Thinking about the Lions Draft

Posted on May 2, 2006 by

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My family left Detroit when I was eleven years old and I have only returned once in my life.  Still, I remain a loyal fan of the Detroit Lions.  When you follow a team that has only won one playoff game in your lifetime, the annual NFL draft tends to be the highlight of your football experience. For those who do not follow the Lions, here is how their draft played out.  If we assume the Lions have a starting quarterback in Jon Kitna or Josh McCown – which I am not sure about – Detroit entered the draft needing a linebacker, a safety, and help on the offensive line.  In the first two rounds the Lions nabbed a linebacker and a safety.  In round three, though, Detroit passed on an offensive lineman, not taking one until the 6th round.  According to ESPN’s experts, though, the offensive lineman the Lions took in the 6th round – Jonathan Scott — was still one of the best lineman available.  The same can be said for their seventh round choice, guard Fred Matua. In fact, according to ESPN, the only higher ranked lineman the Lions passed on between the third and sixth round was guard Max Jean-Gilles.

Given the importance of the draft to my life as a Lions fan, I wonder how much stock I can place in ESPN’s rankings, or for that matter, anyone’s pre-draft player rankings.  I have seen people look at how often various websites forecast the draft.  What I wish to know, though, is whether the pre-draft ranking of players actually predict how well players perform in the NFL.  In our book we note that predicting the future performance of NFL quarterbacks is quite difficult.  So I do not expect the pre-draft rankings have much explanatory power.  Still, is one ranking better than another?  If this study has not been attempted, perhaps this is something I or someone else should try before the NFL draft in 2007.  Certainly such a study would enhance my draft experience next year, when I expect the Lions will once again try and use high draft picks to find the talent that can finally bring another playoff victory to the Motor City.  – DJ