Draft weekend was quite eventful for Detroit. While sad-sack former Lions GM Matt Millen was apologizing for calling Ron Jaworski a “Polack,” current GM Martin Mayhew was putting the finishing touches on the best offseason in the league. After over a decade as the league’s laughingstock, the Leos are slowly but surely putting together a legit NFL roster behind Mayhew and coach Jim Schwartz.
Mayhew’s pre-draft haul included a veteran pass rusher familiar with Schwartz’s system (Kyle Vanden Bosch), a three technique tackle franchise-tagged by the Packers two years ago (Corey Williams), a true second receiver that can play inside and out (Nate Burleson), one of the top dozen pass-catching tight ends in the NFL (Tony Scheffler), and a major upgrade at left guard (Rob Sims) in addition to several key role players (Shaun Hill, Chris Houston, Dante Wesley).
To that mix the Lions have now added the best player in the draft (Ndamukong Suh), arguably the most explosive runner available (Jahvid Best), and a physical corner that could step right into the starting lineup (Ameri Spievey). It’s not only likely but probable that Schwartz’s squad will boast a combined 12 new starters in Week 1 — almost every one an upgrade on last year’s starter.
Throw in the return to health of key players such as Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, and Stephen Peterman, and Mayhew is my early prediction for 2010 Executive of the Year. With that said, let’s lead off the list of this draft’s fantasy winners with one of those Lions.
Jahvid Best, Lions
You may have heard Best’s draft story by now. When team president Tom Lewand took his sweet time finalizing the trade to move up to No. 30 overall, Schwartz contemplated taking the phone out of his hand and beating him over the head with it. But you probably have not heard this one yet: Schwartz also explained that he tunes into YouTube videos of Best as a substitute for online porn.
Best does not come without warts. He underwent hip, elbow, and shoulder injuries at Cal. After picking up Heisman steam late last season, he missed the final four games with a concussion and a back injury. What’s important for the 2010, though, is that Best is healthy after nearly six months of rest.
What about playing time? Kevin Smith is unlikely to be ready for Week 1 after a late-season ACL injury, and he won’t be the same back until months after his return. Maurice Morris is on the periphery as well, but Lions coaches will have a hard time pulling Best off the field once they see what he brings to the offense. The Lions starting running back won't be drafted early in fantasy leagues, so Best presents the chance for a mid-round steal this year.
Ryan Mathews, Chargers
Mathews will top most rookie lists, and it’s easy to see why. GM A.J. Smith aggressively moved up to No. 12 to fix his league-worst running game by drafting the NFL-ready tackle breaker. Mathews will step right into LaDainian Tomlinson’s 2009 role, garnering all of the early-down work including the majority of goal-line carries. While his upside is limited by Darren Sproles’ presence on passing downs, the Bolts’ ultra-effective aerial attack will help open holes and create scoring opportunities.
Tomlinson made headlines when he threw his offensive linemen and head coach under bus upon departing San Diego, blaming them for his poor numbers last season. More likely, the opposite is true. Mathews simply has “a gear that Tomlinson lost” two years ago. The rookie could go off the fantasy boards as early as round three this summer.
Dez Bryant, Cowboys
The immediate post-draft party line is that Williams’ roster spot is safe, and Bryant will have to severely outplay him for the starting job. The explosive rookie is already a better player, so that shouldn’t be a tremendous hurdle. It’s also possible that Williams won’t even make it to training camp in a Cowboys uniform. In which case, Bryant will see his fantasy draft stock rise considerably in perhaps the league’s most dynamic offense.
CSN: Brian Urlacher, who played 13 seasons for the Bears, announced his retirement from football Wenesday on his personal twitter account.
CSN: The Super Bowl's golden anniversary will be held in the Golden State. The new stadium, which opens in 2014, in Santa Clara will host Super Bowl L two years later, the NFL announced Tuesday.
Images of player and fan reactions during the three-day 2010 NFL draft in New York.
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