On the fourth day of Draftmas, Ash Thompson gave to thee,
Four uncomfortable truths, then snacks.
Lions fans are a surly bunch. It is difficult to blame us. We have seen every kind of mistake a franchise can make, often multiple times over multiple regimes. For example, top ten draft picks used on receivers who are not generational talents have never really worked out for us. Wait, that was one regime and 14 years ago, maybe we should let it go?
None of that is Brad Holmes’ fault. I don’t recall who said it this week discussing the draft but to paraphrase: “It’s very easy to overlook Detroit when you look at the draft because they’ve been irrelevant for so long.” So here we are with a shiny new regime and waiting for them to make a splash. Here are four reasons I think Lions fans are going to be upset a week from now.
Jared Goff is the QB
Brad Holmes believes Jared Goff is a franchise quarterback. You probably don’t believe it. I can see glimpses of it but I’m not sure even I can squint enough to really see it before this season gives us more data. 2018 Jared Goff was. 2020 Jared Goff was not. That is some combination of Sean McVay, Les Snead, and Jared Goff’s fault.
Whether any of us believe it or not is completely irrelevant, because Brad Holmes does, and Dan Campbell appears to agree. Goff said he immediately felt wanted, the Lions have made multiple hype videos welcoming Goff to Detroit. They even gave him an Axel Foley jacket for his introductory press conference. They made him talk about how tough he is because that’s what we’re used to.
Holmes’ belief in Goff is going to inform every decision the Lions make in the draft. The “QB wins isn’t a stat” faction of the Lions base has already been punched in the face by Campbell saying the most important thing about Goff is that he knows how to win. The faction of the fan base that was screaming for a drafted quarterback while Matthew Stafford was in town certainly isn’t going to be silent now that he’s gone, but they’ll get to keep screaming for at least another year.
I’m too sexy for this Draft
The Lions aren’t going to go after pro day superstars. They’re drafting football players, not athletes. That means investment in the trenches. There are not a plethora of studs in the defensive line group, but there are some good players. The offensive tackle group has a lot of plug-and-play candidates.
If I were betting money, and I am, I’d have money on the first offensive lineman off the board being named Slater, not Sewell. I do. It’s at +250 on most books, and it’s a good bet. Whereas someone is going to have to teach Penei Sewell a lot of things about football to take advantage of his generational athletic profile, Rashawn Slater is this year’s day one pro bowler.
If you’ve got a quarterback, you’re playing to win right now. There is a hair’s breadth between the ceilings on these two players and Slater is fundamentally more solid right now. In 2024, who knows, but if Holmes doesn’t start building a winner in 2021 he won’t be the GM in 2024. To build a winner he needs to take care of Jared Goff. Goff plays through injuries, but he plays better when he’s not getting hit. There is logic in taking Slater whether we agree with it or not. It’s not the sexy pick but it’s probably the right one, there are a lot of good receivers in this class, and there will be in next year’s class too.
Like me, Brad Holmes has made some bets. I expect him to hedge them a bit, but also to see if they pay out.
The Defense is Still Going to Suck After the Draft
This was the worst defense in the NFL last year, perhaps ever, and they have yet to upgrade even 20% of the starters. In fact, they’re likely actually worse at just as many positions as they’ve improved. A couple of rookies aren’t saving this defense.
That doesn’t mean all hope is gone, however. A drastic scheme change on that side of the ball does put players who were here before in a much better position to succeed. Nick Williams will actually look like an NFL player in 2021. Young corners aren’t going to be hung out to dry without help over the top. Tracy Walker won’t play most of his snaps as a glorified linebacker.
But even all that hasn’t transformed this group into the 2014 squad. There is a serious dude deficit on the defensive side of the ball. There are a lot of trailers and not a lot of trucks to borrow Daniel Jeremiah’s parlance. This draft just doesn’t lend itself to fixing that. The Lions’ desperate needs are where the value lies though.
The Lions need a safety and a linebacker to grab starting roles ASAP. Those are the two best positions in this draft on the defensive side of the ball. It’s just a matter of whether the Lions picks play out in a way that gets them a player they like in that position of need but multiple rookie starters is not the recipe r a pleasant 2021. It does get them ready to welcome more help in 2022, however.
The Offense Isn’t Going to be Great Next Week Either
A new QB playing with new receivers, in a new scheme, and we’re all hoping that everything is going to be alright. But the hard truth is that this offense wasn’t great in terms of personnel even with three legitimate starters on the roster at WR. Goff might be good, but he might not. The receivers on the roster might (re)claim starter status, but they might not. Swift, Williams, and Johnson might for a great RB committee, but they might not. TJ Hockenson is the only sure thing at a skill position on the roster. Hopefully, he doesn’t get hurt, because the depth there is not good at tight end.
There will be rookies coming in to help at receiver, but they won’t be saviors. Lions fans have been spoiled with a long string of high perform g wideouts with Calvin Johnson, Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, and Kenny Golladay all playing at an extremely high level. Whatever help the Lions pick up, 2021 is probably the first year since the Millen era that the Lions have not had a pro bowl caliber wide receiver on the roster.
The two best position groups on the team in 2020, quarterback and wide receiver, became the offense’s biggest question marks as the clock hit midnight on the first day of the league year. Whatever the Lions offense ends up being good at in 2021, it will not be what the Lions offense was good at in 2020. The days of back-shoulder fades and rockets ripped into tight windows are done. What will replace them remains to be seen, but it’s difficult to believe that in this first season the offense will be as good.
I promised some quick and easy snack food recipes yesterday. I am going to come through, but unlike most years where I give you my personal recipe for something, I said it would be easy to make stuff. So here are four links to solid recipes that I think anyone with an oven, even a toaster oven can make.
This easy recipe for buffalo cauliflower is great because it uses frozen florets as its base. You don’t have to chop up a head of cauliflower. You don’t have to worry about picking a fresh head of something you might not usually purchase a lot of. The other reason I like this recipe is that it’s actually a lot better than the buffalo cauliflower most restaurants charge a premium price for. My favorite substitution for this recipe is to sub in Chicken Wings for the cauliflower florets. I have a feeling that might catch on. Going half and half with Italian salad dressing and the hot sauce makes it a sweeter snack that is great tossed in a salad or on its own. It is also tasty with any other sauce that you might find in a place that advertises dozens of wing flavors.
Yes, I am including these prosciutto-wrapped cheese sticks because of a certain other podcast host’s distaste for this spectacular snack option. If you can’t find a way to love cheese sticks, you’re not trying. The first one was a vegetarian option so in the interest of fairness, I thought I would include a Keto option because some of the Patreon supporters are eating that way. Whether you use the most expensive or least expensive options for your meat and cheese, this recipe gets you to a salty, slightly gooey, and most importantly delicious snack. That $3 pack of prosciutto at Walmart and their great value block of Mozzarella cheese cut into sticks is still pretty good.
Garlic Bread Sticks
Some people are not trying to reach ketosis. For those who want the most delicious and also inexpensive way to fill their body with carbs, this garlic breadstick recipe turns a basic hot dog bun into a $10 appetizer. Making a giant tray of these could run you less than $3, take about 5 minutes of actual effort, and have your buddies talking about your legendary draft party for years. Sprinkle some shredded cheese across the top before you throw them in the oven and you’ve got one of my favorite foods, the noble cheese toast.
Spicy Tuna Roll-Ups
OK, I know I said I was just doing links, but this is one that I made up, and I think it’s pretty tasty for a party snack on the cheap. You need a cucumber, 2 cans of tuna, a bottle of sriracha (other hot sauces can be subbed if you insist), four tortillas, and some mayo.
Drain the liquid from the can of tuna. In a bowl, mix the tuna, mayo, and sriracha in quantities that match your own personal taste. I use about 2 Tbsp of mayo and 1 Tbsp of Sriracha. Quarter the cucumber lengthwise. Divide the mixture between the four tortillas, and spread it like you would pizza sauce, covering the entire thing. Place one of the cucumber spears on each tortilla. Then roll the tortillas up around the cucumber spears. You can cut them into bite-sized slices to simulate the appearance of a tuna roll, or just eat the whole roll-up at once. Go ahead, nobody’s watching.
I won’t be attending any draft parties this year. I’ll be working during days two and three of the draft. but if you see me ranting during the first round, know that I’m doing it with the grease from at least one of these snacks on my fingers. Check out my twitter @mrtweetson, or come hang out in the Patreon slack chat.