Lessons from the Lions 2011 Draft

Discussion in 'Patriots Draft Talk' started by mayoclinic, May 30, 2012.

  1. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    The Detroit Lions made the playoffs in 2011 and have a very talented nucleus. But they also have developed a reputation as an undisciplined and sometimes unsportsmanlike team, starting with their head coach Jim Schwartz and their cornerstone defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

    This offseason 3 guys who the Lions drafted in the first 2 rounds of the 2011 draft have made headlines for all the wrong reasons: DT Nick Fairley (#13 overall) was arrested for driving 100 MPH while reportedly intoxicated and trying to evade police, after having a prior substance issue. RB Mikel LeShoure (#57 overall) incurred his second arrest MJ possession, missed one court date, and will likely incur a suspension. And WR Titus Young (#44 overall) was suspended from OTAs after throwing a sucker punch at DB Louis Delmas. All this after Suh was summoned to the Commish's office and suspended 2 games in 2011 for dirty play including a shoving incident.

    HC Jim Schwartz has declared he's had enough of it all:

    Jim Schwartz: Nick Fairley, Titus Young hurting Lions - NFL.com

    But Schwartz himself famously almost got into a fight with 49ers HC Jim Harbaugh last year.

    NFL.com and former Globe writer Albert Breer looks at the Lions' troubled 2011 draft class and says that it is causing teams to re-emphasize "character" issues in their player evaluations:

    Detroit Lions' troubled 2011 draft class raises larger questions - NFL.com

    This kind of stuff is clearly relevant to the Pats' drafting and decision making. BB tends to take squeeky-clean prospects with high floors in the 1st round: Nate Solder, Devin McCourty, Vince Wilfork, Jerod Mayo, Dont'a Hightower. A lot of fans and analysts would have considered moving up for someone like Fairley, but that's just not BB's style. The one 1st round character "reach" in recent history that the Pats did take backfired somewhat - DB Brandon Meriweather.

    Even in the 2nd round, BB seems fairly averse to character risks. Passing on Trumaine Johnson in the 2012 draft and favoring a high-character kid like Tavon Wilson may be one such instance. Brandon Spikes has had some issues, but they emerged after he was drafted in the 2nd round by the Pats.

    The Pats seem to be very deliberate in their calculus of "whether a player is likely to fit in" and "where in the draft is it worth taking them". Aaron Hernandez at 113 in 2010, Ryan Mallett at 74 in 2011 and Alfonzo Dennard in the 7th round in 2012 are 2 good examples. They don't take too many, and they are very careful about vetting the players and not taking them too high in the draft. And after the 2009 debacle, I think BB is very careful about balancing the lockerroom leadership and not introducing too many potentially problematic players.

    The article mentions one other important factor:

    This seems to be a key factor for the Pats. If a prospect has issues but is high motor and very dedicated to football than that is very different from one who doesn't really care, or who is playing for the money.

    It's an interesting lens to use in looking at the Pats' recent drafts and some of the prospects they have selected, or passed up.
  2. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

    #50 Jersey

    Great food for thought. In particular, the difference between rolling the dice on character concerns in a relatively disposable guy (Haynesworth, Dennard) vs. building your team around them.
  3. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    I think BB was burned too badly by Adalius Thomas to do that again. Also, IIRC, Aaron Hernandez' rookie contract was very carefully crafted to include incentives and behavior-related clauses:

    Patriots play cautious on Hernandez deal - Extra Points - Boston.com

    Also, remember that there was a heated discussion about whether the Pats should have taken Mikel Leshoure over Shane Vereen in the 2nd round:


    Makes you think about Tavon Wilson over Trumaine Johnson, about how the Pats really viewed Courtney Upshaw, and a number of other draft decisions.
  4. IllegalContact

    IllegalContact Pro Bowl Player

    don't you use the late picks for taking chances?

    at least with meriweather, you could see his irrational exuberance as being a teammate backing up others, but the lions did a clean sweep of some grade a jerks.

    watch as dennard learns his lesson and some humility
  5. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

    #50 Jersey

    Also, that article only talks about character outliers from the negative direction. Just as a single, loud malcontent can shape the team's character, so can a strong leader who sets a great example.

    With their new hobby of collecting team captains, the Patriots seem to be aiming for extraordinary team intangibles. That's obviously a good thing in its own right, but it's also the kind of atmosphere that lets a team absorb a strategic acquisition of a troublesome talent like Corey Dillon.
  6. livinginthe past

    livinginthe past Rotational Player and Threatening Starter's Job

    #12 Jersey

    Cultivating locker-room chemistry is a very under-rated talent - especially by the draftniks who can't see past statistical blurb for a particular athlete.

    A small excerpt from Patriot Reign:
    "This is how a segment of the Patriots program works. It is driven by a concept that is rare not only in sports bars but in American society. The idea, in a country full of social and entertainment options, is that the obligations of the job-and devotion to and mastery of the job-are an employee's top priority. The Patriots are attempting to stack their roster with productive players who either think that way now or are on the cusp on a conversion. They don't want to be paternalistic figures asking their players, "Did you put in extra film time?" They want the kind of players who want to do it without being asked.

    I hear guys like Gronk talk about how much he loves the game - how much he loves playing.

    I was impressed with what i've heard and read about Dennard so far - I don't think application is going to be a proble with this kid - I do however think alot of his fall from grace was probably to do with a fall in the perception of his on-field skills more than the off-field stuff.

    Detriot have been foolish - instead of adding a few questionable ingredients to a very consistent locker-room - they've front loaded with with combustible, unstable types who will likely dominate.
  7. Off The Grid

    Off The Grid Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

    #3 Jersey

    My favorite part. :cool:
  8. patchick

    patchick Moderatrix Staff Member PatsFans.com Supporter

    #50 Jersey

    This makes me think...remember the years when it was routine to hear the San Diego Chargers referred to as "the most talented team in the league"? And how they kept underperforming, and the coaches were always blamed?

    Maybe the bigger problem was accumulating talent without full consideration of chemistry. Merriman, Cromartie, Vincent Jackson....
  9. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    I think the Pats also have a lower tolerance for putting up with player shenanigans than most other teams. They've cut many a player after a significant off-field incident - Kenyatta Jones comes to mind - or for being disruptive to team chemistry and effort. The Pats dumped Adalius Thomas as soon as the 2009 season ended. They dumped Albert Haynesworth the moment he became a public distraction and got into a screaming match with Pepper Johnson. Those kind of moves send a strong message that the team comes before individual talent.
  10. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    An article by Gregg Rosenthal today illustrates that most teams don't have the fortitude to cut a high pick because of off-field issues:

    Executive on Detroit Lions problems: Cut someone - NFL.com

    Unlike most, BB will cut a high pick or a high profile veteran who isn't fitting in and/or is becoming a distraction.
  11. ctpatsfan77

    ctpatsfan77 PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

    #3 Jersey

    If, of course, he can.

    The problem with Afailius was that he was smart enough to realize that the Patriots couldn't cut him in 2009: they'd literally have to axe other players to get under the cap just to get rid of him. Thus he had carte blanche to do whatever he wanted.

    I do find it ironic that the Pats' biggest blowout victory ever came the day BB benched him.
  12. The Gr8est

    The Gr8est In the Starting Line-Up

    And the Rats are the team that immediately comes to mind for me. I often see Rats fans defend their own drafts while denegrating BB's drafts without considering that the not only do the Pats have a superior roster, and less available spots for draftees, but many, in not most Pats-draftees that get released, end up playing for other teams, while the Rats refuse to cut their losses.

    More importantly, BB WILL cut a player quickly without concern about looking bad for having made the pick in the first place.

    The Santonio Holmes case is another example. I contend he never would have even gotten on the plane to return home with the team if he quit on BB like he did on the Rats, and while it's true there are cap ramifications to be considered in cutting Holmes, part of the Pats' difference is that BB never would have signed Holmes for that contract in the first place.
  13. IllegalContact

    IllegalContact Pro Bowl Player

    yes....and players remember that when they outperform their contracts

  14. thodoks

    thodoks On the Roster

    bro just understands how to disregard sunk costs better than most (not sure why Schwartz doesn't; he was an econ major at Georgetown)
    Last edited: May 30, 2012
  15. Off The Grid

    Off The Grid Experienced Starter w/First Big Contract

    #3 Jersey

    Great Stuff, Brother Eight. :cool:

    And of course: Danny WoodHead is a great example of what you're talking about.

    And, yeah: Mad Bill is FEARLESS...ISN'T he?? :eek:

    I hadn't even the REMOTEST idea what was about to transpire, mind you, but I became a shocked, astonished, FROTHING Bill Belichick fan on the day he suspended Terry Glenn.

    As you recall, Glenn was generally considered to be about 87.2% of our Offense, at the time.

    I'm pretty sure that Bill The Mad (Genius) needed an armed guard, after THAT move. :eek:

    But he became my freaking HERO, that day.

    He was coming off a 5-11 inaugural season, and our offense was moribund WITH Glenn.

    That took BALLS, man. :eek:

    NOTHING says that a Coach is committed to his men like putting it right on the line like that.

    We'll never be able to quantify it, but I've always felt that that one move went a LONG way towards galvanizing that 2001 team's Espirit de Corps: If your Coach is so committed to YOU that he puts his entire FUTURE on the line, in following a 5-11 season by cutting a cancerous STAR for the good of the team...

    How can you NOT be inspired by that?? :rocker:
  16. mayoclinic

    mayoclinic PatsFans.com Supporter PatsFans.com Supporter

  17. ZoisKing

    ZoisKing On the Game Day Roster

    #11 Jersey

    I love it.

    You have to appreciate the no nonsense approach. As discussed previously, the Pats believe that they can handle a few "issue" guys due to the depth of their leadership on the team. However, they won't pursue "issue" guys who've gone a step to far, most notably being groomed in the wrong type of crowd. They want players who are naturally good guys.

    Teams that continue to add "issue" guys never will live up to their true potential. That's true in any occupation though. If you're trying to run any business with guys who might not show up on time or make risky decisions or perform fraudulent activities, and you'll never experience success.
  18. FredFromDartmouth

    FredFromDartmouth In the Starting Line-Up

    Wow; nice post Mayo. Very interesting!

  19. SloMotion

    SloMotion Rookie

    Good thread, lotta' good points ... this is a sore issue between me & the Lions, and one that I honestly feel will prevent them from moving onto the next level if it isn't recognized or addressed. It's a broader issue then even the arrests (6 this offseason alone), it encompasses all the personal fouls last season, the temper tantrums, the inappropriate text message insulting fans, the lack of personal responsibility ... the signs are there.

    The type of person you are off the field is the type of player you are on the field, and vice versa ... I've seen it in every professional organization I've ever been in ... it's about 'character', personal responsibility and it's extremely important when you're looking to build a winning team. As it's been pointed out, teams who have experienced long-term success, like New England, have learned to identify 'character' players to either draft the good ones, avoid the negative players or draft them low. They also have the leadership at the coaching & player levels to deal with the occassional problem child and they certainly don't unleash a swarm of them into the locker room at one time.

    That's the big difference I see between the Lions situation and teams like the Patriots. In their short journey to build a winning team and gain respectibility, the Lions have chosen to follow the Patriots template to success, but in their haste to fill their roster with talent, they've overlooked a key ingredient to that success, character & professionalism. It's not always about 'talent', and Detroit's learning it the hard way. For now, I'm going to chalk it up to inexperience & youth (of both the players & HC), hope it's a teachable moment and they move forward.

    Looking back at the Patriots road to becoming a top tier NFL team, I don't recall these types of growing pains ... did you guys experience these kind of bumps in the road/issues before Belichick?
  20. Why?PJ

    Why?PJ On the Game Day Roster

    Yup. Bill Parcells, Terry Glenn, Pete Carroll. I don't remember as many arrests or things like that, but that type of stuff was also dealt with differently than it would be now. There is a story about a pats player being stopped at the border for pot, and being released the next day.

    Some of the older fans can be more specific, but BB really is the leader in the Patriots incident free locker room, with Kraft backing him up 1 million percent, which some owners refuse to do.

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