him to live up to CJ’s standard, but they do want Best to deliver big plays. And that is exactly what he did at Cal. Despite missing time in 2009, Best had 3 runs of at least 61 yards. He had a 51-yard reception. The long run covered 93 yards. His long run in ’08 was 86 yards. In ’07 it was 64 yards. In 2008 he ran for 311 yards against Washington on only 19 carries. For his career he averaged 7.3 yards per carry.
I think Best will be a good fit for the Lions. They can find someone with a bit of size to help carry the load. Best is a player with special potential, which is what that offense needs. The offense didn’t consistently move the ball last year. Calvin Johnson is the weapon in the passing game. Now Best gives them a weapon on the ground. He can also help with the passing attack. He caught 62 passes at Cal.
I know some people thought the Lions needed to land a LT to protect Matt Stafford. Detroit obviously felt Suh and Best were special players and no available OT was worth #2 or #30. I agree with Detroit on that. And if you can’t give Stafford a top LT, give him a big time weapon. Best is that guy. The pick isn’t without risk. Best had a nasty injury that caused him to miss the final 4 games of the ’09 season. He suffered a concussion in the spill and that is something that has to be factored in with today’s emphasis on brain injuries.
In the 3rd round Detroit got much needed help for its horrid secondary. They took CB Amari Spievey of Iowa. He came out after his Junior season. I thought of him as a 3rd round target so the Lions once again got good value. Spievey is a talented player. He can play the run. He’s excellent in zone coverage. The big question with him is whether he’s fast enough to be good in man coverage against NFL receivers. We’ll certainly find out soon enough. Spievey is challenging for a starting spot this year. Looking good in mini-camp is nice, but Training Camp and the preseason will finally decide his fate. Schwartz liked playmaking CBs when he was with the Titans. Spievey showed potential in this area. He picked off 6 passes and broke up 14 others in his 2 years at Iowa. Spievey will get a chance to challenge starters Jonathan Wade and Chris Houston early on. We’ll see if Amari is ready or not.
Detroit went for an OT in the 4th round when they picked Jason Fox from Miami. Fox started 47 games for the Hurricanes. He played LT in Miami and the Lions hope he can stay there in the NFL. Fox worked mainly at LT in the spring. They will mix him in at RT and LT at Training Camp. Fox was always a confusing player to me. There were times when he looked quite good, but I didn’t see him as a natural pass protector. He has the build and length you want in a LT, but not the feet. I do think it’s possible for him to play LT in a run-heavy offense. I also think he could handle RT. I think taking Fox in the 4th round is solid value. Detroit did need to add a quality OT prospect if at all possible. Jeff Backus was a good player in the past, but is far from ideal at LT anymore. Gosder Cherilus remains a major question mark at RT.
The Lions next picks came in the 7th round. They first took DE Willie Young from NC State. I remember watching Young as a Soph. and thinking that he had outstanding potential. Young finished that year with 15 TFLs and 2 FFs. He showed excellent athletic ability. Young didn’t build off that performance. He was solid his final couple of years, but always left you wanting more. Young has an excellent frame at 6’5, 250. He is quick, but not explosive. He did have 20 career sacks, but they came in bunches. A lot of times that happens when a player is able to beat marginal competition, but not consistently get by good players. Young was a solid value pick in the 7th.
The final pick for the Lions was the final pick of the entire draft. Mr. Irrelevant was WR/RS Tim Toone of Weber State. The 5’10, 185 Toone put up huge numbers in college. He caught 206 passes for 3,602 yards and 29 TDs. He was also a gifted returner. Toone averaged 23 yards per KOR. He was very good on punts, averaging 15 yards per return and taking 3 back for TDs. The Lions have been looking for a RS for a few years. Toone will need to stand out on STs, both covering and returning, to have any shot to make the roster. He does have some athletic ability. He might be the kind of guy that is perfect for the Practice Squad.