For the uninitiated, Draftmas is the gift that keeps on giving. More and more each day as it ramps up in fact. The joy of Draftmas is that it keeps shoving opinions down your throat whether you want them or not. Yesterday I started on a down note, beginning with an uncomfortable revelation about the state of the Lions team. You’ll get one of those every day, for a total of eight. Draftmas is a joyous time of year, so it’s time to switch gears and get more positive.
Today I am adding two players likely to be selected in the first round that I am positive will bust to the Draftmas mix. You will be getting two every day for seven days. I am going to tell you which half of the first round will flame out. As much as we all love these players now, half of the first round play poorly enough to wind up hated every year. The names I am listing are all consensus first round picks, and a sizable chunk of them are “top ten locks.” Of course that designation assumes that teams do not see what I am seeing and actually nab these guys in the slots that the internet have paced them. On the second day of Draftmas, Ash Thompson gives to thee:
Two First Round Draftmas Busts!
Malik Hooker is not the next Ed Reed. When a team takes a safety in the top ten of the draft, it is because they are expecting a playmaker. Malik Hooker is definitely a playmaker and will likely go in the top ten. He is also an extremely inexperienced prospect, and benefited from three shutdown corners in front of him for his entire career. He gets credit for a lot of interceptions that will just not likely come his way in the NFL. Stone-handed receivers don’t have long careers at the next level. Well, outside Detroit they don’t. I kid because I love Eric, calm down. He is going to miss another two to four months due to surgeries on his shoulder and to repair a sports hernia. He has never been the most physical safety, and despite that is already injury prone.
Marlon Humphrey is going to get torched as a rookie, lose his confidence, and never recover. Watching Humphrey try to track a deep ball makes me uncomfortable. Unless he goes to a team that takes deep coverage entirely out of their corner’s responsibility list Humphrey is going to disappoint a lot of people. It is a shame really, because there are no other holes in his game. In the old Tampa Two style defense he would be a monster, and likely end up with a Pro Bowl or two under his belt. Unfortunately nobody really runs that defense anymore. He will see a lot of flags, or he will get help. That’s not what you want from a first round corner.
One Inconvenient Draftmas Truth
Theo Riddick needs to be replaced in this draft. His cap hit grows significantly in the next two years making him expendable. Riddick’s upside as a receiver does not justify how he tips off the opponents’ defensive coordinators. He is the check down option, and a valuable one, that isn’t questionable. In the NFL obfuscation is how a team wins. With Theo Riddick in the game for 423 snaps last season, the Lions ran the ball only 103 times. He carried the ball 96 times, and blocked for another ball carrier seven times. That was with Riddick serving as the lead back in the offense for the majority of the season. Teams do not have to focus on the run with Riddick in.
The effect of his ineptitude running the ball is that teams play a cover two shell more often than not when he is in the game. Safeties do not have to worry about the run, because Riddick is not a good enough player to take advantage of the fact that defenses are selling out to stop the pass when he is in the game. Linebackers begin each play stepping toward their coverage responsibility on first downs against the Lions. Riddick lacks the ability to make them pay for defending this way.
The Lions have not blocked well, and Riddick has upped his yards per carry each season. Teams have backed farther off the line of scrimmage as his career has progressed however, making his job easier. Theo Riddick’s presence takes away the Lions’ deep ball opportunities because of how teams defend them when he is on the field. That cover two shell is the reason that the Lions’ top receivers were Golden Tate, Anquon Boldin and Eric Ebron. Those are the players on the team who get all of the underneath routes and bubble screens that are more open against a cover two shell. If you add Riddick to the mix, four of the Lions’ top five receivers are specialists who need room to work underneath coverages to get their yardage. The Lions offense was awful last season, and their one dimensional attack was the primary reason.