DETROIT (971. The Ticket) So, what’s coming for the Detroit Lions in the upcoming draft? Tom Lewand, president of the team, talked to Karsch & Anderson extensively on that subject, outlining the team’s objectives, hopes, and draft “red flags.”
Lewand said the organization is going through “a whole lot of film,” debating and hashing out who belongs on the team that has so much hope riding on it next season.
So, how do the Lions plan to compete with the rest of the NFL for the cream of the crop in this year’s draft — and who exactly are they looking for? Lewand said they’re seeking a “combination of talent and profile.”
“You always want the best player,” Lewand said, adding it has to be a player who can help sustain the team for years to come, not just a quick fix.
He talked specifically about Nick Fairley and Mikel Leshoure, two Lions who made off-the-field news in the last few weeks when they were arrested in separate incidents for driving around with marijuana. Both draftees suffered injuries last season that limited their performance, but they’ll both be back on the field, with Leward saying, “Those guys are going to contribute more this year than they did last year.”
Touching on the topic of the recent arrests, Lewand discussed what the team uses as red flags in its draft process.
“We look at everything comprehensively. You look at an exhaustive process of looking at a guy on the field, off the field, our scouts do a tremendous amount of work,” Lewand said. “We’ll go back to high school coaches and high school teachers in cases and do a lot of work on those guys. It’s important to know what the risks are. There are a lot of different risks: medical risks, character risks, work ethic. There are a lot of different things to look at.
“It’s taking all of that infomation, processing it and getting as good a feel as you can… We have to continually remind ourselves … They’ve got a lot of maturing to do. We’ve seen it happen with players on our team. You look at a guy on our team … a guy like Robert Porcher, he was a much different guy coming out of s Carolina Sate as a 20-year-old than he was at 28-29, 30 when he was hitting his stride… You hope that you can project that, you do a lot of work about that, but there are always risks whenever you’re drafting, it’s inherently a subjective process that you try to make as objective as possible.”
Lewand said the biggest thing he worries about when drafting a new player is “Do they (coaches) have a plan to use that guy?”
“Titus Young last year, the offensive staff really had a plan for how they wanted to use him, how he could complement Calvin, what kind of weapon he could be for Matthew and what he could do in terms of putting some pressure on defenses that we play,” Lewand said. “That is as important as anything. You don’t just say he’s a wide receiver in a vacuum.”
So, how does Lewand feel about all the rumors swirling around the draft and various strategies trumpeted by different teams? He’s not a fan.
“I’m not a fan of misinformation, what you’ve seen pretty consistently from us over the last three years is just a lack of information” Lewand said. “I’d rather just give no information than provide misinformation, I think that’s a, to a large degree, that can be just a wasted effort, trying to put up smokescreens and that kind of thing.”
But does he pay attention to the other teams’ chatter? “That’s not necessarily that important to be honest with you,” Lewand said, adding that “real, tangible information” that develops close to the draft is the only important thing to pay attention to.
Not surprisingly, when asked specifically how willing the Lions are to trade their pick at 23, Lewand played it close to the vest.
“We’re pretty active in exploring different opportunities that can make our football team better… That’s exactly what we try to do, we try and explore those options,” Lewand said. “You can trade up, you can trade back … What is the value you’re getting for the value you’re giving up? Once that opportunity presents itself, you measure that value and if at the end of the day you’re getting more than you’re giving up, you go ahead and do it.”
What are the biggest holes he want to fill on the team?
“We’re looking to get better everywhere on the field,” Leward said. “Even at quarterback, where we feel great about Matthew and we feel great about Shawn Hill, we don’t have Drew Stanton anymore. We’ve got to look at what we do in a back-up situation. I think you’re always looking to get better, but if you just start focusing on where your weaknesses are, a strength can pretty quickly become a weakness.
“We love our defensive line, as an example, but we have three guys at the edges who are in the last years of their deal. And you’ve got Corey Williams in the middle, in the last year of his deal. You’ve got to have a longer range perspective when you’re looking at continuing to build your franchise.”
Looking at the existing roster, will there be a heavy emphasis on drafting defense? “I don’t think you want to pigeonhole yourself into any one bucket,” Lewand said. “I think you’ve got to maintain some flexibility, you’ve got to have that long-term view.”
On the question of Cliff Avril and his spot on the team, he said, “He’s on the last year of his deal now, he’s on a one-year-deal. Clearly he’s a guy that we want around or we wouldn’t have franchised him, hopefully we can keep him around for a long time.