They traded for Corey Williams last year, and watched Sammie Lee Hill really start to develop in 2010. Then, of course, they’ve got this guy called Ndamukong Suh you may have heard of. No? Well he’s a special talent they spent a first rounder on last year.
So, for a team with so many needs, I thought it outlandish that the Lions would pass on grabbing the cornerback they desperately need or some help on the offensive line. Those were areas we covered in our Help Wanted piece on the Lions.
But they did, and I found myself caught between thinking it was a waste of a pick and begrudgingly respecting the Lions for going best player available.
Do I like the pick? Join me in weighing the arguments.
The Case Against
The Lions’ secondary was bad last year. Real bad. They don’t have a guy on the roster who you feel all that comfortable leaving in coverage, with the best of the bunch being Chris Houston. Note to Lions: Chris Houston is not a top corner. Obviously the Lions had Fairley above Amukamara on their draft board, but cornerback is such a big need, that they should have made the move for a guy who can make one of their weaknesses a strength.
Instead, they went for a guy who made one of their strengths stronger. Suh burst onto the scene with a tremendous rookie year, while Corey Williams was everything advertised. The two caused havoc and were excellent at getting up the field. Even Sammie Lee Hill, when asked to do less than his rookie year, responded in superb fashion. It wouldn’t be the most ridiculous statement to say the Lions walked into the draft with the best combination of defensive tackles in the league.
So they didn’t need another one. Let alone a guy who on paper looks to suffer from the same weaknesses as Ndamukong Suh, as well as some pretty big character issues that caused him to drop in the first place. Presuming he plays up to his one good year in college, the Lions got themselves a guy who will likely be very good at penetrating, but perhaps lack a little in run defense. Just think how the combo of Suh and Fairley would leave them susceptible to draw plays and trap blocks? To say they don’t have the linebackers to deal with that level of linemen coming at them would be an understatement.
In closing, Fairley was a luxury pick for a team that couldn’t afford one. This won’t bring them closer to the playoffs, and it won’t bring them closer to the Packers. It’s the same old Lions, making their team unbalanced, only this time it’s with defensive tackles instead of wide receivers.
The Case For
When you have the 13th pick of the NFL draft, you expect your selection to make a big impact. You don’t let needs force you into taking an unworthy player. You take the best guy available. In this case, the best guy available – because of the run on quarterbacks – was Nick Fairley.
Projected to go at number one some months ago, his fall shouldn’t have been to No. 13 but for some panicky teams deciding they needed a quarterback. The Lions were lucky he fell into their laps, and shouldn’t be defending the pick, but laughing about their fortune.
Maybe they did need a cornerback more. But Patrick Peterson was off the board, so why take a guy in Prince Amukamara that they obviously didn’t value that highly? If you’ve got two equal players, you’ll take the need. But the gap between Fairley and Amukamara was obviously so great it made no sense picking the cornerback. Heck, the Texans needed a cornerback and they passed on him too.
And so what if it means the Lions have four talented defensive tackles? That just means Jim Schwartz can run the kind of rotation he was able to run in Tennessee. His “A” and “B” units will let him rotate guys every five to seven snaps and not force him to use someone like Suh on 91.03% of defensive plays. You want your defensive linemen fresh, and bringing in Fairley lets him keep them all fresh, all game and season long.
The Lions’ scheme requires defensive linemen that can get up the field, and while Fairley (and Suh) will need to work on their discipline in the run game, it’s going to make life as a guard in the NFC North unbearable.
As a jury member, I’d be pretty split on whether the Lions made the right move. My main concern is that four of their most talented players are going to be splitting time, while their back seven (containing most of their least talented guys) are going to be on the field substantially more. I just don’t like that, and for that reason, I’m ultimately turning my back on the best player available strategy here.
The verdict: you can have too much of a good thing if everything that surrounds it is poor.