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Yorick wrote:
[W]hat did you make of DJ's Rosebowl performance?


I think DJ's playmaking ability was subdued by a gameplan designed specifically around eliminating (or at the very least, accounting for) him. Furthermore, given the stage on which they were playing, the amount of time UM had to prepare for him, and ultimately the quality of the team enacting the plan--UM was a top 5 or 6 team in the nation last year and arguably in the top 3 in offensive potency--I think it is particularly anamolous that DJ failed to really distinguish himself.
To be sure, there is valuable unformation to be gleaned from the fact that DJ was susceptible to be gameplanned out of a game of such magnitude, but then again, his team won the game despite being outplayed most of the way (IMHO).
It was a bad time for DJ to come up small; his staggering production throughout the gamut of UT's other games (including other of the nation's most talented squads) still suggests the rarity of teams managing to subdue his effect on games.

Yorick wrote:
Also, how would you use him in the Lions base and nickel packages in light of current personnel? Those are the two doubts that gnaw at me and they also reflect my principal prejudice: risk aversion in the first round.


Yorick, I understand the aversion to risk. I am certainly an advocate of a sure thing. The thing is, certainty of value is one factor in which DJ is particularly alluring. I see no other more certain lock for a consistent starter on the defensive side of the ball in the entire draft. Bar none.

Now the risk with DJ, again IMO, lies in whether he will, indeed, fulfill the expectations placed on him by the most ambitious prognosticators. Most of the draft boards and mock draft mills I frequent mince few words in assuring all readers that DJ is a "stud," in the mold of Derrick Brooks, Adrian Peterson, or even LaVar Arrington. Perhaps DJ will fail to reach that level, but in my very amateurish opinion, I guess I just feel that in this particularly-weak draft class, he is the one player on the defensive side of the ball who has the physical tools to become the ultimate playmaker on defense. His statistical progression (and his team's progression) over the course of his collegiate career only serves to add more fuel to the scorching reviews and lofty expectations following his name on draft boards everywhere.

Finally, Yo, I do intend to answer your appreciably specific question about the nickel and 4-3 packages. First allow me to qualify my understanding of defensive schemes as that of nothing more than an avid football fan.

Lions 4-3 base package: DJ would be the WSLB from day one. He may take a little while to get acclimated to covering NFL tight ends and minding the shallow slot, but I would suspect that he would be our best cover LB the minute he walks into camp. I would hope that Boss* is ready to pick up where he left off after his rookie campaign at the SSLB. We already know the guy can read defenses and shed blocks. That leaves Teddy and Holmes in the middle. Ideally, Lehman would be stepping into the role ASAP, but a safer bet would be that he develop under Holmes until he is strong enough and learns to shed blocks more efficiently.

*[in the event that Boss's knee injuries should rear their fugly heads again, we are not stuck plugging in Lewis and/or Davis, since we could just slide Teddy back into the starting role with DJ and Holmes]

nickel packages: I would hope that DJ would remain on the field (on the weak side) in nickel situations with Boss on the strong side. Certainly, he would have to earn this position by exhibiting the ability to identify plays, blanket cover skills, and leadership/playmaking ability.

I admit that we have other prospects at LB that would be left out in the cold here: namely, Alex Lewis and Dirty Davis. I know Killer speculates frequently about Lewis's prospective fit as a SS...who knows? Maybe he would invest himself more in this pursuit. Davis? Depth, I guess.

Now I have done a little more research on Pollack, so I am ready to come a little stronger....I'll have a post about him yet tonight....

[Gosh, it is refreshing to be back talking football! Good riddance, mother....errr....ship!] :P

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March 23rd, 2005, 9:18 pm
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That is a very nice break down blueblood. I would not question any of that at all. I would just underscore the one point that you implicitly made: DJ would be a pick mostly for the future. This is because Teddy is slated for the "Will" and we already have two pretty decent nickel LBs in Lewis and Bailey. True, DJ would be an upgrade, but a marginal one short term. Now, if DJ ends up being Ray Lewis than heck who cares? Even if he is a poor man's Derrick Brooks in three years I would have no problem taking him and I agree that he is generally speaking low risk. I am not down on DJ and if he was there sure you would have to look at him and probably take him. . . but

What I am wondering is less whether DJ will be a good or great player, but whether he can transform our defense in the same way other alternatives like Pollack can? There are several reasons for that. One I alluded to. It had to do with the fact that our defense is lacking less in talent and speed but iin its grittiness index and that is not where DJs greatness lies. He seems more like a Brooks than a cross of Spielman and Ray Lewis which is what the Lions really need. If you look at last year's playoff field one of the telling thing was how the final four were top 10 in offense and defense (QB play and running offense too). Now we finished far below that in 3 out of the 4, but next year we can reach those top 10 levels in all departments with our current roster except on defense. If our defense remains a bottom half unit we have about an eight win ceiling. What does the defense need to be top 10? They need a playmaker, grit, and more pressure to stop those deadly third and long conversions. We have got the speed to the outside, we have got decent enough corners, we now have a thumper in the secondary, we can stop the run up the middle, but we still need playmaking, grit, and QB pressure. A stud DE could do that. I am not 100% sold on Pollack, but it would be wise for Millen to look this DE class over and see what he can get where. If DJ was available and Millen could trade down and get Pollack would you do it?

Because the whole is greater than its individual parts I would be inclined to take a DE that I was pretty certain was gritty and could get me 12 sacks over DJ. If that DE was a marginal prospect or I was certain DJ would be a Ray Lewis corner stone of my defense for the next decade that would change my thinking. But anyway you cut it this is a critical year for the Lions and they have hit the offense hard in the drafts and FA and are in need of defensive playmakers to balance things out. A DE is the fastest way to inject immediate adrenalin into the whole unit.


March 23rd, 2005, 9:41 pm
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The class of DEs is pretty deep. We might be able to swing a 1st round talent in the second if we don't draft an oliner there.

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March 23rd, 2005, 9:47 pm
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Top DEs in the draft...obviously all won't be taken in the first round...half won't even go in the first round and all would be good opposite Hall on the DL.

Erasmus James Wisconsin 6-41/8 266 4.74
Marcus Spears L.S.U. 6-4 307 4.80
Shawne Merriman Maryland 6-43/8 272 4.66
David Pollack Georgia 6-21/8 265 4.79
Dan Cody Oklahoma 6-51/2 254 4.75
Justin Tuck Notre Dame 6-5 268 4.68
Demarcus Ware Troy 6-4 251 4.56
Matt Roth Iowa 6-33/4 278 4.80


March 23rd, 2005, 9:56 pm
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What about Kiwi? Or is he not in the draft?

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March 23rd, 2005, 9:57 pm
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Kiwinauka is not in the draft this year. He is staying at Boston College for his senior season.

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March 23rd, 2005, 10:27 pm
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Brandt DJ interview: several teams in top 3 interested in him.

http://www.nfl.com/draft/story/8320534


March 23rd, 2005, 10:28 pm
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Unfortunately...Mathias is a pimp and would have been the #1 DE off the board IMO.

More teams have talked to DJ than anyone else I believe.


March 23rd, 2005, 10:29 pm
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Yorick wrote:
If DJ was available and Millen could trade down and get Pollack would you do it?


No way. In my plea, I even went so far as to advocate the FO making sure that the Lions got DJ by trading up in the draft. To me, the possibility of getting a game changer at the LB position is that enticing. So your question about whether I'd trade down after remaining at #10 and DJ still falling would meet an emphatic negative response from me.

Please do not mistake this to mean that I am completely closed off to other options come draft day--I am not at all--but I would be so elated to see him fall, that I can scarcely imagine any combination of other players in this draft that I'd take over one DJ. I just feel like he will be an annual all-pro, the magnitiude of which the Lions have not had since Barry. If I sat through and agonized during the first 9 picks of the draft (including an interminable Vikings' clock), I would probably physically detonate into a mound of reconstituted tortilla chips and beer foam if we got so close and let him get away. It really is a sickness with me at this point. Hey, at least I realize as much!

So now on to Pollack:
Yorick wrote:
according to my diagnosis, what Detroit's defense needs is a spiritual overhaul more than another athlete.

I couldn't agree more. I also agree with your assessment that DJ probably is not this type of leader. I am sure that Pollack will have a solid career in the NFL. Studying the various draft analyses out there and his combine figures, I cannot escape the notion that this guy is destined to be the second coming of Tim Green (for those that don't know: he was a LB and DE for ATL during the late 80s-early nineties).

There is no doubt that Pollack is a student of the game who will never be outworked. He is incredibly strong despite his small stature (at playing size of 6'2", 270 he set a UGA team lifting record), so he was able to make up for his lack of blazing speed (4.7-4.81 40s). I have read that he is a quick and agile DE (evidenced by historically impressive cone drill times) whose MO is rushing the QB with a knack for making timely big-plays (Stocco's still wondering WTF happened).

However, several analysts and scouts seem to be saying that Pollack is probably best suited to be an outside rushing LB in a 3-4 scheme to keep him away from 325-lb. Olinemen. Given his size, the article below speculates that he may have trouble with the big uglies as a 4-3 DE in a three point stance.

Pollack's measurables as limits.

So while I agree that we need a rugged, battle-field leader on the defense, I just don't think that particular guy is in this draft (at least in the first round). I also agree that a DE could inject a special element into our defense, thereby enhancing the play of the rest of the defense by wreaking havoc in the backfield. Yet, I think a prospect nearly as promising as Pollack (in terms of guaranteed production) and having more upside than Pollack (in terms of physical tools and raw abilities) can be had in the second or third rounds of this draft (Demarcus Ware or Justin Tuck, to name a couple).

[Can you tell I have been under the influence of Don B.?]

In conclusion, I think Pollack is going to be a "strong player" in the NFL, much like the aforementioned Tim Green or with the potential of topping out to be like a Tedy Bruschi (a LB who can blitz and lead a defense super-powered by smarts and heart). I just don't think he will be a super star. I would be surprised if this draft netted 3 superstars in the end, and in my opinion, DJ is one of the strongest candidates.

The Lions will be stuck looking for gritty leadership somewhere else. Man, I wish Big Baby had it in him!

[ugh, it's time for bed now....]

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"With the second pick in the 2007 NFL draft, the Detroit Lions select Calvin Johnson, WR from Georgia Tech."

My favorite day ever as a Lions fan.

Somehow landing the Ndamo-nator would be the second best day ever.


March 23rd, 2005, 11:29 pm
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blueblood1, that's what I was trying to say...you just summed up everything i was thinking and trying to write and said it much better.


March 23rd, 2005, 11:42 pm
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I like the argument that there are six closely ranked DEs and at least one is bound to fall to us in the second round. The more I think about it with the depth of the draft trading down would appeal to me.

As for DJ, I suspect that we would have to move up to get him and I doubt that we would pay the price for doing that unless they really determined that he was a once in a half decade type of guy.


March 24th, 2005, 5:34 am
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First of all Yorick, I'm not sure you read my piece on Trading up for DJ

If you haven't had a chance to read it, it basically sums up my opinion of DJ and you should have a better understanding of why I've chosen him at the top of my draftboard. Particularly the section The Immaculate Linebacker.

In addition to that I encourage you to view two clips on DJ.

QI Sports DJ Clip

Mack Brown DJ Senior Video

You'll notice in just these two clips that DJ is every bit the complete linebacker he's touted to be. I'm not surprised to hear about coaches and scouts telling DJ his hip movement and backpedal is as good as any DB's... since even before his senior season I already made the decision that DJ was the best coverage linebacker I've ever seen. The first clip really demonstrates his awareness where the QB is going to throw. Great hands too. The first video also displays textbook tackling, precision navigation through piles and bodies, and good low base tackling.

The second video actually turned a lot of people off to DJ... because sometimes he didn't wrap up and arm tackled and stuff. Many used this as a knock saying he won't get away with doing that in the nfl... it's a little puzzling because that's a brief summary of his senior season when he's supposed to be the most polished. But upon further review... I'm actually extremely impressed by something.

Brian hit it on the head when he said this on his player profile:
Quote:
He does a great job recognizing the play and uses his skills to pounce all over opponents. This is something that has really improved in his senior season. Prior to this season, Johnson overran plays, and while he showcased his elite speed, he had a tendency to makes some stupid plays and get caught out of position.


If you notice in the Mack Brown video every single play is a testament of DJ taking the - not only proper angle - but optimum angle for making a play. This is what DJ was honing his senior year. What taking the perfect angle does allows him to do any of simply wrap up, bull rush, club, punch, swipe and force the fumble. Brilliant! This is why the ball is always popping out whenever he's around. And at the very least he makes the tackle. It shows one play where he doesn't even use his arms. His body making contact with the player managed to pop the ball out.

There's knocks against shedding blocks... but why get stuck on a block when you have the 'burst' to not even get touched? There's even clips where blockers are basically holding him and he still manages to make the play. It's as if the light turned on upstairs... where he stopped getting by on athletic ability and stopped overrunning plays.

Anyway, I just think he's the biggest playmaker in the draft, and it's hard to argue with his production as a swiss army knife LB, dropping back in coverage breaking up the pass or picking it off... or weaving his way into the backfield to harass QB's or stuff RB's before they even get started... he's done this consistently at a high volume for 4 years. That's as close as your going to get as knowing whether or not a prospect is a sure thing.

Do I think Detroit could use that? Absolutely. He brings the complete package.

Phew! Now let's move on to the comparitive portion of this post. I will primarily focus on Pollack... but in general I feel more or less the same about all the DE prospects.

Looking at the collective set of DE's available, I'm happy with the abundance of 'solid quality' prospects. Note I didn't say 'stellar' or 'great.' Just 'solid.' And this comes from a by-product of their production. I think we should agree that the ultimate barometer for judging players is what they've done on the football field.

If that's the case then Pollack should definitely be the number one guy. As he is the sack leader among the top 7 DE's being projected to go first. But he leads a group of guys that put up a 'good' number of sacks. What we don't have is Julian Peterson, Dwight Freeney or Terrell Suggs type production. Now production wise... as demonstrated in my article. DJ is in the top echelon of any college LB's in history demonstrating production. Consider the DE's: I would put Peterson, Suggs and Freeney in that upper echelon of DE's. Do I feel the same about any of the DE's in this draft? Unfortunately... no. Basically from that production barometer.

So your question: who do I think would have a bigger impact on our defense? DJ hands down.

Now let me further develop my stance on the DE's. I don't want to say it's a mediocre bunch... cause they aren't average, but they aren't spectacular either. In my opinion, I wouldn't rate these guys to much higher than any of our current DE's and I think adding another one, wouldn't necessarily upgrade the DE position. It may, it should... but not so overwhelmingly so that I think they'll have a legitimate shot at winning the full time job. I get more of the feeling that we'll just be adding another cog in the revolving wheel of DE's we have.

I already mentioned the pretty good sack numbers these defensive ends had generating a mild response from me. But each defensive end has some questions.

First off Pollack. He has overachieved his whole life. I'm happy for him. He's been known to not have the greatest of physical tools, but more than makes up for it with his intensity and motor. Grit if you will. However, if I'm drafting a top 10 DE (albeit borderline) I'd like him to have the skill set and athletic ability to go with the picking position. Nothing against Pollack, I'm happy the guy will get to play in the nfl. But it's the nature of the business. I want the ability as well. I too don't put two much stock in weight. However, there are some things that will create limitations. His shorter arms and average speed for instance. At what point will these limitations start affecting the production? Maybe he will hit the wall, maybe he'll continue to overachieve right into the nfl. Nevertheless it's still a question.

Now I don't even consider Pollack to be the top pass-rusher in the draft, despite him being the sack leader. I come to this conclusion based on watching him play. He's more of a balanced type DE. I don't think it will translate into him being a premier pass rusher in the NFL. But he will be a good balanced DE regardless.

The two I consider the best pass-rushers in the draft are Erasmus James and Shawne Merriman. It's basically the style of play. On the premise of their quick burst, swim and club moves, explosion toward the QB. Watching them play, they fit the bill of pass-rushers. For a time James was my top guy. To me he has the same intensity as Pollack, but he has the athleticism that Pollack doesn't have. I think that should be able to translate better into the pros. But the biggest question mark is his injury history. It's a scary one at that.

The guy who has since overtaken James on my DE list is Shawne Merriman. He has had the production in college with a nice number of sacks, and he quelled all doubts regarding his size. He played at a John Abraham size at Maryland. But he still managed to get up to 270+ pounds and demonstrated that he did not lose a step at the combines. That improved his stock drastically because he could also be in on running plays and not be so much of a liability. Yet the questions linger for him as well. He demonsrated his athleticism despite an added 30 pounds a the combine... but how will that affect him in the more important situation? Playing the game. It's new ground for him... playing at a weight he's never played before.

Then you have guys like Spears who had more sacks than the guys I consider pass-rushers. Spears isn't even a pass-rusher in my opinion. Guys like Cody and Roth who have the grit, motor and intensity that could rival Pollack.

There's more freak atheletes in Justin Tuck and Ware.

They all bring something to the table, and they all lack something or have a question mark that bugs me. It all mashes down to them being similar in value.. What does that do for me? Well if I'd be happy with any one of them, I'd either wait for one to fall to the 2nd round, or trade down.

Anyway: I think LB and DE aren't needs for our team. The only apparent needs are Free Safety and Right Tackle. And if your happy with Holt and Marion holding down the FS and Butler and Rogers holding down the RT spot - then that leaves us with... gasp... no needs! Anyway, I still think that the Lions must choose the course that will most improve the team.

I think it should be obvious now based on my gushing praise for DJ and mildly optimistic response to the DE's what I think would most improve the team.

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March 24th, 2005, 5:48 am
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To Honolulu Blue I am glad we are on the same wavelength. I could not agree with you more. Your post says everything and more of what I have been thinking.


March 24th, 2005, 8:16 am
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We have got 3 novelists on our boards now. :shock: I'm getting a headache reading these long posts, not that they aren't very well written and have vaild points.

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March 24th, 2005, 9:14 am
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You make good points HB. I think I have been swayed from my Pollack heresy, at least as far as an even up situation at #10. I am still not as sure on DJ as I was on Roy Williams and I would not spend a second rounder to trade up for him because that would put Lehman on the bench and not raise our defense's performance over all. But if DJ did fall to us or we could move up with only a third rounder than I would be game depending on who else was left.


March 24th, 2005, 10:40 am
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