early draft picks to acquire defensive talent, they've trended towards undersized and over-hyped prospects who rarely improve with age. As ridiculous as it may appear to outsiders; the Lions seem to fancy themselves as "reckless innovators" who are capable of "outsmarting" the rest of the league. While much of this ineptitude has been blamed on he who shall not be named; the simple truth is that owner Bill Ford Sr likes to meddle with his football team and is committed to hiring the kind of men who'll allow him to do so. To this very day, the Lions still seem to value sexy over smart and flashy over functional; whether this is due to poor management or incompetent ownership is frankly, largely irrelevant. In light of this abhorrent historical track record, no sane individual could blame Lions fans for regarding any given draft class with apprehension and fear. At best we take a cautiously optimistic, "wait and see" approach to our newly drafted rookies; at our worst, we seem to delight in vilifying the franchise no matter who they pick. This is after all a fan base that coined the term "Lion-ized" and practically has a patent on the phrase "drinking the kool aid." It's a hard road, rooting for the objectively worst team in NFL history; years of losing have instinctively conditioned fans in Detroit to avoid ideas like hope and anticipation.
Ansah's rise from Ghanaian basketball hopeful to the number 5 overall pick in the NFL draft, is the stuff of legends. Of more importance to Lions fans however, will be whether or not Ansah's lack of football experience will outweigh his considerable athletic gifts; incredibly, Ziggy only began playing football in 2010 after failing to make BYU's basketball team for a second time. He played special teams at BYU as a junior before finding his way into all 13 games during his senior season; 9 as a starter. On the plus side, Ziggy flashed impressive versatility during his final year at BYU. He lined up at defensive end, defensive tackle and outside linebacker at various points in the season; registering 63 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and breaking up an eye-opening 9 passes. On the downside, Ansah only had 4.5 sacks last season and due to his late start in football; has no real track record of success in the pass rushing role the Lions clearly envision him performing. One thing that is certain is that Ziggy is a bona fied athletic freak; it's a rare 270lb man who can run the 40 yard dash in 4.63 seconds. That's the kind of speed that kills plays 5 yards into the backfield and while Ziggy is still rawer than a plate full of sushi; by all accounts he's already one of the hardest working athletes in America. At this point, the Lions are doing their best to temper expectations but it's no secret that they expect Ziggy to be an impact defender immediately this fall.
struggled to properly address for nigh on an eternity. With all due respect to Dwight Bentley, Chris Greenwood and Jonte Green; Slay's combination of size, speed and his SEC pedigree, already make him the frontrunner to start opposite Chris Houston this fall. Darius checks in at 6'0", 192lbs and as the picture to the right clearly illustrates, he was practically born to play corner at the NFL level. He has long arms, big hands and narrow hips; pretty much the ideal build for harassing wide receivers and pulling down jump balls in a crowd. Additionally, Slay is an astute cover man who excels at using his length to attack the hands and arms of opposing receivers; forcing them to drop otherwise catchable balls. As if that weren't enough, Darius is also a genuine speed merchant. At the NFL's pre-draft combine he ran the 40 yard dash in an astounding 4.36 seconds; despite suffering from at least one torn meniscus in his knees! He's a capable and willing tackler, had strong enough hands to pull down 5 interceptions as a senior and can even work on special teams as a defensive gunner or return man. The catch with Slay is that he lacks elite footwork, may have benefited from playing opposite a better corner and of course, came to Detroit with the aforementioned knee problems that likely caused him to slip into the second round. Fortunately for the Lions however; these injury concerns appear to be greatly exaggerated and thus far Slay has shown the kind of mental attributes that suggest he's exactly the type of player his highlight reels say he might be. The keys for Slay this offseason will be adding a few pounds of muscle to his frame and absorbing enough of the Lions defensive scheme to give coach Schwartz the confidence to start him on the outside. That would allow Detroit to slide Bentley in at nickback and hold veteran Ron Bartell in reserve at all 3 spots; a situation that makes the most sense for the Lions from a pure talent perspective at a minimum. Although nothing is written in stone yet, my guess would be that if Darius Slay is healthy and motivated; he will easily win the starting job at some point during the preseason.
accomplished anything of note as a football player. His career high of 7.5 sacks in 2010 isn't much to write home about and the fact that he only registered 3 QB take downs in his senior season is downright disturbing. It isn't like Devin was attracting a lot of double teams during this time either; opposing offenses have had to contend with the likes of Melvin Ingram and Jadaveon Clowney during Taylor's time at South Carolina. Frankly, looking at Taylor's stat sheet the impression you get is that he's simply a big stiff that never learned how to actually play football. Then you notice his 4.72 second 40 yard dash, watch his highlight reels and wonder if they somehow got his stats mixed up with a former walk on. Ultimately, the key to solving the riddle that is Devin Taylor likely lies in exposing him to an NFL level strength and development program; while simultaneously addressing his terrible mechanics through proper coaching. When you watch Taylor on film, the first thing you notice is that he often stands straight up immediately upon the snap of the ball. As any highschool defensive line coach will tell you; this is basically a terrible idea because it not only costs you precious moments of reaction time, but it also makes it much easier for smaller players to block or contain you. Additionally, despite his fantastic measurements; a casual examination of Devin in football pads makes it clear that he's still far too skinny to dominate the way his height should allow him to. While I would certainly advise against getting your hopes up, if Taylor gains 25-30lbs, and if coaches can do something about his atrocious pad level issue; he might look a little bit like a certain "freak of nature" who has become intimately familiar to Lions fans. Or, he could spend 4 years getting knocked flat on his backside by players with better mechanics; while constantly frustrating Lions fans who're aware of his raw talent. To his credit Devin has been described as a hard worker with a tireless motor, so he's got at least some chance of realizing his vast potential. When your future outlook varies between a "less athletic Julius Peppers" and a "human blocking sled" however; you're going down in my book as a boom or bust prospect.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go "pour out a forty" for Jim "the Hatchet" David and all of the other smurf-sized, try-hards the Lions won't be employing anymore.
- Sportsball Chic