The offseason chess game known as the 2013 NFL Draft is fast approaching. And a hand full of franchises have some very tough decisions to make, most notably the Detroit Lions.
Last year didn’t go as planned after a promising season in 2011 that saw a healthy quarterback in Matthew Stafford and an emerging defensive force in Ndamukong Suh help the Lions to the playoffs. Detroit went from finishing 10-6 in 2011 to finishing 4-12 in 2012, which brings us to this year’s draft.
The Lions have six draft picks, one pick in every round expect the fourth round. I can perfectly understand the need to draft a cornerback, or an offensive linemen, or even a running back. People tend to forget, however, that the Lions don’t have a great receiving core outside of Calvin Johnson.
Johnson is specifically why I hate rewarding players with the highest possible salary. After the Lions agreed to give Johnson an 8-year, $130 million deal, it was almost as if Johnson was running around the field with a sign on his back that said “Hello, world. I’m the Lions’ best player. Shut me down and you’ve pretty much beat us.”
And that’s exactly what happened in 2012. Without Johnson, Stafford was forced into throwing ill-advised passes to tight ends Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler, which isn’t something the Lions should be doing at all. This is Detroit, not New England.
Receiver Ryan Broyles is still learning the NFL. Nate Burleson is good, but limited. The next best option would have been Titus Young. But he couldn’t get his act together and now he’s gone. This leaves a rather large gap in the second-option receiver spot that I believe former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson could potentially fill.
I covered Michigan football for the better part of Robinson’s collegiate career. I never thought Robinson was going to become a quarterback in the NFL. I always believed that he would, at best, be a punt returner/slot receiver like former Appalachian State QB Armanti Edwards, a player who mirrors Robinson’s skills and career path.
Last year, my mind was completely changed. Even when Tim Tebow and Cam Newton were having success in Denver and Carolina respectively running the read-option offense, I never thought it would catch on. Then came Cam Newton. Then came Robert Griffin III. Then Russell Wilson. Once I saw Colin Kaepernick led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl, my mind was made up about what Robinson could potentially be.
Perhaps the knock on Robinson, much like Tebow, is his throwing ability. At Michigan, Robinson threw 49 touchdowns and 39 interceptions for his career. And the difficulty curve will be steeper in the NFL in terms of competition. However, my argument isn’t that Robinson should be an every-down quarterback. He could be used in option packages the same way that Capernick was for the 49ers before Alex Smith got hurt and he was ultimately promoted to becoming a starter.
Between this dynamic and Robinson’s screen blurring speed, I think it would be foolish for the Lions not to at least have him on their radar. I’m not saying to burn a first-round pick on Robinson, but the Lions may want to consider a second-round pick only because he might not be there when the third round starts.
At the very least, he’ll be much less of a character problem than Titus Young was.
Information for the article was taken from the following sources: ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, MGOBLUE.com, NFL.com, and detroitlions.com.
Aaron David Harris was born in Detroit, Michigan. He covered sports for the Battle Creek Enquirer for three years before becoming a freelance sports writer. He has also written for the Detroit News, Crain’s Detroit Business, and the Associated Press. Visit him at aarondavidharris.com.