Disclaimer: As a long-time season ticket holder who keeps renewing his Ford Field seats, the following reflections come from a guy who may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer.
For the last month, Lions fans have been engaged in the most Lionsy thing of all — talking about the draft in December and January. (“Draft” in Green Bay this time of year only refers to what’s on tap.) That’s usually accompanied by exhortations that the Lions would be better off losing to improve their draft position, often bolstered by some sad rhyme like “Fadin’ for Aidan”. But along with the bad karma that comes from hoping to lose, I look around the NFL and see the same old teams drafting at the bottom and the same old teams drafting near the top.
The Lions have had picks in the top ten 5 times in the last 9 years and to what end? Teams like Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and New England almost never have a pick in the top ten and yet they reload year after year while always keeping January free on their calendars.
That’s what I want. I’d love to get to the point where the draft is something of mild interest. (Detroit will own the 2nd pick in this year’s draft)
But that said, I’m oddly hopeful about the Lions. (Lord, how many times have I said that over the years? I’m glad it’s not a drinking game.) My optimism goes beyond the reasoning I’m hearing a lot on sports radio right now. A lot of fans are making big piles of hay out of the fact that despite the dismal record, this team keeps playing their hearts out for Dan Campbell. And that’s true — but I’m afraid I felt the same way about the team that went 0-16 under Rod Marinelli. They played hard but they were riding horses on a Formula One track. I didn’t see a lot of potential in that lineup (aside from Cliff Avril who left to win a Super Bowl with Seattle), and that’s where I’m finding hope for the current roster. I finally see potential and most of it is really young.
I’m not going to bore you with my version of X’s and O’s. But here are my drivers of optimism.
Defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn. Somehow, in a two-win season, he exudes competence. And Seattle aside, the improvement in the second half of the season has been steady and glaring.
Defensive end Charles Harris. He’s suddenly become expensive to keep, but sign him please. (Like yesterday.)
The tackle combo of Taylor Decker and Penei Sewell.
The ever expanding ceiling for Amon-Ra St. Brown. (In fact, can you recall a better duo of Lions rookies than Sewell and St. Brown? Thumbs up, Mr. Holmes.)
The thunder and lightning mix of D’Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, and now Craig Reynolds.
The candor of Dan Campbell. (Do I even need to compare him to Matt Patricia’s “smartest man in the room” approach?)
Special teams play — and that’s saying something given that there was a moment in the preseason when the Lions had no kicker on the roster.
And, perhaps controversially, the improved play of Jared Goff. Think about how much farther along the Lions rebuild is if they don’t have to tutor and develop a young quarterback.
So there it is. Yep, once again, I’m a cockeyed optimist. And yes, in spite of my earlier thoughts, I’ll be dialed in on draft night come April. (Clearly, we need to come out of if with a pass rusher, a stretch-the-field receiver, and a linebacker.)
Some will tell me I need to stick to news. But isn’t that the point of sports? We’re all experts.